NEWARK, NJ—The principal of Uncommon Schools North Star Academy Clinton Hill Middle School, who won a national education award, was recognized by the City Council Wednesday.
Jody-Anne Jones won the 2018 Ryan Award Ryan Award for exceptional school leadership, a national award that honors urban principals who are closing the achievement gap. She received the award earlier this month at a surprise ceremony at her school.
South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James presented a city resolution to Jones on behalf of the City Council.
"This is quite an honor for me," Jones said. "I am extremely proud to be part of the civil rights movement making sure that every student gets the best education that they should get and deserve to get. This is a demonstration of how great Newark can be."
When students enter the Clinton Hill campus as fifth-graders, they lag behind students from more affluent districts on state exams. But by eighth grade, they close that gap and reverse it, outperforming those students by almost 30 percentage points in math and 15 percentage points in English-language arts, as they did in 2017.
Pat Ryan Jr., founder of the Accelerate Institute, said Jones was selected for the Ryan Award because she helps her students compete with peers who don't face the challenges of poverty.
"Year after year, far too many children in the U.S. fall behind because they don't have access to a quality education. Jody-Anne Jones refused to accept this and attacked the problem of the achievement gap with the urgency it deserves, making sure every student at Clinton Hill is given the opportunity to succeed," Ryan said.
"We created the Ryan Awards six years ago to amplify the story of leaders like Jody-Anne and to help other principals learn how to build schools with healthy foundations where the children—and the adults—are constantly learning and growing," Ryan said.
The prestigious award includes a $25,000 and the opportunity to teach at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Jones earned a bachelor's degree in English and Africana Studies from Rutgers University and a master's in professional studies from Cornell University's Africana Studies and Research Center.
Jones started teaching at North Star Academy in 2006. She served as an instructional leader and a dean of students and curriculum before being named principal of the Clinton Hill Middle School in August 2014.
Jones was nominated for the award by Michael Mann, a 2014 Ryan Award winner and head of school at North Star Academy Washington Park High School. Mann said Clinton Hill graduates come in to his high school with a high level of energy and focus. A Clinton Hill alum is valedictorian this year and was accepted at all 10 universities where she applied, including Harvard and MIT. She's going to Yale University.
"Jody is very results oriented," Mann said. "She conveys the sense of urgency and she doesn’t wait for problems to solve themselves or get worse or float away. She tackles problems she sees head on."