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OHS Principal Jones Retiring
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Principal Rick Jones is retiring after eight years at the helm of Oakdale High School, and while hes ending his career, he has plenty to keep him busy and enjoy in retirement. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader
Oakdale High School Principal Rick Jones is retiring at the end of this school year after being the school’s head administrator for eight years.
In wrapping up his career, he said he hopes that his legacy will be that of creating an academic focus on campus.
Jones started his career in 1980 as a math teacher in the Bay Area. While there, he was part of a mass layoff due to Prop. 13 and, liking the area, decided to come to Oakdale for his career. He taught math at OHS, coached frosh and JV football, and varsity baseball for several years, he even coached soccer for a year. During that time he obtained his administrative credential and left the Oakdale school district in 1987 to serve as a Vice Principal at Teel Middle School in Empire. He returned to Oakdale to serve as Vice Principal at the junior high in 1989, where he stayed for 12 years, the last two years in the role of Principal. In 2001 he was offered a lateral move to become Principal at OHS.
“It’s a big jump from junior high to high school,” Jones said, adding that after discussion with his wife he decided to make the move.
He said that OHS has always been a great school, but always had an athletic focus. Now, it has an academic focus as well. When Jones started at OHS there were six Advanced Placement (AP) classes, now there are 15 AP offerings and increased rigor making OHS into what he calls “a real shining star in the county.”
“The one thing I appreciate the most is how we’ve gone from a school of athletics to a school of academics,” Jones said. “…It shows you’re a well-rounded program.”
This achievement is evident in that during Jones’ tenure as Principal at OHS, the school has won numerous athletic championships in the Valley Oak League and has won the county academic decathlon championship every year.
Jones commented that major strides have been made in technology in the classroom since he started, noting that Oakdale is “leaps and bounds” ahead of other districts.
“It doesn’t hurt, we’ve got the best kids around,” he said. “A single high school in town is very unique. It makes a real tight-knit community.”
He added that having a single high school makes for more open lines of communication with parents, who are also supportive and attentive to the needs of the students.
Jones is proud of the development of the high school staff and programs, noting more college prep courses and increased expectation levels.
“We have one of the strongest staffs around … It shows in the growth in our kids,” he said. “I think the teachers over the years have raised the bar … My job is made easier by having a great staff.”
He also noted the physical changes, modernization, and acquisition of land at the high school that has taken place over the past few years. He spoke of the pending pool and other facilities still to be completed. He added that he would like to see a 1,000-seat theater on the campus in the future due to the program’s growth.
“I got into education to be around kids,” Jones said. “I just enjoy working with the kids and making their experience at the high school memorable.”
Jones actually got his B.A. degree in Physical Education from CSU Chico and he minored in Mathematics. He placed an emphasis on the academics but coaching was also an integral part of his teaching experience.
“The classroom has always been a focus for me. I’ve always enjoyed the rigor,” he said. “The two (athletics and academics) have to go hand-in-hand. To be good in the classroom you have to be disciplined. You need discipline on the field and in the classroom to be successful, you need it in both areas.”
Jones identified some of the challenges he’s faced at the helm as well.
“State standardized testing is always a challenge. Meeting test scores and results is one of the key issues,” he said, adding that he hopes this year will be the year to get over the bar of an 800 API score — the benchmark for top schools — and how it’s important to students and staff.
Facing challenges is nothing new to Jones. For nine-and-a-half years he’s had lymphoma and has recently started on a three-month round of chemotherapy. When he was first diagnosed, he was told he had three to five years to live. He said that treatments have improved from when he first underwent them over nine years ago. He said he’s been able to come to work without issue.
“You learn to be disciplined and live with it … It’s a war to win,” he said unabashed, adding that his doctor told him they’d have a lifetime relationship.
Jones has a number of plans for his retirement once his chemotherapy treatments are finished in August. He’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Barbara, traveling the U.S., fishing, golfing, and doing photography. He also has a trip to New Zealand scheduled for next summer to visit his sister.
In recognition of Jones’ years of service to the school, a celebration is being planned to take place at the Bianchi Community Center on Friday, May 15. Drinks are from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dinner is at 6 p.m. Cost is $25 per person.
Contact Diana Crofts or Mike Moore at Oakdale High School for more information, 847-3007. Deadline to purchase tickets is May 8.