Reform Party member, Tony Jones, is running for election to the Narragansett School Committee in Rhode Island. We had a chance to ask Tony some questions about his candidacy to help build a profile for voters.
Reform Party: Why are you running for the Narragansett School Committee?
Tony Jones: I strongly believe in the importance of providing a quality education that ensures that all students are prepared for their choice of post-secondary pursuits, while also being mindful of the costs. I also see the important role of a school committee member as a natural continuation of my work as a civic-minded citizen. I believe we have a duty to get involved in our community and help others prosper.
Reform Party: What experience do you bring to the committee?
Tony Jones: I have a long track record of public policy work and civic involvement along with a traditional communications background and skill set. I also am well-versed in technology and digital media. Our school system needs to continue to improve its communication and be as transparent as possible, and I believe I can help build policies that achieve those goals. In my past civic involvement, I served as a School Committee member, as well as on the North Kingstown Arts Council and the Charter Review Commission. So, I understand the work school committees perform and the responsibilities with this role.
Reform Party: Providing a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environment is critically important in our schools. How will help achieve that if elected?
Tony Jones: To create a diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environment requires collaboration from parents, schools, administrators, and our elected school committee members. By working together, we can help to ensure that all students feel part of their community. When students have a sense that they belong, they become more productive learners and can build the skills they need for later in life. Therefore, I see one of my roles as being a bridge that connects everyone.
I also believe that when we serve a diverse student population, it is important to consider a wide range of learning modalities to support different learners and different learning styles.
What’s more, we need to encourage respectful public discussion and create space for students to express their thoughts and feelings – not only on subject matter in the classroom but also on worldwide issues. Listening and promoting respectful dialogue is important to establish a trusting relationship between students, educators, parents and others in the school system.
Reform Party: There is a great debate in many school systems about who should determine curriculum and what books should be made available to kids. Who do you believe should make these decisions?
Tony Jones: While the school committee does have a vote on the final curriculum, good curriculum is never a one-and-done initiative because there’s no single best method for its evaluation. The effectiveness of our curriculum will depend on the desired learning outcomes, as well as the learners, the teachers, and support materials. In the past, I have been able to work with some very knowledgeable subject matter experts. These experts are an invaluable resource for determining school curriculum and in regarding how curriculum is developed. It is an active process with some time-tested and traditional methods being used while also considering emerging delivery methods. It has also become increasingly important to consider good instructional design models for all curricula.
Reform Party: When it comes to student health, welfare, and safety, what do you think we need to do for our children?
Tony Jones: Most importantly, I support innovative and technology-based solutions to school security. Also, I have a background with, and I am experienced in facility/campus security and served on the facilities management and planning sub-committee at my former school committee role, so I would look to bring that knowledge to the table. I also feel that it is important to seek input from, and increase open channels of communication with, those who are working on the “front lines” of the school district. This would not only be regarding general health and safety, but also for information on the overall upkeep and hygiene of the facilities. I also support the option of the ability to file an anonymous ethics violation report through a solution such as EthicsPoint etc.
Reform Party: Following the COVID pandemic, school systems across the country saw a decline in public school enrollment. How will you manage declining school enrollment?
Tony Jones: Firstly, I support and respect any family that decides that homeschooling, an alternative program, a charter school, a career and technical education program that is not offered in our district, etc. is ultimately a better ‘fit’ for their needs and for the needs of the student. However, in this time of increased choice, public school systems do often offer more program and curriculum opportunities than some of their charter and private school counterparts, yet they do not do a good job of promoting those choices. This means that polishing and promoting a school district as a “brand” has now become key factor for any district. The Narragansett School System currently does do a nice job with this (especially when it comes to cross promoting the career and technical education program options offered in Narragansett) but it is a mindset that should continue to be explored and developed in order to attracted students from across Rhode Island.
Reform Party: As a School Committee member, you will be involved in budgets. In many schools, programs like art and music get cut whenever budgets get tight. But these are important creative learning opportunities for kids. If elected, will you support arts and music education in all grade levels?
Tony Jones: As a former musician myself, I will always support arts and music education in all grade levels (as I have in the past) My support also extends to extracurricular arts and music opportunities as well as to emerging extracurricular activities such as esports, robotics, blockchain clubs etc. which, much like arts and music, also tend to reach students who may otherwise be disengaged from the school community.