Neshaminy superintendent candidate Joseph Jones met with district officials and community members during a forum held last Wednesday at Poquessing Middle School.
The meeting was meant to introduce residents to Jones, who expected to be
hired as the district’s next permanent superintendent after former Superintendent Robert Copeland resigned last May to take the top seat at Lower Merion School District.
Jones spoke at length about his personal and professional background, impressions of Neshaminy and how he will lead the district through its ongoing consolidation plans.
Jones has been touring Neshaminy facilities alongside Acting Superintendent Gloria Hancock since being selected as a finalist on April 26.
“The more I learn, the more excited I get,” he said.
The Bucks Intermediate Unit No. 22 conducted the superintendent search. It began by taking an online survey to get feedback on the type of candidate wanted by Neshaminy stakeholders. More than 415 people filled out the survey. A description for the job was created and more than 26 candidates applied. Twelve were interviewed, 6 were brought in for second interviews and three finalists were brought in again. Ultimately, Jones came out on top.
Jones began the forum by talking about his four sons and wife, Jennifer. Being a parent, he said, gives him a well-rounded perspective in education.
“We learn a lot when we’re in the other seat, when we’re the parent sitting on the other side of the table,” Jones said.
Jones got into his professional experience more during the interview portion of the forum, where Mark Hoffman of the Bucks Intermediate Unit asked questions previously submitted by community members.
He started his education career as a 21-year-old teacher in New Jersey. By the time he was 29, Jones became a high school principal, where he remained for 10 years before becoming assistant superintendent of Northern Burlington County School District. In 2005, he became superintendent of Woodbury City Public Schools in New Jersey, his current position.
“I think one of the healthy things for an organization to have is that kind of long-term leadership,” Jones said.
Part of leadership, he added, is strategic planning. Neshaminy is currently in the middle of a large-scale consolidation process that has divided district officials and community members. While much of the framework is in place, there is skepticism about whether the planned 800-student elementary school in Lower Southampton will cultivate the same small-learning environment parents are used to.
Jones pointed to Neshaminy High School, which has about 3,000 students, as an example of a large school implementing an intimate learning setting.
The new elementary school, he said, is designed in “pods,” or areas where students in each grade are kept together. For example, kindergarteners are on a floor all by themselves.
“They’ll think they’re in a kindergarten school,” Jones said. “The structure of this new school is going to create that kind of opportunity.”
Jones also answered to another common concern of Neshaminy parents: fifth-graders moving to the middle schools.
“Everyone’s going to have different opinions,” he said. “We could make either one work or we could make either one fail … I’m someone who feels like we could always do better, no matter what it is that we’re doing.”
Jones also spoke about the changing needs in modern learning, and that in order to educate students properly, Neshaminy needs to adapt along with technology.
“Who we are as educators has radically changed and we need to catch up,” Jones said. “The classroom looks very different, the classroom needs to look very different from when you and I were in school, and a lot of that change is going to be impacted by the availability of what’s out there because of the technology we have today.”
As for programs he was less familiar with, Jones said evaluation and direct communication will be most important.
“It’s listening and learning first,” he said.
Neshaminy School Board is expected to vote to officially hire Jones during its next official meeting on June 7.
For information, visit www.neshaminy.org.