Ty G. Jones had an errand to run before he took his mom out to a show for Mother’s Day in 2014.
“I didn’t participate in graduation because my mother and I had plans, but I went by the graduation site and got a program,” he said. “I got in the car and gave it to my mother. She said, ‘What’s this?’ I told her to turn to page twelve, and she saw my name. She was definitely excited!”
It’s easy to see why she was thrilled. Jones graduated with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington that day. And his sparkling 4.0 GPA capped his achievement in UTA’s online program.
Jones was the first person in his immediate family to earn a master’s degree.
“I always made a vow to get my master’s before either of my kids graduated from college,” he said. “My daughter [DesTynee] started at the University of Texas as a mechanical engineering major and was approaching graduation.”
Jones was also eager to broaden the scope of his knowledge after he graduated from the University of Houston with his bachelor’s degree in 1996. He is a trustee for District 5 and serves as president of the Lancaster Independent School District (ISD) school board and coordinator of the instructional management system for Grand Prairie ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“The other thing was just to look at some different advancements within the education sector,” he said.
“I’ve been a teacher and a math coordinator — I just never got the administrative certification. This was one of the means for me to do that and also gain a better grasp of the educational leadership perspective.”
Ice Cream Social
Jones was initially interested in a career in human resources. But a chance encounter with one of the teachers, Alfia Jean White, from his elementary school at an ice cream parlor steered him in a different direction.
“She was like, ‘You know what? We don’t have enough African-American men in the elementary schools,'” he explained. “She asked me what I was doing. I told her I had just obtained my associate degree. She said, ‘You need to go back and get your undergraduate degree.” After that, I visited a few campuses and was able to have some reflection of my own. I only had three male teachers during my elementary school career.”
Jones’ first teaching job was as a fourth grade teacher at the Lisbon Elementary, the same school he attended as a kid, where he had the opportunity teach alongside teachers that had taught him. He exited the education career path for a couple of years to pursue financial planning career, which he has continued independently. Jones worked several years as a classroom teacher and mathematics specialist before becoming the coordinator of mathematics at Lancaster ISD after joining in August 2006.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said. “As a teacher, you only look at certain things. As an administrator, you look at it a little more globally. From a school board perspective, you have to look at all spectrums.
“In Grand Prairie, my department deals with state accountability, which gives me better insight when I wear my board hat. Now, I can pose certain questions (scenarios) that the administration in Lancaster may not have thought about that we’ve implemented in Grand Prairie. And vice versa.”
Jones is proud of the strides Lancaster ISD has made since he joined the school board in 2011. In 2016, the district received accolades for Outstanding School Board from the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and for School Board of the Year from the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE).
“There was a time when Lancaster ISD’s board and the district were at the bottom of many rankings,” he said. “For us to make the transition to being a top board in the state of Texas and then also receive the national award through NABSE has just been phenomenal along with the district's academic success.
“Of course, as a board member, you don’t get paid. I tell our trustees, ‘In May or June, when the kids walk across that stage, that’s our payment.’ We have 300-400 kids graduating. Parents are happy; the kids are happy. That’s the most exciting part for me.”
Jones looked into UTA’s online education programs a few years before he started in Fall 2012, but he knew he had several obligations, including attending sporting events and other activities for his children to attend before he could enroll.
“My daughter was playing varsity basketball and my son [Ty Jones II] was playing basketball, so I really didn’t have the time to dedicate to it at that point,” he said. “One of the vows I made when they were young was that I wasn’t going to miss any of their activities. I wanted to make sure I was at all of them.”
That was especially true since his kids were playing for his alma mater, Skyline High School, in Dallas. Once he finally started the M.Ed. program, the online format worked perfectly with his extremely busy schedule working with two school districts.
“It was definitely a struggle, but the online mode helped me tremendously,” he said. “With those Sunday deadlines, you really have to fit it into your schedule. It was a lot of routine and a lot of trying to find audiobooks so that when I was driving in to work and other different places, I could listen to the text that way.”
The thorough curriculum enabled Jones to find new perspectives in education. He especially enjoyed the Capstone Internship in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies [EDAD 5399], Leadership in the Instructional Setting [EDAD 5330], Curriculum Design, Implementation & Evaluation [EDAD 5305], The Principalship [EDAD 5383] and Diversity in Educational Settings [EDAD 5380].
“The practicum allowed me to take some of my knowledge from prior experiences in some of the coursework and kind of redefine that,” he said. “My undergrad was in industrial and organizational psychology, so I had a background within the training and motivation area. The leadership and governance course allowed me to look at some of the different things we were doing in Grand Prairie in my day-to-day job and within Lancaster ISD.”
Full Steam Ahead
Jones said he hopes to continue making a difference in the lives of young people.
“From the school board perspective, I’m looking at restructuring and advocating a lot more for public education and doing more on the side for school board trustees, giving them some additional structures,” he said. “I’ve been pretty strong in math throughout my lifetime. Right now, I do some math consulting and coaching. Ideally, I want to do both — work with school boards and educators — to build educational capacity to improve the outcomes for our students and districts.”
Jones, who also enjoys investments, live music and travelling, said his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies immediately made a major impact on his career.
“It opened up my perspective and gave me a lot more options as it relates to addressing some of the educational needs within my district, state and nation,” he said. “The last semester of my degree program, I was going through a Texas Association of School Boards program called Leadership TASB (LTASB) that takes 36 school board members from the state of Texas. We go through a pretty intense year of curriculum, so that last year was very intense for me. Some of the things I was learning in my coursework, I was able to incorporate within the LTASB program and share varying perspectives with other trustees during our LTASB sessions.”
As for earning a degree online, Jones said that preparation is one of the keys to success. It is also important to identify an accountable partner, one who checks on your progress during set intervals.
“I would definitely say, ‘Plan accordingly and set up a schedule to ensure you’re getting the information and participating in the Blackboard communications,'” he said. “I was able to gain a lot of insight from reading other people’s comments.”
Jones is such a fan of the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies that he has recommended the program to several teaching colleagues.
Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.
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