Remembering long-time assistant superintendent Dave Jones
Long-time school administrator David W. Jones died earlier this month, a year and a half after he retired from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. He was 64.
His friends and colleagues say Jones did everything he could to put students first — even if that didn’t make him the most popular person in the room.
“You could not predict what Dave was going to do,” said Donna Peterson, who was superintendent of the district when Jones arrived in 2007 from Kodiak. “He always did what was right for the children, but it didn't matter if he made the school board mad, the public mad, the team mad. He was going to do what was right for the children.”
Jones spent 14 years as the KPBSD’s assistant superintendent of instructional support. In that role, he had to know the ins and outs of school funding.
District Superintendent Clayton Holland said that was a strong suit.
“There’s no one who understood the foundation formula and how we’re funded at the district like Dave, anywhere in the state” he said.
He said he had a soft-spot for at-risk students and students with disabilities.
“He was protective of the folks he worked with and cared about,” Holland said. “And he also had a role within the district that he was going to be the guy who took the hits and delivered the bad news, or the hard news. And so I think that was the part a lot of people saw. But if you ever saw him in action in Juneau or at the assembly advocating on behalf of our kids, you knew what he was about.”
Jones brought that attitude to Juneau, where he worked with Melody Douglas, a fellow administrator from the district and former director of the Alaska Association of School Business Officials. Jones was named ALASBO’s School Business Official of the Year in 2012.
Douglas said they worked together to educate legislators on forward funding school districts before those districts made their budgets for the year.
“We would talk with legislators from around the state and help them understand the challenges that their districts faced with not knowing how much money they were going to have,” Douglas said.
Jones had a legal background and was interested in the policy-making process.
“And he could see the big picture of things,” Douglas said. “And he was generally careful about people’s feelings, and cared for them with a lot of empathy and kindness. But if something needed to be dealt with, he could deal with it.”
Former Soldotna Republican Sen. Peter Micciche said he appreciated that work during his time in the Legislature.
“He was effective,” he said. “We would have him in meetings with other legislators in Juneau and he was just never shy about it.”
Holland said Jones had been preparing to go to Juneau to do more advocacy work before he died.
Peterson, the former superintendent, said Jones would ask students what they thought before making decisions that impacted them.
She remembered when the KPBSD wanted to reconfigure one of its buildings to save some money. The change had support from the school administration and the community.
But Jones said it wasn’t right.
“He had been out at the school and stood around, chatting with kids and got to get a feel for that particular school,” Peterson said. “And we didn’t make the transition.”
She said Jones was sharp. He could do complicated budgets in his head — but that didn’t translate into office organization.
“You would walk into his office and he had some great, big piles,” Peterson said, laughing. “You might have to move a pile to sit on a chair. And then I’d say, ‘But I need the 1986 da-da-da-da-da.’ And he would find it, in two seconds flat. He wouldn’t have to ask a secretary, he wouldn’t have to do anything. He knew where everything was in his office.”
She said he’d always tell it to you like it was. That gruffness didn’t work for everyone, but she said it worked for the district, and for the kids.
Micciche said he appreciated that attitude.
“What I loved about Dave Jones is he was quite direct,” he said. “He would be very straight with me about why things were important. He was always advocating for kids.”
And beneath it all, he was a teddy bear. Nicole Murphy, with the school district, said she saw Jones’ softer side.
“The love that he had was so immense,” Murphy said. “And I think the people who know him just feel like there’s such a loss because we know there was so much more that he had left to give.”
She said that was a big reason he loved to fish – to spend the time with people he cared about.
Jones was also a football fan. In 1999, he co-founded the Kodiak Football League, which competed in the state championship in 2007.
Holland, who was a football coach in Kenai, said that was something Jones passed down to his kids, including one of his daughters, who played in the youth program.
“I think she got a sack in one game, and he would just talk about how ecstatic he was about that,” he said. “‘That’s my daughter!’ So, yeah, a lot of pride in that and being able to pass it down to his kids, as well.”
He said he never met a man who talked more proudly about his children than Jones. After retiring from the district in 2021, Jones moved to North Carolina to be with his family.
Dave Jones is survived by his three children and three grandchildren.