Paducah woman selected for aspiring leaders program
Although the number of women in education leadership has increased over the years, the increase has been modest at best. A recent AASA study found that women make up only 27 percent of superintendency nationally, up only 2 percent from 2010. This stands in contrast to the female-dominated teaching force.

Houston Jones and her fellow "aspiring women leaders" will be paired with mentors from the AASA National Women's Leadership Consortium, a group full of women at the top of their shared field: education. The consortium includes superintendents, college deans, and even the vice president of education policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Program participants will be given opportunities to learn from their mentors as well as each other. As a woman whose end goal is to become a superintendent, Houston Jones said she's most excited to network with women in positions higher than hers.

She wants to know what challenges they faced getting to where they are now. She's ready to learn from their experiences and prepare herself for the struggles that may lie ahead as she continues her professional climb.

"There's a lot to learn from those who have already gone through the process," she said. "Any advice that might help me become the best that I can be, I want to hear."

Houston Jones started her career in education as a kindergarten teacher in Cairo, Illinois. After fewer than 10 years as a teacher, she became principal of the school where she got her start. After about 10 years as principal there, she wanted to take on a bigger school, a bigger challenge. Two years ago she landed her current position as assistant principal at Paducah Middle.

"I was here without her for a year, and I can say that when she came along, she helped us improve in every way -- academically, behaviorally, raising the level of expectations in the building," said Stacey Overlin, Paducah Middle principal.

"The sky's the limit for her. She's still somewhat new to the Paducah public school district, but she has made her mark after just two years and a month."

Overlin said Houston Jones' work ethic and lead-by-example approach to education make her a perfect pick for the AASA program. She's deserving of the recognition, he said, and hopes to see her and many more women make it to the top.

"Half of our students are girls. Most of our teachers are women. It's important to have women in leadership to set that example," Overlin said. "I have two daughters. I want them to be able to look up to women in schools and realize that that level is possible for them, too."

Houston Jones has known she wanted to work in education since the 1970s when she was a young girl living in Wickliffe, but she had to hold onto that dream at a time when she saw few women in leadership positions around her, and even fewer African-Americans.

"I graduated from Ballard Memorial High School, and quite frankly, I never had a teacher that looked like me, but I had a really great kindergarten teacher who encouraged me and inspired me," she said.

"I knew I wanted to work with kids who look like me and be an example to them. And our future generation of young women, they need to be able to see that a woman can be at the top, and that they can strive to do the exact same thing."
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