Roger Jacks supports the students at Mt. Tipton Elementary School during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new trail behind the school. Jacks is retiring June 30 as superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District. (Photo by Charles Black)
KINGMAN — When the end of the school year rolls around, one more chair than usual will be empty.
Roger Jacks, 76, will retire as superintendent of the Kingman Unified School District on June 30. Jacks, who took the job in 2008 and moved here from Las Vegas with his wife, Joan, will focus on volunteer work and family.
“I know there comes a time to retire, but at the same time I am wanting to continue, so it is hard,” said Jacks. “I am getting involved with volunteer work in our community. Of course, we will spend more time with our kids and grandkids and do some traveling. But I will be looking for other opportunities to serve my community, including KUSD, if called upon.”
Jacks recently was appointed as a commissioner on the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Commission and as a trustee on the Mohave County Benefit Trust for employee health and benefits. He will begin serving July 1 as president of the Kingman Rotary Club.
Jacks, a retired United States Air Force colonel who served 27 years as an aviator, was appointed by the governor in 2012 to the State Board of Education. He previously was KUSD’s assistant superintendent and director of human resources.
During his tenure with KUSD, Jacks managed the construction funds and provided leadership for the opening of Lee Williams High School. He also offered supervision and design input for building White Cliffs Middle School and Desert Willow Elementary School.
Jacks handled the construction of a central cafeteria and a bus barn for the district. He provided the research and leadership to bring the International Cambridge Program to both high schools and middle schools. Jacks provided leadership to ensure the district’s informational technology capability is as close to “state of the art” as it can afford.
He worked with the school district committee on school calendars and adopted a calendar comprised of nine weeks of school and two-week intersessions. Jacks researched and partnered with the schools to come up with the four-day school week.
Jacks provided the leadership for a district program called the Four “A”s, for Academics, Arts, Athletics and Activities. He brought in the Vail School District’s “Beyond Textbooks” program, making it easier for students to move between schools during the school year. He also collaborated with Northern Arizona University to receive a seven-year, $1.5 million GEAR UP grant that prepares students to go to college.
He worked with a school board member and brought a summer program called ACT/CTY. He provided the leadership to improve school safety through training, technology, more security manpower, more counselors and entrance modifications to the school buildings.
Jacks said the district has a diverse population of about 7,200 students, with about 70 percent of them on free or reduced lunch and considered at-risk. A total of 18 percent of the students qualify for special needs programs. He said the student population is very transit, moving from school to school or moving in and out of the district.
“The largest challenge for our school district, in my opinion, is hiring highly qualified teachers and administrators and then retaining them at KUSD for their educational career,” said Jacks. “A lack of quality applicants and our large turnover rates make it difficult to get and sustain above-average student academic growth in all of our schools year after year.”
Jacks said one of the district’s strategic goals is to place KUSD at or above the state average when it comes to state assessments. Jacks said the district is below the state average now, but is working hard to improve assessment success rates.
As for his accomplishments, Jacks doesn’t hesitate to list them, but is quick to point out they were not a sole effort. He credits the school board and staff at the district’s schools for his success during his time in office.
“I must emphasize that I can only discuss accomplishments with the understanding that everything I mention was done working with a team of individuals,” said Jacks. “It was never just ‘me.’”
Lee Williams High School, which once was Kingman High School, re-opened in 2012. Jacks, the former principal of an inner city high school in Las Vegas, led the vision of creating a modern-day high school while maintaining the traditional look of the “once upon a time” old high school. He worked with the school board on naming the school, picking the colors, mascot and initial traditions.
But the effort was fraught with problems. As Arizona’s budget situation worsened, the KUSD school board decided to push back the planned 2011 opening to the next year. Jacks came into the superintendent’s position right after an $80 million bond was passed and managed the construction funds.
The global Cambridge program, started in 2012 at Lee Williams High School, features a rigorous curriculum based on creative thinking, inquiry, problem-solving, collaboration and hands-on application of skills. It is sponsored by the University of Cambridge in England. Students can earn a Grand Canyon High School diploma at the end of tenth grade and can either continue high school or go on to college.
“We wanted to bring an internationally acclaimed academic program to Kingman that challenged and motivated our students,” said Jacks. “We wanted a program that parents embraced, that prepared students for post-secondary life, and a program that the community took pride having in Kingman.
“Because of the outstanding teachers in the Cambridge program, we have received international and national acclaim. It is very popular with our teachers and helps us recruit new teachers.”
The four-day, nine-week/two-week school calendar was adopted three years ago and shortens the summer by about two weeks. Jacks said it has been well-received by the schools and teachers, and saves the district some facility and transportation costs.
“I think students adjust to how the school year is constructed, but I believe it does help them manage homework,” said Jacks. “The Fridays allow for academic intervention opportunities. They also provide flexibility for parents scheduling vacations and allow a day for medical appointments.”
Jacks said that when school districts around the nation were cutting back on the arts or went to “pay for play” in athletics, KUSD continued providing academics, arts, athletics and activities through its Four “A’s” program.
“During my time as superintendent and working with a strong district/school team, we survived the state budget cuts to education while also going through a serious enrollment decline,” said Jacks. “It was tough, but now we are in a strong financial position and it meant that even during tough budgeting times we funded for the development of the whole child.”
ACT/CTY is a program sponsored by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. Middle school students establish eligibility by scores they obtain on the ACT test. Students have the opportunity to attend summer academic programs at nationally recognized universities.
“We started about five years ago, but the programs proved to be costly to attend so we have not had much success on sending students,” said Jacks. “The good news is middle school students studying for and taking the ACT have received amazing scores with numerous students qualifying for the program.”
Jacks said parent involvement is critical to the district’s success. Currently, it varies from school to school, but seems more evident in the elementary grades than the middle- and high-school levels. He said there is no easy answer to ensure that parents stay connected to their children’s schools.
“It is a tough issue because so many of our parents want to be involved but work multiple jobs and deal with a lot of issues, just making ends meet,” said Jacks. “We need to find better ways and more ways to communicate. We need to better tailor ways for parents to be involved with their schools.”