By Bob Skolnik
Don Jones, the principal of George Washington Middle School in Lyons, which serves the southeast quarter of Brookfield, is resigning at the end of the school year to take a job in Des Plaines.
Jones told teachers and other school staff of his decision on Dec. 17, a day after the Des Plaines District 62 school board unanimously voted to hire him to take over as principal at Algonquin Middle School on Aug. 1, 2020.
School board member Marge Hubacek said Jones told her that he decided to look to for other jobs after Superintendent Kristopher Rivera told him that his two-year contract would not be renewed.
"I think people need to know that he was pushed out," Hubacek said.
Rivera, however, strongly denied that he told Jones his contract would not be renewed.
"I did not," Rivera said in an email. "I spent over six years in HR and would not make such a comment to any contracted individual unless it were in written notice and following laws and timelines in place."
Jones did not directly address the question when it was posed to him by the Landmark.
Hubacek said she thought Jones did a superb job at GWMS.
"I think it's terrible," Hubacek said. "I think it's a real hit for the district. He has the respect of staff and kids and parents and, in recent history, he's one of the best we've had. It's very disheartening."
Jones, 32, is in his second year as principal at GWMS. In that time he has impressed parents and teachers with hard work and dedication.
"I'm extremely sad," said Valerie Fahselt, president of the GWMS Parent Teacher Organization and the mother of two GWMS students. "He is an amazing principal, he's a great administrator, he is so supportive of PTO. The kids respect him and like him. I'm disappointed that our school board and our district isn't supportive of us and that he feels he need to leave."
Teachers are also disappointed that Jones in leaving.
"Nobody's happy," said Toni Jackman a seventh-grade science teacher at GWMS and the president of the District 103 teachers' union. "Don has been a tremendous positive and a tremendous addition to our school and no one is happy."
Jones faced tough challenges his first year at GWMS, including the suicides of two students including one who took his own life inside the school.
Many were impressed how he handled the situation and how he spoke at a public meeting after the second incident. This year, a GWMS student was expelled after posting on social media about bringing guns to school.
Parents and teachers say Jones improved discipline at the school and always acted in fair and consistent manner.
"We're losing a really great principal and wherever he is going they're really lucky because they are going to have a really great principal coming," said Brookfield resident Krystal Steiner, the mother of a GWMS eighth-grader and the secretary of the PTO.
Jones said in an email that he will miss working at GWMS.
"Parents have been very supportive of not just myself but of the school as a whole," Jones said. "I will miss working with them. The staff have been diligent, committed, reflective and driven, which led directly to both major academic success and social and emotional growth from our students."
Jones said his proudest accomplishments at GWMS included working with staff in a positive manner while increasing accountability, exceeding student growth targets in both reading and math, aligning the eighth-grade advanced math curriculum with Lyons Township High School and Morton High School, substantially reducing student infractions and increasing the size and involvement of the PTO.
This year, Jones also has just one assistant principal at the school instead of the two he had last year. After Rubi Ortiz was promoted to a new position as a bilingual language coordinator, a job offer was rescinded to the person Rivera had recommended to replace Ortiz. The position remains unfilled.
Jones will get a raise at his new job. His salary at Algonquin Middle School will be $130,000 a year. This year Jones is making $110,000.
Jones was given a new two-year contract in March just before the election that changed the majority on the school board. At that time, current school board President Jorge Torres cast the only vote against giving Jones a new contact.
Torres did not immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment. Hubacek and some parents believe that Torres did not want Jones to remain at GWMS.