Louise Cooks Jones was born on October 1, 1927, in Thibodaux, Louisiana, during times of intense racial segregation (SFGate). Growing up in a heavily segregated school in the south, Jones recalled that her school textbooks were always second-hand and “tattered and torn” (SFGate). However, this did not stop her from receiving a quality education. Jones noted that her teachers growing up, “instilled something in me that I didn’t realize was being instilled—just to believe in every child, and make sure they got the very best” (SFGate). The morals and values, ingrained in Jones by her teachers, would greatly influence her motivation to help students in her future career.
After graduating from high school, honored with being the school’s valedictorian, Louise Jones would go on to receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education from San Francisco State University (SFGate). Once she earned her degrees, she began teaching in schools around San Francisco and would eventually work her way up through the school system to become the district’s assistant superintendent for elementary instruction. Before assuming this role, Jones would become principal at Washington Carver Elementary School in Bayview–Hunters Point. When the school first opened in 1974, it was one of the most segregated schools in San Francisco. While serving as principal, she managed to transform the school and help alleviate many of the problems it faced.
Jones was able to relate to her students in a way that many other teachers could not. Raised by her aunt and older cousin, Louise did not grow up in a wealthy household, but the value of education was instilled in her from a young age. She explained to SFGate that despite the circumstances, “there was the expectation that I was going to college.” Because of Jones’ background, she was able to understand what many of her students from lower socio-economic backgrounds were experiencing.
One of Jones’ major accomplishments during her career was taking the lead on the “Special Plan for Bayview-Hunters Point Schools,” which improved the funding for Carver and other schools in the area. As SFGate notes, the “initiative provided millions of dollars every year for the schools in the neighborhood.” The improved funding resulted in smaller class sizes for students, more training for teachers, teaching aids in the classroom, and better technology for the schools (SFGate). Another aspect of the Special Plan allowed Jones to hire all the teachers who worked at Washington Carver Elementary School. The primary focus of this plan was to turn the school into a model institution.
The plan had a significant effect upon the children’s test scores as well. The report notes: “Third graders scored 10 percentage points higher in reading than they had at the start of the Special Plan in 1983 . . . In math, they scored 4 percentage points higher” (SFGate). Jones’ instrumental role in the program fostered an atmosphere where the students could remain dedicated to their studies. Washington Carver Elementary School graduate Ja’Bar Gibson explained, “She didn’t allow fighting. She made me feel that anyone could learn, and that we were all smart. She believed in all of us” (SFGate).
Jones also implemented various programs at Washington Carver Elementary School, including programs to build self-esteem, establish language facility, and develop a model for cooperative learning. Jones also emphasized the importance of parental involvement in their children’s education.
Jones earned numerous awards and accolades throughout her 43-year career in education, including: Educator of the Year (Milken Foundation), Distinguished School Award (four times), Outstanding Leadership Award, Educational Achievement Award (Phi Delta Kappa), and Excellence in Education Award (State of California Senate).
Louise Jones was influential for generations of young students in San Francisco, and continues to make an impact in the community through the generations. In May 2018 Louise Cooks Jones passed away. She is remembered by the community as an individual dedicated to the improvement of education for marginalized students. Her work as a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent was focused on improving the education in San Francisco in schools that have large populations of low-income students. Her legacy lives on in the students who she came into contact with during her career.
— Licette Renteria and Zachary James
Asimov, Nanette and Jill Tucker. “Bayview Class Overcoming Hurdles 13 Years Later.” SFGate. 31 May 2009.
Asimov, Nanette and Tucker, Jill. “Carver Key to Bold Plan for Black Children.” SFGate. 31 May 2009.
“Louise Jones.” Legacy.com. May 2018.
Komenich, Kim. “Former Carver School Principal Louise Jones, now retired, sits in her San Francisco, Calif., home on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009.” SF Chronicle. 27 Jan 2009.
“Meeting Information.” City and County of San Francisco. 3 Mar 2003.
Milken Educator Awards. “Educators Profile: Louise Jones (CA’90)”. Milken Family Foundation. 2017.
“Principal.” SFGate. 31 May 2009.
Selby, Don. K.C. “Jones’ Sister Star Cager, Too.” SF Examiner. 3 Feb 1956.
“Obituary.” SF Chronicle. 13 May 2018.