For much of his career, Mr. Anthony Jones, WW-P’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator, has focused on amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and groups. In the last several months, that goal has become especially relevant in the WW-P community.
Edward Simon Cruz
For much of his career, Mr. Anthony Jones, WW-P’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator, has focused on amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and groups. In the last several months, that goal has become especially relevant in the WW-P community. Thus, when Jones was selected to become the district’s first administrator to specialize in nondiscriminatory policy changes, he began taking time to listen to a myriad of perspectives and experiences, including those of faculty, students, and other members of the community.
Jones has worked to diversify WW-P curricula to appeal to and more wholly represent various communities of color. In collaboration with Sonia Singh, a new vice principal at Community Middle School, Jones hopes to incorporate South Asian texts and information about cultural celebrations into the Language Arts department. This initiative is coupled with an additional priority on Jones’ agenda: providing professional development for staff members that will enable the district to learn about ways to teach texts and topics related to race in a sensitive and responsible manner in the classroom.
Jones also sees an opportunity in collaborating with existing student-led groups that advocate for awareness and action on subjects like race and mental health. “It’s important to give back and realize what is going to happen for the next generation,” he explained. “So when you go away for school, you want to also come back five years later and say, ‘Hey, I left the school district in a better place for the next generation.’”
Already, Jones has connected with various student groups advocating for racial justice, including the POC Advocacy Group and the Shades Club; he has collaborated with the latter to assist in some of the student assemblies and events held during Black History Month.
His motivation to promote inclusivity, he recounts, has always been a part of him, especially in New York, where he grew up. “When you take the subway to school, you see everybody: Black, White, Asian, Indian, Latinx,” said Jones. “When you go to Flushing [a neighborhood in Queens] … I mean, it’s Chinatown. You’re able to go there, sample the food, see people, the hustle and bustle. You can go to Italian restaurants; you can go up to the Bronx or Harlem and see the Harlem Renaissance and Black people; then you can go to Spanish Harlem.” Having grown up amid a multitude of communities with varying cultures and backgrounds, Jones came to value the importance of diversity in his surroundings.
Still, his understanding of diversity was far from perfect. Throughout high school, his education rarely discussed racial, ethnic, and social injustice. It was then when he turned to his parents to learn about activists like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Mahatma Gandhi. But as he moved out of New York and into different communities, his cultural awareness, coupled with his limited exposure to diverse curricula, would eventually shape his greater purpose in life.
Through his time at Rutgers University, Jones would become more passionate about social and educational activism. “I think for me, college was really the place that opened my eyes to different places, people, and it got me out of the realm of New York,” he said. Though he was exposed to diverse surroundings in both New York and Rutgers, the change of setting gave Jones a greater understanding of the world around him. Jones’s time at Rutgers allowed him to solidify what he views as his calling — fostering educational environments that acknowledge and embrace student differences in the classroom — as he realized the role that he could play in introducing diversity into different institutions.
As the district examines its own disparities — racial, cultural, economic, and academic — the work for Jones has only begun. He understands that curricula and classroom environments can both shape the discussions that students and staff members engage in about subjects like race, gender, and sexual orientation. His administrative work to acknowledge and amplify different voices and perspectives will join other efforts around the community to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive school district.
To achieve this goal, the district has begun examining disparities in areas like disciplinary action and student entrance criteria for Honors and AP courses. “A lot of that is going to come from personal reflection from teachers, administrators, and looking at the numbers and saying, ‘Why is this repeating itself?’” Jones ends. “That’s the hard work that myself and others are also tackling.”