For new assistant principal, a risk worth taking
There was an element of risk involved when Virgil Jones took a job at Rosemount High School. He was leaving a job he liked — one he'd held for nine years — at Gustavus Adolphus College. He was moving from the college level to a high school. And he was taking a job that might not even be available two years from now.
He doesn't seem to have any regret, though. He likes where he is.
Jones took over last month as ninth grade coordinator at RHS, but in some ways his path to the school started about six years ago when he served on an council with RHS principal John Wollersheim. They joked then that Jones should come work at the high school level someday. When Jones ran into RHS assistant administrator Drew Storley recently, Storley mentioned the school was hiring.
Despite being happy at Gustavus, where he was assistant dean of students and director of multicultural programming, Jones gave Wollersheim a call.
Apparently, the RHS principal made an impression.
"He's one of the few people in secondary I'd be willing to risk my career in higher education to come work for," Jones said. "I don't think you'll find a person who has a better sense of integrity, loyalty and commitment to education."
Making big career changes isn't entirely out of character for Jones. He was working for the drug company Pfizer in 1999 when he decided he wasn't satisfied with what he was doing.
"I didn't feel like I was helping anybody," he said. "I wanted to give back. Corporate America just wasn't filling that need for me."
Jones took a job for the company that administers the ACT exam, and when he moved to Minnesota to be closer to the woman who eventually became his wife, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of St. Thomas.The job at Gustavus followed. He also coached football at the school.
Jones actually has a connection to RHS that goes back farther than his introduction to Wollersheim six years ago. After growing up in New Orleans and Mississippi, he attended Greenfield High School in Milwaukee. That's the alma mater of longtime RHS baseball coach Craig Kusick, and Jones played football at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse with Kusick's son, and he visited Kusick occasionally at RHS.
Now that he's an employee at the school, Jones is doing everything he can to get to know people. Students sang happy birthday to him at a back-to-school pep fest during the first week of school.
Jones doesn't expect to do any coaching at RHS, but he's talked about working out with the Irish wrestling team, and while details are still scarce he would like to start a kind of breakfast club to help build connections among students. He also wants to upgrade options at RHS for student mediation — ways for students to resolve conflicts without involving administrators.
"I'm really committed to having young people learn about each other and learn about each other's cultures and the things that bind us," he said.
The administrator Jones is replacing, Pete Roback, is currently working at an international school in Beijing. It's possible he will return to RHS when his time there is done. But for now Jones is OK with that uncertainty. He likes what he has seen so far at RHS.
"I'm all about calculated risks," he said. "I think this was a good risk to take."