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home : education : schools June 25, 2016

5/21/2013 1:31:00 PM
Colleagues remember Chris Jones
Jim Golden and others regarded Chris Jones as an outstanding board leader and a good friend. Jones died of leukemia earlier this month. photo by Jerry Baldock
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Jim Golden and others regarded Chris Jones as an outstanding board leader and a good friend. Jones died of leukemia earlier this month. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

The challenge of leading the Sisters School District brought out the best in Chris Jones. Elected to the board in 2007, Jones served as chair from 2008 till she was forced to step down due to ill health last summer. Jones succumbed to complications of an aggressive form of leukemia earlier this month.

Her friends and colleagues are remembering her as a quiet but determined leader who contributed mightily to maintaining quality public education in Sisters in the face of severe financial challenges.

"Chris was so successful in leading Sisters schools through such dark economic times because she had the rare combination of a brilliant mind and the ability to relate to every type of person," said her friend Merry Ann Moore.

School board colleague Andrew Gorayeb recalled that, "Chris was a beautiful person, inside and out. Her energy, candor, wit and soft voice were a genuine pleasure to interact with... What struck me most about her was her willingness to make time for me or anyone, to engage wholeheartedly in whatever the challenge was that presented itself to us and to always keep a balance and bring some humor into what otherwise would have been a dreary discussion."

Jones' humor was an oft-cited characteristic. Her friend Karly Lusby said, "In the 10 years I was fortunate enough to know Chris, I never had a conversation with her that did not include laughter, no matter the topic ... absolutely, it is her laugh I will miss and remember the most."

Also frequently noted was Jones' ability to work with a variety of personalities, temperaments and points of view.

"She was so down-to-earth," said long-time school board member Jeff Smith. "She treated everyone with complete respect. This wonderful lady, with a doctorate from the most prestigious colleges on earth, had the interpersonal skills to work effectively with everyone."

Sometimes that meant managing potentially fraught situations where emotions ran high. She could be respectful, but surprisingly steely.

"Chris could keep King Kong under control if he attended a board meeting, and what was so cool was that she could do it with that soft, slightly stammered, 'Suzie-Lou Hoo' voice," Gorayeb recalled. "If people were ranting, she knew to speak even more softly. It arrested their behavior immediately and set the tone that she wasn't going to put up with it any longer."

Glen Lasken said it was an honor to serve on the school board as vice chair with Jones, recalling her fortitude in difficult circumstances.

"She never wavered from the goal of doing what was best for the kids," he said. "We worked together through some very difficult times with the problems with the charter schools that we had. She was a source of wisdom and calm in some pretty stormy times."

Don Hedrick, who succeeded Jones as board chair, knew he had big shoes to fill.

"Chris was probably the brightest person I know... I don't think there's anyone who (knew) more about economics and the budgeting process than Chris," he said.

Hedrick noted that her commitment to Sisters schools and figuring out where the money would come from to maintain quality did not end when she stepped down from the board. In fact, it was with her till the end.

"She had lucid moments and was talking about the school budget when she was dying," Hedrick said. "I don't know what else to tell you: She was an excellent board member."

Schools Superintendent Jim Golden said he had an excellent working relationship with Jones, and he feels her loss keenly.

"I am heartbroken for Chuck and their two children, Zak and Christopher," he said. "Losing a parent has to be one of the worst things that can happen to a family. Secondly, I feel a sense of personal loss since I worked so well and so closely with Chris, that I considered her a critical friend and colleague. I will miss having her passion and intellect on our board."

Cheryl Stewart was another board colleague, but even more a friend.

"Treasures cannot be replaced and will never be forgotten," she told The Nugget. "She will be missed beyond measure. I am deeply honored to be Chris' friend and to have spent so much time with her over the last several years."

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