Hermiston
Jones preparing to say goodbye to high school

Jocelyn Jones in her office at Hermiston High School.

Jocelyn Jones may be retiring as principal of Hermiston High School next month, but that doesn’t mean she will stop cheering at games, plays and concerts.

“It’s hard to let go of something you’ve done your whole adult life,” she said.

Jones knew when she moved from assistant principal to principal three years ago that she was close to retirement, and family health issues have made it clear that now is the time for her to call it quits. But she said it is difficult to leave the school when it has seen such great success this year, from football and wrestling state championships to sending two FFA teams to nationals.

“All of our programs are excelling and that’s been fun to watch,” she said.

Still, Jones feels that she has accomplished her overarching goal when she stepped into the position of principal. When former HHS principal Buzz Brazeau left, there were a number of programs Brazeau and Jones had just started and Jones said her goal as principal — short though her tenure would be — was to make sure those programs thrived instead of fizzling out under new leadership.

“I wanted to get it so they were ingrained in the culture here,” she said.

The program she is most proud of is Hermiston’s emphasis on earning college credit in high school. In her years as an administrator the school has seen a drastic increase in students graduating from high school with college credit.

She said that increase has been most noticeable in low-income students, after the school got a waiver from the state allowing money for the Expanded Options program to be used to pay for college courses for students eligible for free and reduced lunch.

“The idea is that it would level the playing field for students and it has,” she said.

Another innovation Jones is especially proud of is “programs of study,” which groups elective classes into categories, similar to a college major, and allows students to graduate with certifications and college credits in those areas.

Out of a graduating class of about 300, 139 students this year completed one of the programs of study.

“They not only get a flavor of what the career area is, it provides a stepping stone,” she said. “Hopefully the message is that education doesn’t stop at high school.”

Thirdly, Jones said she is immensely proud of how far the staff of the high school has come in recent years through a focus on professional development and collaboration.

“I think our staff has grown tremendously,” she said.

The staff and students she works with every day is what she will miss the most, Jones said, but there are things she won’t miss either.

“I won’t miss testing,” she said.

She said she won’t miss filling out paperwork and jumping through hoops set by state regulations.

Jones didn’t grow up in Hermiston but she has lived there for more than 30 years and she said the community certainly made her job as principal easier because of its support for its schools.

“Hermiston is a very proud community, and very proud of its schools, and it backs its schools all the time, whether it’s athletic or academic, whatever is needed,” Jones said. “It’s the nature of the Hermiston community. It prides itself on growing and changing and being premier. It’s easier to strive to be the best when that’s very much the belief of the community.”

Over her years in the district she taught physical education, health, language arts, business and “whatever people needed along the way.” Jones said she didn’t start her education career with the goal of becoming an administrator, but she had some good mentors along the way who helped her feel it was something she was ready for.

“One of Hermiston’s greatest strengths is the belief that professional development is a must and giving people an opportunity to grow and progress,” she said.

Now that Jones is wrapping up her career with the district, she said she hopes to continue to watch it succeed. If she had any parting advice for her colleagues and successor Tom Spoo, it would be to remember what’s important.

“Just keep looking for what’s best for the kids,” she said. “As long as you keep that in the forefront you’re going to be OK.”

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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