Innovative Leadership with Jethro Jones

Let me tell you all a little bit about Jethro Jones.

You may recognize his name from this stint as principal of Kodiak Middle School, where he received national recognition as one of NASSP’s 2017 Digital Principals of the Year, or his book, Paperless Principal, or his podcast – The Transformative Principal.

And if all of this is hard to keep up with, you can always just visit his website here:

Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Pretty impressive, right?

One could go so far as to say the only thing more impressive is his tenacity and dedication to his school and his students.

While in Kodiak, before the start of the school year he established a group of teachers to visit each student’s home.  Addresses were exported to a digital map to conduct the home visits in the most efficient way, minimizing travel time to maximize the time spent with students, dancing, goofing, and letting each of them know how happy the staff was to have them in the school.  The visits were recorded and made into a fun video the whole school watched on the first day, which helped to reaffirm a culture of belonging and connectedness.  

Jethro recognizes technology as a tool that empowers us, and is a firm believer that if you’ve got an idea that’s good, that’s going to help kids, you owe it to them and to yourself to make it happen. He embodied that ideal when it came the scheduling problems he was encountering in the middle school.  He took the underused ‘directed study’ time and made it into a rotating schedule of 30 minute classes ranging from Alutiiq beadwork to outdoor survival to the history of rap.  With so many options and the two-week rotation he knew he was looking at a different kind of scheduling, and instead of throwing in the towel he received backing from his superintendent to pursue the creation of an app that would suit the needs of his school and his students.  Working closely with app developers at Carnegie Mellon, they were able to create the Pickr app, supporting ad hoc scheduling for students.  They were even kind enough to make it open source, which means anyone with the desire and need can use it, too.  Awesome.

And as we wrap up this blogpost, let me share with you some imparting wisdom Jethro was good enough to share with me.

We are often our own biggest hurdles.

Don’t buy into, “that can’t be done.”

If it hasn’t been done it just means we haven’t had the guts to do it yet.

Whatever you are doing, do it 100%.  And in a world where multitasking rules the day, I am going to cling to this advice like a life preserver.

Jethro is currently serving as principal of Tanana Middle School in Fairbanks, and will be a keynote speaker and presenter at ASTE 2018.  Be sure to check out his sessions, Using Personality Styles to Manage your Classroom, and Using ChatBots to Meet the Needs of Every Child.