Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jones to retire at the end of the year


Switzerland County School Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth “Itsy” Jones will retire from her position effective at the end of this school year - June 30th, 2012.

Her retirement was officially approved at the last meeting of the Switzerland County School Board.

Her retirement ends a four-year term as the superintendent – a period that has seen many accomplishments for the school system. True to form, the superintendent is assisting in the development of the package for the next superintendent.

“Angie Grubbs and I are working on the brochure to post the opening, and we hope to have it posted in January,” Dr. Jones said from her office this week. “I know that sounds early, but Madison and Jac-Cen-Del will also be looking for new superintendents, and I don’t want people who would have been interested in being here to go somewhere else because they didn’t know in time. It’s very important to have a smooth transition. I think we will have some good candidates.”

Her decision to retire after four years was not an easy one, but when you consider that the average length of stay for a superintendent is just over two years – staying four years is a good amount of time.

When asked about her reasons for stepping down, Dr. Jones said that as much as she loves her job, the tremendous amount of time that it takes was having an impact on her.

“I work 10-12 hours a day, then go home, eat supper, and then go to two or three events,” Dr. Jones said. “I would do that every night. It’s a job that it very time consuming. I love my job, but it takes a lot of time.”

She added that her presence at as many school events as she could attend was not drudgery, and that she loves attending events and seeing the children, but it can overload anyone.

“As the superintendent, I want to attend everything,” she said. “I love seeing our children. I think parents want to see the superintendent when their child has an event. I think any superintendent would want to be there.”

Even in the summer months, when school is not in session, is a busy time in the administrative offices. Dr. Jones said that her summers are filled with getting the school’s budget ready for the following year; closing the system’s fiscal year at the end of June and starting a new one on the first of July; as well as overseeing any projects that are going on while students are not in the buildings.

“I haven’t taken all of my vacation days in any year since I became superintendent,” Dr. Jones said. “I haven’t been to visit my son in Boston in four years. This job takes a tremendous amount of time.”


When she looks back at her four years overseeing the Switzerland County School Corporation, Dr. Jones sees many accomplishments – starting from her first days on the job.

“When I walked into this position, we had suffered an embezzlement of $1.4 million,” she recalled. “Honestly, we didn’t even know if that was the correct amount or if there had been more. We really didn’t know who much money the corporation had.

“I called Educational Services, and the told me that we had to RIF 10 teachers,” she continued. “I sat there and thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into? I was told to RIF 10 teachers and I knew I couldn’t do that, because it would have created huge class sizes and that wouldn’t have been right for our students.”

What she did do that first year was “hold the line” on spending while she and others worked through the numbers. At the end she was forced to RIF some teachers, but not the 10 that were recommended; and slowly the corporation began to steady itself and she and the school board were able to start accumulating some savings.

Today, in partnership with the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation, the school system is in better financial shape than nearly every other one in the state, and that will pay dividends as school systems face more rocky paths in the coming years.

“I actually considered retiring last year,” Dr. Jones said. “But we know that 2013 will be a difficult year for us and for all schools. I didn’t want to leave until I knew we had ample money in savings to see the corporation through.”

Superintendent Jones also sees “tremendous gains” for the entire system, including the building of several projects.

“We built the road that runs behind the schools in Vevay, which has been tremendous in terms of safety for our students,” she said. “It separates buses from parents who are picking up their children and from high school drivers, so it’s made things much more safe.

The new administration building was also a big step that was taken while Dr. Jones was superintendent, and she said that the deteriorating conditions at the former location – the old Vevay High School – led to the decision to build the new building and utilize some of the land that the corporation already owned.

In the classroom, spearheading the implementation of iPads for sixth and seventh grade classes has been a big success here, as the Switzerland County School Corporation is “ahead of the curve” over many other corporations in the state who are considering such a system.

