Marsha Jones, ’73, stays close to the classroom and works to make Vigo County’s second-largest elementary school feel like a small, country school. As the 2014 Principal of the Year, her efforts are definitely paying off.
The Indiana Association of School Principals recently awarded the 2014 Principal of the Year to Marsha Jones, Lost Creek Elementary principal and a two-time Indiana State University degree earner.
But a note in the over-sized congratulations card from a class of fifth-graders shows students already knew about Jones’ qualifications: “You should have this award every year. You are the best principal ever.”
The award reaffirms that Jones is making the difference she set out to make when she pursued a career in education after graduating from Indiana State in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She went on to complete her master’s degree in reading education and 30 hours in administration, all at Indiana State.
“The biggest honor for me was being nominated by my peers because we all work really hard,” Jones said. “I feel like I represent them and I feel lucky to be able to do that.”
Now principal at Vigo County School Corp.’s second largest elementary school serving 650 students plus about 100 teachers and staff, Jones spent half of her 20-year career in administration as a middle school assistant principal.
She also served as principal at Sugar Creek Consolidated Elementary School for five years before becoming the fourth principal in Lost Creek Elementary history five years ago.
“Being one of just four people who have been at the helm at Lost Creek is quite an honor, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here,” Jones said.
Jones may not be a teacher anymore, but she tries to get time in each classroom through daily observations.
“That’s a lot since we have 30 classrooms, but the kids are used to my daily walk-throughs and they know I’m interested in what they’re doing,” Jones said. “Before coming here, I was at a small rural school, so coming to one of the largest elementary schools in the district was a big change. But we try to create a small school atmosphere and make everyone feel like they are a part of everything that goes on at Lost Creek.”
Jones, who was named IASP Assistant Principal of the Year in 2000, received her latest award during the 2014 Principals of the Year Recognition Celebration last year. This fall, she will represent the state at the National Association of Elementary School Principals recognition program.
She was nominated by her peers as the Principal of the Year for District 8, which includes Clay, Greene, Hendricks, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties. One principal is honored from each of the 12 districts, and a state panel was responsible for selecting one of 12 district winners to be the statewide winner.
“All of the district winners were invited to the IASP fall conference, where there was an award ceremony and banquet to kick off the conference. When they recognized us, they showed pictures we sent of our schools and families and all district winners got a few minutes on the big screen,” Jones said. “At the end of that they made the announcement. It was a total shock and I had to go up front at the Marriott and give an impromptu speech. It was great to meet all of the state officers and be congratulated by them and Indiana Superintendent of Instruction Glenda Ritz. (Vigo County School Corp.) Superintendent Tanoos, our board members and other administrators were also present. It’s definitely a night I won’t forget.”
Jones is in the process of completing her application for the National Distinguished Principals program, which includes submission of letters of recommendation, references and responding to prompts about her leadership, professional beliefs and practices, and involvement with parents and community.
“I’ve been in a lot of schools and our PTO is outstanding, as far as supporting anything that we do for our students, like when they partnered with me to get additional technology for our classrooms,” she said. “This fall, we completed installing each classroom with a document camera, projector and a speaker system, so they can utilize all of the online resources available through our reading and math series.”
Jones’ successes and those of Lost Creek Elementary have taken the efforts of many people, she said.
“A big initiative that we have is a corporation project that began as the Weekend Backpack Program, where we identified students who may be food deprived over the weekend or extended holiday. We send food home in a backpack, which is paid for through money from various sources — donations and voluntary employee payroll deductions,” Jones said. “A spinoff of that came when a local church knew we had concerns about a specific pocket of children over the summer, and they worked with our school counselor to provide food weekly and one hot meal a week during the summer. At the end of the summer, the church provided those students with a backpack, new tennis shoes, school supplies, cheer bows and haircuts. If we say we need help, people are always there for us.”
Always a teacher and a Sycamore at heart, Jones comes from a long line of educators and Indiana State graduates, including her mother who was a reading teacher and her father who was a coach, both in Vigo County School Corp., and her two sisters also teach in Vigo County schools.
“Teaching was something I always wanted to do,” Jones said. “Superintendent Danny Tanoos says my family has chalk dust in our DNA, given how many of us have gone into education.”
Her passion for teaching made it tough to leave the classroom after 12 years to pursue a position in administration, but it’s been a good change for Jones.
“I get so many hugs from the kids and I attempt to know all of their names, although it’s difficult with as big of a student body as we have,” Jones said. “As a classroom teacher, you have a connection with your own children and I knew it would be different in administration, but it’s been a good kind of different. I feel like I’m a teacher of teachers and I can impact all of the kids in that manner by making sure they are getting the best instruction and curriculum the teachers and I can give them.”