CUSD profiles: new Sumner Danbury Principal Elisabeth Jones
by Andrew Alonzo | firstname.lastname@example.org
Elisabeth Jones recently began her 22nd year in education as the new principal of Sumner Danbury Elementary School in charge of Sumner programs, succeeding former principal Rahkiah Brown.
Though she enters the academic year in a new district and as a first-time principal, she is looking forward to the challenge.
“I was looking at neighboring districts to Walnut Valley and really looking to grow in my own learning, my own impact, and Claremont had some similarities to Walnut Valley — also some people similarities,” Jones said. “It was actually the only place that I applied.”
Despite the new title, she doesn’t feel jitters, likely due to her frequent experiences of being the new kid on the block in her youth.
“My elementary and middle school [years] were actually the combination of public, private and home school,” she said. “I had the experience of being a new person, the new kid, and through that developed important skills for meeting people, making friends, realizing how it feels to come into an organization — of course in this example a school — and being new.
“Creating a space that is inclusive [with] a strong sense of belonging is important to me.”
As a Maranatha High School student she attended Saturday Conservatory Of Music programs at California State University, Los Angeles that served tight budgeted families in the area. She later served as an instructor for the same program while in college.
“As a middle school and high school student I would babysit my cello teacher’s kids to trade for lessons,” she recalled. “Then in high school I would clean their houses to be able to pay for the cello lessons.
“I love working with kids,” Jones said of her musical origins. “Seeing that light bulb go off and thinking through and planning ‘Okay, what can this person’s next step be that can make the most difference for them?’ That just really transferred over to all subject areas.”
Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a multiple subject credential from Cal Poly Pomona in 2001 and began her classroom journey shortly after. She earned her master’s in educational leadership and an administrative credential from Azusa Pacific University.
Her mother, Rebecca Rusk, was a high school English and English as a second language teacher at adult schools in the U.S. and around the world. One of the most important lessons she instilled was to always be aware of the cultures in the classroom.
“She always championed thinking outside of the box,” Jones said. “She was this innovative, inquisitive person. She had a huge impact on me and my choice of profession. She was just probably my best example of a leader as well.”
Although she died from cancer in 2010, Jones said she still carries her mom’s many lessons about life and school with her daily. She taught for a year in South Africa, just like her mother.
Jones had never envisioned herself in the principal’s chair until she found herself coaching writing at Evergreen and a new passion ignited.
“That’s why I went into it, to coach writing,” she said. “Doing that though, I just really started to love the work,” which extended to administrative duties.
After speaking with staff and parents at Sumner Danbury, Jones hopes to improve student learning and overall communication efforts across campus as co-principal.
“I’m really at a place where I’m listening and I’m learning,” she said. “I’m really learning our culture and our people.”
Jones declined to share her age or city of residence. Her family includes her husband of 24 years, Reuben, and their three children, Isabel, Samuel, and Mathew.