Interim superintendent Brent Jones is one step closer to being Seattle Public Schools’ next superintendent. 

The school board voted 6-1 to negotiate Jones’ contract during a special board meeting Friday morning. After an agreement is negotiated, the board will vote whether to accept the contract. If Jones were to be hired, it would make him the district’s first Black male leader in more than two decades

If the board votes down Jones’ contract, the search will continue and finalists are expected to be announced by mid-April. 

The lone “no” vote came from board member Leslie Harris, who said she has respect for Jones but voted against moving forward with contract negotiations because she believes there wasn’t enough community engagement. That was also why she didn’t vote for Jones when he was appointed interim superintendent in June.

Jones took over for former superintendent Denise Juneau after she left two months shy of her term. Juneau made $295,000 a year and Jones’ yearly salary is $315,000.

Jones has been a popular candidate among city leaders and community members. Letters in support of Jones were sent to board members from Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President Rachel Smith, and Dwane Chappelle, director of the city’s department of education and early learning center.

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The trio of community leaders praised Jones for leading the district through a time of uncertainty and putting equity at the forefront of decision making. Community members have also expressed support for Jones during board meetings and interviews that were held by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm hired to do the search. 

Jones’ familiarity with the community is another reason supporters have said he’s the right person for the job. His family has lived in Seattle for generations, he graduated from Franklin High School, and he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Washington. 

He later moved to Texas where he received his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Texas at Austin. He started his career teaching adult education in 1993 and later worked in various management and human resource positions at community colleges in Texas and Washington. He then served as chief of human resources at Seattle Colleges and talent officer for the Kent School District. 

Before leaving Seattle Schools in 2019 to work for King County Metro, Jones held various leadership positions in the district starting in 2008. He served as the human resources chief for the district and most recently was the district’s chief officer of equity, partnerships and engagement.

In a Seattle Schools superintendent search survey, respondents said they wanted someone who can provide transparent communication, is sensitive to the needs of the diverse student population, can foster a positive and trusting professional climate and sets high expectations for all students. 

Many have also told board members that the district needs stable leadership. Seattle Schools has had six superintendents in the past 10 years, none lasting more than four years. Although that’s typical for larger school districts, many say they want a leader who will stick around longer.

For most board members, this will be their first time hiring a superintendent.