Posted October 20, 2022
While no one was fully prepared on how the pandemic would impact education, Denver Public Schools could not have had a better leader than Denver Online’s Principal, Ian Jones, to lead online education through these unprecedented times. Going from serving roughly 250 students to over 800 students, launching a middle school, and more than tripling staff in just a few months last year is just a few highlights on a long list of celebrations he deserves. While many anticipated the virtual school to go back to around its original size this year, the enrollment numbers prove that RETENTION rates are one of Denver Online’s most meaningful accomplishments, with the middle and high school continuing to serve around 600 students this year.
Ian sets the tone, shattering negative assumptions about online education by the way he prioritizes connection. Teacher Amber Weintraub said, “He knows the kids his staff members teach by name and celebrates their wins and supports them in their struggles.” High school student, Lynzie Ortiz, agrees, saying, “What makes Denver Online’s Principal, Ian Jones deserving of being celebrated is how committed he is to the community and everyone who is a part of it. An example of how he’s made an impact is connecting with all of us to know that we all matter.” While the needs of our students in a pathway school can be challenging, Assistant Principal Nadia Coleman explained why our school community is in such great hands. “Ian is the most accessible and visible principal I have ever worked with. Anytime a student, parent or staff member has a problem, he is there to listen and respond. He invites folks to meet with him and talk openly. His door is open (literally and figuratively) for anyone and everyone who needs him.” He honors each student’s unique story and needs. Tenth grader, Zerafina Nerauter, echoes this, saying, “He has allowed so many of us to join the school. This not only helps us with the whole transportation problem but for people with anxiety and depression who have trouble getting out of bed let alone their house.”
And it is not just our students that feel seen and supported by Ian. Faculty retention can hardly be beat, with staff only quitting to retire…some even coming back after retirement! Counselor Jennifer Fenton said, “Working for a true leader makes every difference in the world! And Ian is that – a true leader. He has heart and soul. He knows how to hire good people and then trusts them and supports them as professionals, respecting our experience, perspectives and input. Ian is available, responsive, present and dynamic – he will change course if that is what’s needed, and he will advocate to the hilt for families and staff. Principals of his kind are rare and appreciated.” Mary Beth Carlson, a Teacher on Special Assignment, noted, “As a special education teacher I was asked some years ago to provide support to Denver Online when a teacher was on leave. I was so impressed with the team, Ian specifically, that when the opportunity a few years ago to work at Denver Online came available, I decided to leave the school I loved and always thought I would retire from. My respect and admiration for his leadership has only grown. He is flexible and has good instincts about the right moves with high risk students. As a pathway school DPS could not find a more qualified and dependable leader. I was recently in the office of McAuliffe and the staff was asking why I left Park Hill and I replied that I went to Denver Online. Someone asked is Ian still principal there and when I said – yes the heads started nodding – ohhhh so that’s why. His reputation is not a secret. We are just so lucky and blessed to have him.”
Ian’s impact is a big one, but we would be amiss if we didn’t throw him some shade…just for fun 🙂 So we’ll end our celebration of our beloved principal with a compliment from Ian’s long-time colleague and comedic relief, Counselor Casey Burton: “He might be short in stature but he is a giant of a principal!”