Former Manual assistant principal speaks out after losing his job

Manual High School assistant principal Vernon Jones was caught by surprise yesterday by the decision not to renew his contract for next school year, he said in a statement released today.

I should have listened to the rumors,” he said. In it, Jones signals his intentions to remain involved in the battle over what Manual’s future will look like.

His departure from the school sparked outcry in the Manual and northeast Denver community. A community meeting organized by Manual students is planned for 2 p.m. today at a library near Manual High School.

This action, and any intended action against Pastor Vernon Jones will NOT go unchallenged,” said one community member in an email forwarded to Chalkbeat Colorado. Jones was previously the pastor at Kinship Missionary Baptist Church in Aurora and is known by community and students as “Pastor Jones” or “P. Jones.”

The decision has some parents rethinking whether they’ll stay with the school, which has struggled with low performance and turbulent changes in leadership. District officials have already expressed concern about dropping enrollment at the school, where only 75 freshmen are expected to enroll next fall.

“Pulling him out, that takes away our connection to the community,” said Pauletta Anderson, whose daughter attends Manual.

Chalkbeat also obtained the announcement Manual principal Don Roy sent to staff that Jones would not be returning. In it, Roy acknowledges the central role Jones played in rallying community members around the school but gives few details on the rationale behind his decision.

“I made this decision after careful deliberation and evaluation,” Roy wrote. “I determined that we needed different leadership in the Assistant Principal role for the upcoming school year.”

The school has two other assistant principals who have been brought on in the past months since Roy took the reins at the school.

Here is the full text of the email:

From: Roy, Don
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 12:18 PM
To: Manual High Faculty
Subject: Leadership team

Teachers and Staff,

I have decided not to renew Assistant Principal Vernon Jones’ contract for the 2014-15 school year. I made this decision after careful deliberation and evaluation, and I determined that we needed different leadership in the Assistant Principal role for the upcoming school year.

I know that Mr. Jones has been a part of the Manual community for a number of years, and that many of our students, teachers and families have strong relationships with him. My door is open to anyone who has questions or concerns about this decision. I am limited in what I am able to discuss when it comes to personnel decisions, but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for your continued support and engagement in the Manual community.


Donald Roy

Manual High School
I am from Rochester, New York, and I play on TEAM DPS!

And below is Jones’ full statement:

“I spoke truth to power in a very passionate way during a community meeting and from that moment Mr. Roy began to see me as not a fit for his team. I have been placed on administrative leave and he has recommended to the DPS board that my administrative contract at Manual High School not be renewed for the 2014-2015 school year. This action did not surprise me but it saddens me because of my eight year commitment to advocating with and for scholars, colleagues, and my community, in a number of positions related to Manual. I had heard whispers within the building and from external colleagues that this was coming but after an earlier face to face meeting with Mr. Roy on May 27 I dismissed them because I trusted that we had come to an understanding and were moving forward as a team. I should have listened to the rumors. I remain resolute in my solidarity with the Manual scholars, staff, parents, and community. Our desire to self-determine, to walk and act TBOLT STRONG, remains. Still WE RISE! I remain a Manual parent and my responsibility to advocate for my children and their peers is still mine and is not dictated by one person’s opinion of my leadership fit. My heart aches but I am not deterred.”

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”