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Practicing what he preaches

WLHS social studies teacher to work with new state board
by: LORI HALL West Linn Mayor John Kovash honors Todd Jones with a 2011 Exceptional Service Award.

West Linn teacher Todd Jones' new role in state government is bringing his teaching sense to a board of politicians - a link that he hopes will help improve policy and ultimately classrooms across Oregon.

A West Linn High School social studies teacher, Jones recently began a stint working for Gov. John Kitzhaber's new Oregon Education Investment Board. The board, which was created by legislation in June, will replace existing state education boards and will coordinate funding for all students from early childhood through college.

'This experience certainly will benefit me as a government teacher, allowing me to share with students a direct perspective on how laws are passed and implemented,' Jones said. 'I also believe our work will challenge me to think critically (about) how I work with students.

'Already our early discussions have me wondering whether I'm teaching with an eye on outcomes, as in, am I assisting students in developing the skills they need to be successful students, workers and members of society? Or am I simply covering content?'

Jones will work as policy coordinator on a team that will provide support for the board. The team is on an eight-month contract and is led by Tim Nesbitt, former chief of staff to Gov. Ted Kulongoski. It also includes a lobbyist, a communications official and a budget expert.

'I hope to offer knowledge of federal and state policy, information on innovations in other states, a healthy dose of critical and creative thinking and, most importantly, the perspective of a practicing public school teacher and parent of public school students,' Jones said.

The Oregon Education Investment Board will work to:

* Develop an outcome-based budget that makes strategic investments across the entire public education system.

* Streamline and connect early childhood services to the K-12 system and the K-12 system to post-secondary education programs.

* Consolidate early childhood programs by reconfiguring Oregon's disparate early learning-related programs.

* Improve K-12 education outcomes with tools developed by K-12 design teams.

* Coordinate higher education institutions with a consolidated finance model and budget.

* Measure results with an integrated, statewide, child-based data system to track expenditures and return on investment for education-related programs from zero to 20.

'... I sense that we're on the verge of the most significant education reform in Oregon in 20 years, and I'm excited that our public and private sector leaders are focused on strengthening teaching and learning,' Jones said.

Although he has been a teacher in West Linn for 14 years, Jones' career started in public policy, and he has long had his feet planted firmly in both fields.

For four years, he worked in communications and government relations for Portland firms before he started teaching at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, where he taught language arts and social studies for seven years. Then he returned to the political arena to serve as an assistant to State Treasurer Randall Edwards for two years.

He taught social studies at WLHS for the past seven years.

'While teaching at WLHS, I've remained connected to education policy in Oregon,' Jones said.

During that time, he also served on Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo's Professional Educators Advisory Team, currently serves on the executive committee of the Oregon Coalition for Quality Teaching and Learning and is presently the chair of the Chalkboard Project Advisory Council.

After his contract ends with the state, Jones said he plans to work for three months with Chalkboard Project, an education foundation based in downtown Portland. He will return to teaching social studies at WLHS in fall 2012.