HAVILAND — The new superintendent at Wayne Trace is a northwest Ohio native and in different capacities has worked in service to others.
Paul Jones has served as superintendent of the Wayne Trace schools since Aug. 1, and he recently commented on his service in the area.
“I was principal at Payne Elementary for four years,” he said. “Before that I was also a high school principal at Edgerton for one year and elementary principal for five years at North Central. And before that I taught second grade for two years, and fifth and sixth grades for the other 10 years. I taught science and social studies.”
Jones graduated from Edgerton High School in 1984 and did not immediately attend college. He chose instead to go into military service.
“I spent four years (1984-89) on active duty in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey and was stationed in Long Beach, Calif., which is really Los Angeles,” he added. “This was during the Cold War era. I had two deployments overseas — most were peace-keeping missions. It was kind of neat and odd at the same time because Russia was the Cold War enemy and they followed us everywhere. After we got out of U.S. waters in the Pacific they were always following us.”
He said that in the Navy he was an operations specialist which meant that he operated air search radar and could have gone into air traffic control. Jones also said that his ship didn’t engage in much action because it was in the Cold War period, but there was a tense time.
“In Korea during the World Games we were put on alert because North Korea was threatening the United States,” Jones said. “Nothing came of it, but it was a tense moment.”
“When I got out of the Navy I went home and worked for a year in a factory,” Jones said. “I enrolled in Defiance College in 1990 and worked full time. It took me 10 years to get my degree because of work. I also served for 10 years in the Army Reserve. When I first became a principal I gave up the military. I was really focused on my educational career at that time.”
It was at Defiance College that Jones got a bachelor’s in elementary education. He then was hired at North Central High School to teach. During that time the position of elementary principal opened up and he got his first opportunity in administration.
“Ken Boyer was the superintendent, and he called me up about the principal’s resignation,” Jones said. “It was summer and he asked me to come in to interview for the position. He gave me my first opportunity at administration, and I feel like he was a great person to work for. Boyer included the principals in the decision he made so that helped me learn a lot. I enjoyed working for him and learned a lot. I am thankful I was given the opportunity.”
In about 2003 Jones enrolled at Bowling Green State University in the two-year master’s program for administration and educational leadership. He obtained that degree in 2005.
When thinking of mentors Jones feels Boyer was one of them, but he also named a junior high teacher who inspired him.
“Pat Wise is one person early on who I consider as a mentor,” said Jones. “She was a fifth- and sixth-grade and junior high teacher. She was one of the nicest people and one of the best teachers. She later became a guidance counselor, and I wanted to be one at the time.”
Jones feels the greatest thing he has learned is to do all he possibly can for staff and students.
“Over the years I have gained experience as teacher, principal and a superintendent,” Jones added. “One of biggest things I have learned and the way I want to be remembered is as someone who is caring about students, staff and the community. It’s not just giving orders or being the boss. I want the kids and the staff to know that they can talk to me. I also want to be there for them and to be visible.”
Over the years he has seen lots of changes in the educational field. Currently he says the greatest issue for students is mental health.
“It’s a big deal and something we’re dealing with,” he said. “That mirrors what is going on in our country right now — our kids are being affected by that so we are getting resources and help for these kids. When I first started in education it wasn’t as big an issue then. I wish that every child we teach here had the ability to be happy and learn, and that mental health issues didn’t exist. Legislation and the department of education are trying to tackle this challenge, but it kind of feels like we are trying to hit a moving target.”
Jones said that resources and technology have made education easier.
“When I started neither was available,” he remembered. “For example, mental health resources just were not available. I remember working with someone to put together resources. You have to remember when I was leaving Defiance College email was a new thing. Now look at how we use it. Email has made our lives easier. And our kids can work from home on their laptops. If the pandemic had happened back then we would have had a mess. We have learned a lot and are better prepared because of the pandemic.
So what gets the superintendent up in the morning? What keeps him going?
“Well, besides the alarm clock,” Jones said with a chuckle, “really it is to do the job, to be present, to be there for other people and for my family.”
Jones’ wife, Melinda, is a teacher as well and he says without her by his side he couldn’t do his job.
“This is my fifth year in the district and my first year as superintendent,” he added. “This is an outstanding community and school district. It was a no-brainer to apply for the superintendent position here. But I have got to say that dealing with the pressures every day, I could not do it without my wife and family. My wife listens to me — and sometimes I listen to her — and she says she is the ‘assistant superintendent.’ Every day we wake up we know that there are people dependent on us.”