Come July 1st, the Wallowa school district will have a new superintendent. But Tammy Jones, who’s giving up her principal’s job in Snohomish, WA, won’t have any trouble finding a place to live. She already owns a home in Joseph.
Jones, who holds a doctorate in education, comes to Wallowa after 14 years as an elementary school principal in a relatively rural part of northwest Washington, about an hour north of Seattle. But she has deep eastern Oregon roots.
Prior to that she served as Hermiston’s Director of Special Education, and then as an elementary school principal. Her career started in rural eastern Oregon school districts, including Athena/Weston, Milton-Freewater, Helix, and Pilot Rock.
Wallowa County has long held a special place in her heart. “When my son, who’s 34 now, was only two years old, we were going up to the top of the tram and spending time on Wallowa Lake,” she said. “We camped over here all the time, fly-fished the rivers and hiked. My son married a local girl (Shana Beck), and they live in Joseph now.”
The Wallowa School Board’s vote to hire Jones was unanimous. “I believe Tammy is well-suited to be the elementary principal and superintendent,” said school board chairman Woody Wolfe. “She has a lot of experience, a very positive energy, and is a real people person. She seems to be the right person for the job.”
Jones’ background includes a bachelors degree in special education for the hearing impaired, a masters degree in elementary education and reading, certification for principal and superintendent positions through University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark College. Her doctorate in Educational Leadership was earned at Concordia University in Portland.
Why move from a perfectly good, secure job in Snohomish, Washington to pilot the Wallowa School District through the challenges that lie ahead?
“I’ve been really aware of Wallowa County, and especially the schools, for a long time,” she said, “My family lives here. What I saw in Wallowa was a very well rounded school system that was focused on the children. The school really is all about kids and community relationships.” Jones added, “It should be at the heart of the community, and that’s what I noticed here.”
Jones wants to keep the community informed about what’s going on in the school. “Communication is important. I want the community to understand what’s going on learning–wise in the school, from science classes, to music, to recess. If people don’t know what’s happening, they don’t know what to celebrate.”
One of her highest priorities is to continue planning Wallowa’s school renovation project and the upcoming bond. Her experience includes passing three bond measures and a number of levies, and also being involved in planning and building a new school where she became the principal. “Community involvement is critical in determining what improvements should be made,” she said. “When we were planning for that school we went into homes around the community and had coffees to ask questions and listen.” Jones added that you have to figure out what’s possible. “People have to vote their pocketbook. But what students need is important, too.”
Jones views school security as another important issue. To her, it’s more than fences, and locked doors, although those are important too. “It’s partly how, as a staff you train, how you train the students, and how to be aware,” she said.
What else is important to Jones? School activities from music to intermural sports that keep students engaged and communicating. Team sports that build character and pride. Getting back to regular classrooms and learning together when the schools reopen, and giving students the opportunities for leadership.
What one thing can she bring to the Wallowa schools? “My strength is bringing people together and developing relationships and a community. We can be leaders in the county.”
“I’m excited and very happy to be here,” Jones said. “A school built in 1920: That’s history. That’s heart.”