In the last decade, Fullerton Joint Union High School District campuses have received state and national honors and become so popular that students are on waiting lists to enroll.
Students, administrators, parents, teachers and trustees all point to Supt. J. Kenneth Jones as the reason for the district’s success. His peers, district superintendents and college chancellors in the county also say he’s the best, and recently named him Orange County Superintendent of the Year.
Now Jones, hired 14 years ago as a deputy superintendent and promoted to his current post in 1987, is being considered for the equivalent state award.
Meanwhile, the 60-year-old Huntington Beach resident is clearing his desk and packing his things. He retires June 30, leaving a legacy that people throughout the district and county are hailing.
At his last school board meeting earlier this month, the teachers union thanked him and the principals gave him a giant plaque of appreciation. School Board President Robert A. Singer offered many words of praise.
“You established a unique environment that caused us to strive for only the highest achievements,” Singer told Jones. “We’ve seen a full spectrum of awards that our students, staff and programs have obtained.”
Singer noted that five of the district’s high schools were recognized as California Distinguished Schools, the highest honor bestowed by the state, and La Habra High was selected as a Blue Ribbon School, the nation’s top award.
Jones, who oversaw the creation of state-recognized magnet programs at Troy, Buena Park and La Habra high schools and popular academies at the other district schools, gives credit to “positive working relations” between the district’s administrators, teachers and other staff members.
“A lot of the leadership thing is kind of intangible,” he said. “It’s setting a tone for an environment of high expectations so that everyone can focus on what they ought to be focused on--educating students.”
Jones also is credited with helping his district and others after Orange County declared bankruptcy in 1994. He headed a committee of school and college districts that fought to recoup money deposited, as required by law, in the failed county-run investment pool.
The committee reached a settlement in which 90% of the money was returned. About $109 million has yet to be recovered.
Jones said he will voluntarily continue in his position as chairman of the Education Creditors Subcommittee until all the money is returned.