Seattle Public Schools interim Superintendent Brent Jones will be the district’s next permanent leader, making him the district’s first Black male superintendent in more than two decades

The school board voted 6-1 to approve Jones’ two-year contract at a special board meeting Friday afternoon. Jones’ contract will last until June 30, 2024, and his annual base salary will be $335,000 plus benefits. Jones will also receive $700 a month for work-related travel.

“I am very excited to continue the work that we have done together toward student outcome focused governance and I am sure our community is very excited for the consistency that he will continue to bring to the district,” Board President Brandon Hersey said.

Board member Leslie Harris, the lone “no” vote, didn’t elaborate on why she voted down Jones’ contract. She has said in previous meetings that she respects Jones but didn’t believe the search process involved enough community input.

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Jones, a Franklin High School graduate, was appointed as interim superintendent by the board last year after Denise Juneau resigned two months before her contract expired, a result of a strained relationship with the school board over the handling of the pandemic.

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Jones is making more money than his last two predecessors. Juneau (2018-2021) made $295,000 per year, and Larry Nyland (2014-2018) made $301,883 annually. 

In the last 10 years, the district has had six superintendents, a reason why many will be looking at Jones to provide stable leadership. It’s rare for a Seattle superintendent to last more than a few years. Joseph Olchefske was the last leader to reach five years — he served from 1998 to 2003

Last month the school board narrowed its focus to Jones as the only candidate following support from three city leaders, including Mayor Bruce Harrell, and the community. The board voted to negotiate Jones’ contract last week, halting the national search that was underway.

Some have criticized the board’s search process because of the quick turnaround and lack of community input. Board members have acknowledged the process was cut short but have all shown an outpouring of support and confidence in Jones’ ability to lead the district. 

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 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. Jones 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.