June 6, 2018 | NEWARK—In a surprise ceremony in front of her students, Jody-Anne Jones,
principal of North Star Academy Clinton Hill Middle School, was honored today with the 2018
Ryan Award for exceptional school leadership, a national award that honors urban principals
who are closing the achievement gap.
When students enter the Clinton Hill campus as fifth-graders, they lag behind students from
more affluent districts on state exams. But by eighth grade, they close that gap and reverse it,
outperforming those students by almost 30 percentage points in math and 15 percentage points
in English-language arts, as they did in 2017.
Pat Ryan Jr., founder of the Accelerate Institute, said Jones was selected for the Ryan Award
because she helps her students compete with peers who don’t face the challenges of poverty.
“Year after year, far too many children in the U.S. fall behind because they don’t have access to
a quality education. Jody-Anne Jones refused to accept this and attacked the problem of the
achievement gap with the urgency it deserves, making sure every student at Clinton Hill is
given the opportunity to succeed,” Ryan said. “We created the Ryan Awards six years ago to
amplify the story of leaders like Jody-Anne and to help other principals learn how to build
schools with healthy foundations where the children—and the adults—are constantly learning
and growing.”
Nora Ligurotis, CEO of the Accelerate Institute, presented Ms. Cole with the award during an
all-school assembly in front of her students and staff. Chicago-based Accelerate Institute is a
nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of transformational urban school leaders.
The prestigious award includes a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity for awardees to
teach their successful methodologies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Africana Studies from Rutgers University and a
master’s in professional studies from Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center,
Jones started as a teacher at North Star Academy in 2006. She served as an instructional leader and a dean of students and curriculum before being named principal of the Clinton Hill Middle
School in August 2014.
Under Jones’ leadership, 72 percent of Clinton Hill Middle School students met or exceeded
expectations on the 2017 PARCC exam in English-language arts, compared to 56 percent of
students statewide and 68 percent for students who are non-economically disadvantaged. In
math, 60 percent of Clinton Hill students met or exceeded expectations, compared to 45
percent statewide and 57 percent non-economically disadvantaged.
But perhaps the best measure of her tenure is how prepared her students are to compete once
they leave the school. Michael Mann, a 2014 Ryan Award winner and head of school at North
Star Academy Washington Park High School, said the Clinton Hill graduates come in to his high
school with a high level of energy and focus. A Clinton Hill alum is valedictorian this year and
was accepted at all 10 universities where she applied, including Harvard and MIT. She’s going
to Yale University, he said.
“Jody is very results oriented,” Mann said. “She conveys the sense of urgency and she doesn’t
wait for problems to solve themselves or get worse or float away. She tackles problems she
sees head on.” Jones also invests her staff fully in their mission. In a recent staff survey, 100
percent of the Clinton Hill staff rated Jones as “very inspiring.”
Jones is the second Ryan Award winner to be announced this year. Molly Cole, founding
principal of Brooke East Boston Charter School in Boston, was honored May 24. Winners are
nominated by education leaders across the country. Nominees must be K-12 principals for at
least four years with a measurable record of consecutive student achievement growth. This
sixth class of Ryan Awardees will be celebrated at the Accelerate Institute’s annual Impact
Dinner later this year in Chicago.
The Ryan Award is the first national award honoring transformational school leaders in the U.S.
The Ryan Awards are distributed through the Chicago-based Accelerate Institute, a nonprofit
organization founded by Pat Ryan Jr. that is dedicated to the development of urban school
leaders who make sure every student has the chance to reach their full potential.
Previous Ryan Award winners have led both district and public charter schools in Atlanta,
Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Newark, New Orleans, Phoenix, Wilmington, Del., and
Washington, D.C. The prestigious award includes a $25,000 honorarium and the opportunity to
teach successful methodologies at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern
University. The Ryan Awardees will be celebrated at the Accelerate Institute’s annual Impact
Dinner later this year in Chicago.
For further information on the Ryan Awards and the Accelerate Institute, visit:
North Star Academy is the largest charter school in New Jersey, with 13 schools serving over
5,000 students in Newark in grades K through 12. North Star Academy is part of Uncommon
Schools, whose mission is to ensure students enter into, succeed in and graduate from college. Uncommon Schools currently operates 52 public charter schools in New York, New
Jersey and Massachusetts and serves over 18,000 students. 80% of Uncommon graduates have
graduated from college or are on track to do so which is eight times the national rate for low
income students.