By Karen Billing
Carmel Del Mar Principal David Jones is leaving the school to become the new superintendent of the Vallecitos School District, a two-school district in the town of Rainbow, just outside of Fallbrook. His first day on the job is July 1.
“After seven years I really do feel like I’m ready to take on a new challenge. I’m motivated to learn and grow and have the opportunity to serve on a broader level,” Jones said. “You do have to make difficult decisions and not everyone’s going to like you, but my mindset is always going to be on the students.”
Just outside his office there is a tree painted on the wall, with the words “D. Jones was here” on the trunk. Jones said that will have to be painted over to make room for the new principal who, he says, will lead an exciting time of change at CDM.
Along with Jones, longtime teacher Linda Dugger is leaving after 19 years, as is popular PE teacher Katharin Roth, who is moving to Utah to become the learning resources coordinator at Wasatch Academy, an international boarding school.
“I honestly really feel that I’ve grown a lot personally and professionally here,” Jones said. “It can be very challenging, you have a lot of responsibilities and demands but at the same time it has always been very, very rewarding and I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to serve and support the teachers, students and parents.”
His ultimate goal at CDM has been to stay focused on improving student learning and he has overseen some positive results — in 2004 the school’s API was 900 and it has now leapt to 950.
Kate Takahashi, Carmel Del Mar PTA vice president of programs, said the school will miss their “beloved” Principal Jones.
“He is everything an educator should be: professional; intelligent; ever-motivated; able to calmly juggle a thousand things simultaneously; and, most of all, he obviously loves children,” Takahashi said. “ Having had children in the district for five years now, I see how CDM has that wonderful balance of ambition countered by nurture. We are just the right amount of competitive. I fully believe that David Jones set the tone to create that balance.”
Although he was born in Niagara Falls, New York, Jones mostly considers himself a midwesterner — his family moved to Minnesota when he was 10. He attended the University of North Dakota where he pitched on the baseball team and helped his team into the College World Series.
He initially planned to attend flight school but his summers working as a camp counselor convinced him how much he loved working with children, prompting his switch to education after getting a degree in aviation.
He played minor league baseball for the Minnesota Loons before becoming a fifth- and sixth-grade combination class teacher. He taught in Minnesota for seven years in the third, fifth and sixth grades.
After getting his master’s in education, Jones decided to head West to California.
“I wanted to live in a warm climate so I gave it a chance and moved out here. I didn’t even have a job,” Jones said.
He got a job waiting tables at Americana in Del Mar, but only lasted three weeks until he was back at school, landing an assistant principal position in the Orange Unified School District in Garden Grove. He was there for three years until the job opened up at Carmel Del Mar in 2004.
Jones prides himself on being an active principal, staying connected with the kids by visiting classrooms, playing baseball with them and running alongside them once a week in the school Mileage Club.
“As I move forward and get my feet wet as a superintendent, I won’t do it if I can’t stay connected with the kids, “ Jones said. “I believe I will be able to do that where I’m going.”
At the school’s open house a few weeks ago, Jones said many parents came up to him and congratulated him and said nice things about the school. He said that is something he will definitely miss: The Carmel Del Mar community. Jones said the level of parent support is very high — “They’ll do whatever it takes.” He said parents are willing to get involved at the school-level with clubs such as the very-active Dad’s Club to helping out district-wide with the foundation.
At Vallecitos, he will be looking to improve parent involvement and he hopes to bring his new school district some of the best ideas he learned from his CDM parents.