“In a school system that is considered ‘high poverty’, you’ve got to give the kids the tools that they need to succeed,” Dr. Jones said. “I want our students to know that we value them and their education, and that we are going to provide whatever tools we need to in order for them to have the opportunity to succeed. We’re ahead of other corporations in the state, and I’m proud of that.”


Growing up in Ghent, Kentucky, Dr. Jones remembers riding the ferry across the river with her brother and mother to visit her great aunts, Jeannette and Julia Tandy. When Elizabeth Jones was a freshman in college, her mother inherited the family home here, and the family moved to Vevay.

She graduated from Georgetown College in 3 1/2-years, and once she got home, then-superintendent Delbert Wright asked her mother if Elizabeth Jones would be interested in a teaching position at the Florence School.

“It was a fourth grade class and I had a degree in British History,” Dr. Jones laughed. “I remember not having a clue about what I was doing, but the kids were great and we had a great year.”

It was there that she also fell in love not only with education, but with those she would educate.

“You don’t really see the poverty from the outside,” she said. “But when you’re in the school everyday and you deal with the kids, you really begin to understand the poverty that some of our children are living in. I remember that there was a boy in my class who couldn’t go outside for recess in the winter because he didn’t have a coat. He was about my size, so I let him use my coat everyday so he could go to recess.”

Elizabeth Jones married Lary Jones a short time later, and the couple moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where Elizabeth Jones earned her masters degree in British History (and a teaching certification) before taking an administrative position at the University of Kentucky.

Lary and Elizabeth Jones then moved to Seattle, Washington for four years; before finally returning back to Switzerland County.

It was back here that she again connected with the school system.

“It was the Saturday before school started on Monday, and Frank Spencer, who was the Special Education Director at the time, asked me if I would take a sick leave for a teacher, because they couldn’t find anyone,” she said. “I did that, and when it was finished, Chester Meisberger, who was superintendent at the time, asked me if I would be interested in a part-time position as the school’s grant writer. Because I was raising my kids, part-time was perfect for me, so I did that.”

When Bill Rentschler came to Switzerland County as superintendent, he asked Elizabeth Jones to work full-time as the grant writer for a year, promising that she could go back to half time the following year – she never went back.

From there she became the Curriculum Director; and after that served as the assistant principal at the middle school. She then became the Principal at the middle school; and then moved to Switzerland County Elementary School as its Principal. From there, she became the Principal at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School before accepting the superintendent’s job.


Although she is officially “retiring” from her position, Dr. Jones said that she plans on continuing to work after taking some time off, noting that she was not “retiring from life”.

“I plan on continuing to work, but I need some time off,” she said. “I think there are things to do. I am the first female school superintendent in Southeastern Indiana; and I still am the only one, so I feel like I’ve made some gains in my time here.”

And would she consider another superintendent’s job in the future?

“I’m not excluding the idea, but I’m going to take some time off,” she grinned. “Who knows, maybe I’ll go into politics. I’ve always been interested in politics, maybe I’ll do that.”


And – once and for all: Where did the nickname “Itsy” come from?

“It’s a pretty funny story, actually,” she said. “When I was four years old, my mother wanted me to learn the prayer, ‘Now I Lay Me down to Sleep’, so my mother got my older brother to teach it to me. She wrote it down so my brother could read it, and at the end of the prayer, she wrote for him to teach me, ‘God bless mommy, and daddy…” and then she wrote ‘etc.’ meaning that he should include other people.

“Well, he didn’t know what ‘etc.’ meant, so he taught me the prayer, and he thought it said ‘Itsy’,” she continued. “So I would end the prayer, ‘And God bless mommy and daddy and Itsy’.”

Itsy Jones said that from that time she was always teased about that from family members, and eventually they called her ‘Itsy’ and it just stuck.

“I had a lung disease when I was in the seventh grade and it caused me to stop growing, so I guess the name seemed suitable since I was so little,” she said. “From then on I’ve always been called ‘Itsy’, It even has ‘Itsy’ on one of my diplomas.”

- Pat Lanman