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  • Writer's pictureTyisha Blade


“I always say education is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Written By: Tyisha Blade

Courtney Bean Jones is a 22-year-veteran of the East Cleveland City School District (ECCSD) and serves as director of pupil personnel services. According to the district’s website, the Pupil Personnel Services Department “creates opportunities and provides assistance for students learning through in-district counselors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, school psychologists and intervention specialists.”

Jones oversees all student programming in the department and aids teachers in responding to the academic, social and emotional needs of students. She also advocates for students in the district through the use of external community resources. As Jones consistently contributes to the success and advancement of East Cleveland students, she finds passion, dedication and purpose.

During her undergraduate studies at Central State University, Jones initially wanted to major in education. Instead, she decided to pursue coursework in accounting. She confided in her mother who suggested against majoring in education. Jones’ mother, an educator and attorney, told her the education field didn’t accompany financial stability. So, Jones obtained her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and graduated from Central State in 1991.

She began working as a long-term substitute teacher in 2000 at Shaw Academy located on Euclid Avenue inside of First Presbyterian Church. Prior to her transition to ECCSD, she was employed with KeyBank as a financial analyst.

Jones decided to reconsider her career after hearing a message during a church sermon at Antioch Baptist Church. Jones said guest preacher, Rodney Thomas, visited the church for its event, Young Adult Sunday, a yearly service of the Young Adult Ministry. Jones said Pastor Thomas spoke about his former employment with Playboy Magazine. Thomas mentioned the good income with the magazine, but questioned, ‘the outcome.’

“I remember [Pastor Thomas’ words] and really inclined my ear,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘that’s it…an outcome, not just an income.’ He was talking directly to me!” After receiving the message, Jones began to think about her outcome. She said she prayed about the message that same night, then, a moment of clarity. “I didn’t feel like I had a purpose,” Jones said. “I was behind a desk punching numbers…and helping [KeyBank] make money, but I didn’t feel like I was pouring into anybody. God was tapping me on my shoulder.”

Jones said, the next day, she submitted her two-week notice and visited Cleveland State University in hopes of returning to collegiate coursework and shifting career goals. She wanted to explore opportunities to help students with special needs. Advisors at Cleveland State, created her class sequence and scheduled Jones for her coursework. She began pursuing a Master of Education Degree in Fall 2000. Determined to walk her purpose, Jones later visited the East Cleveland Board of Education. She met with (former) Director of Human Resources Rick Jenkins to inquire about employment as a substitute teacher for the district. She submitted her resume.

Jones with parents Central State graduation

Jenkins noticed Jones’ career background in banking and shared news of the vacancy for a math teacher. “This is how you Jones with parents Central State graduation know this was nothing but God,” Jones said. Jenkins went into another room and returned with a math test that she completed the same day. “He graded the test and asked me when I could start.” The month was August and classes were soon to start in East Cleveland. Jones accepted employment for the upcoming semester.

Simultaneously, the educator began coursework at Cleveland State and employment in East Cleveland. ECCSD hired Jones as a long-term substitute (instead of a teacher) because she hadn’t yet obtained a teacher’s license. “I worked during the day and attended class during the evening,” Jones mentioned. “I taught algebra, geometry and algebra II. [Husband] Herb was so supportive. I came home to talk to him and he said ‘Just do it. We will be alright.’” Jones said her salary was decreased by $10,000. During her praxis tests at Cleveland State, she interviewed with East Cleveland’s district administrators and continued to inquire about further employment. She graduated from Cleveland State with her first master’s degree in May 2004.

Jones said the school district planned to promote her from her role as long-term substitute teacher at Shaw Academy to fifth-grade intervention specialist at Mayfair Elementary School. “I thought ‘Oh my goodness, high school is my jam. I don’t know what I’m going to do with fifth graders,’” she said. Jones accepted the promotion, quickly working her way toward the position that further fulfilled her purpose.

In 2009, she accepted a role as administrator of special education prior to director of special education. “My first administrative position was curriculum specialist (in 2008),” she said. “But my focus was always [on becoming] an administrator in special education.” Another vacancy within the district presented itself and before the position was filled, Jones began to assume responsibilities for the open role without any extra pay.

“I knew all the work and what needed to be done,” she said. “I just did it because that’s how much I care about the district. East Cleveland is my home; why would I just sit back and let work fall by the wayside knowing everything that was supposed to be done?”

Jones was later promoted to director of pupil personnel services in August 2021: the role in which she is currently employed. She mentioned her current feelings of fulfillment and purpose, and that her salary is more than it would’ve been had she continued her career at KeyBank in corporate America. “I had to go through some things to get where I am today,” she said.

Jones’ favorite moments with ECCSD include time spent with the Shaw High School Mighty Marching Cardinal Band in her role as auxiliary director. “Mr. [Donshon] Wilson is phenomenal and the things that he did with the [band] program were nothing short of amazing,” she said. Wilson encouraged Jones to become auxiliary director; she said loved being a part of the organization.

Jones with Donshon Wilson at alumni event

“Wilson’s vision was so much bigger than the band. It allowed me witness greatness in [students],” she added. “I saw [students] begin at auditions and watched [them] finish a full band year. [Students] grew, not just as performers, but as people. I learned a lot from my students. Together, we were able to accomplish so much.” She also mentioned keeping connections with students intact after they graduate. “When you’re a teacher, you’re everybody’s teacher, not just the kids who are in your class,” she said.

“I like to see my [alumni] students and how well they are doing. I have only given birth to two [children], but I have so many sons and daughters that won’t go away! I don’t want them to go away either. I always say ‘education is the gift that keeps on giving.’”

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