Menlo Park welcomes new schools chief
Publication Date: Friday Jul 18, 1997

SCHOOLS: Menlo Park welcomes new schools chief

East Coast native Meredith Jones takes over from Rogers-Bianchi

She has camped in Africa, spent the night on a remote island in South America and biked through France. Now, Meredith Jones is coming to California for a new adventure, to become superintendent of the Menlo Park City School District.

The district's school board voted unanimously last week to hire Jones, an East Coast native who has been superintendent of Weston Public Schools in a well-to-do Boston suburb for the past nine years.

"I don't come with a preset agenda," she said. "I come with a set of educational values. It's absolutely incumbent upon me to learn about the concerns, the hopes and dreams (of the community)," she said.

Jones expects to assume her new job, with an expected salary of about $104,000 a year, at the end of September. She will succeed Judy Rogers-Bianchi, who will retire July 31 after more than eight years as superintendent.

"The biggest joy is working with people in the best interests of kids," Jones said. Weston is the wealthiest community in Massachusetts, Jones said, with the highest property values, and the schools are the highest performing in the state. "I see a lot of similarities between the two districts. Parent involvement here sounds to me to be at the same wonderful level." She was also impressed by the "warmth of the people and the commitment that I saw to education."

Rogers-Bianchi, who led the district through the passage and planning of its school bond measure, instituted other reforms over the years, including a new contract bargaining system for negotiating teacher contracts.

"I wanted somebody who was smart enough to keep those things, but I didn't want a caretaker," said school board member Karen Canty, who was also impressed with Jones' warmth, sense of humor and genuineness.

When she's not working, Jones participates in cultural activities such as listening to classical music, reading books, going on adventure travel excursions (she has already gone to South America, Turkey, Africa and France), and spending time with friends and family. She plans to keep in touch with her young niece and nephew by e-mail.

"I spent my whole life on the East Coast. I really believe you have to take advantage of life. I thought it would be very invigorating to come out here. I'm attracted by the energy, the diversity, the culture, obviously the climate." The one thing she won't miss about Massachusetts are the "snow days."

--Elizabeth Darling 

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