November Person of the Month: Jasmin Jones
THE 180: Your title: Specialist, Partnership Management. What exactly does that mean?
JASMIN JONES: I’m responsible for ensuring that the partnerships perform at a high level in our schools. And at the district level, I make sure our partners have the supports they need to ensure that they’re implementing at a high level.
I manage the six partnerships within this office and Turnaround is one of them. It’s a mixed portfolio, partnerships like City Year and DC Scholars Community – they work in a majority of our 40-40 schools.
THE 180: 40-40 schools?
JASMIN JONES: They’re the 40 lowest performing schools [in the district] …that’s how we identify our focus or target schools. We build partnerships that we think improve DCPS’s lowest 40 schools.
THE 180: Over the past few years, Turnaround’s work, and even its relationship with the district, has changed. What are the improvements that you’ve seen?
JASMIN JONES: The district made a change about two years ago to highlight the importance of building a stronger school climate and environments that are safe and ready for kids to learn in. This created a better space for Turnaround because of its tools and expertise in that area.
I also think Turnaround has done a really good job at adapting its curriculum to meet the needs of our schools, which has created the highest level of impact. It’s been able to illustrate very unique details about climate, leadership and staff to schools and then build a curriculum and approach that actually helps them to resolve some of the school’s internal issues. That’s been one of the largest benefit to having them in the district.
THE 180: In addition to Turnaround’s direct school impact, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with the district. For example, over the summer Turnaround trained DCPS’s mental health staff. What’s been your involvement in building these relationships?
JASMIN JONES: I’m constantly paying attention to what’s happening [at DCPS] and making sure Turnaround has the right connections to the right people. I talk to my colleagues about Turnaround’s work and why it’s important. We’re had a lot of success with being about to leverage this relationship and make sure Turnaround has a seat at the table. Turnaround participates in our cluster meetings with all of our principals and two of our superintendents – so that’s about 13 or 14 schools that Turnaround has presented to. They’ve done that twice already and another training is coming up soon.
Another way that they’ve been able to collaborate really well was helping a school that went through a very unstable point last year. Turnaround came in and did some coaching for Smothers Elementary School for a few months. It was a short term kind of fix thing, but I think that really set the tone for showing Turnaround is a responsive partnership that’s equipped to answer these big questions around how we manage schools that are not in a space of stability.
THE 180: What do you see for the future of the relationship?
JASMIN JONES: I’ve always thought that Turnaround was ahead of the curve on a lot of the school climate and trauma work. And I think you guys are great thought leaders in that space and could help the district rise to a new level as to how DCPS addresses school climate and what it really means to have a safe learning environment, especially considering the urban settings of Washington, D.C. Turnaround has been able to engage with the district at such a high level…I can definitely see it as one of our main thought partners when we think about school design or policies.
I also think our schools enjoy the partnership. It means a lot to our teachers to be able to talk to somebody on a weekly basis about behavior management and how to have a new positive mindset about things, which are huge in Turnaround schools, because our teachers and our school leaders are the big components of what makes the school actually run.
THE 180: What do you see as the most essential thing that students need for success?
JASMIN JONES: I think it’s how students are welcomed and treated at a school and the level of care they receive from the adults in the building makes such a difference. In order for the kids to be excited and engaged in their learning, they need to see that the adults around them are equally engaged and excited about being there.
THE 180: Is there anything else you wanted to add?
JASMIN JONES: I get so much learning from you all. And there’s always something new. Turnaround has educated me about what trauma really is, understanding brain science and how school climate work. I can only say thank you for all that you’ve taught me over these past three years.