‘Every kid deserves to have a champion’: a conversation with Patrick Jones
This is the fifth story in a series titled “Pandemic on the Mind” where we explore the experiences of our staff during the coronavirus pandemic through a professional and personal lens.
Role: Senior Vice President of Leadership and Equity
Joined The Mind Trust: July 2018
After joining the Mind Trust in July 2018, Patrick Jones spent the first two years of his tenure supporting and coaching Fellows through the school development process. But just a few months into the pandemic, he was presented with a new opportunity and a new challenge with his promotion to Senior Vice President of Leadership and Equity in July 2020.
Whether in his old role or his new one, Patrick has always leaned into being a people person, which meant adjusting the way he built and fostered relationships in light of the pandemic. For him, that has looked like learning how to pick up social cues in video chats and asking different questions in order to build trust through a computer screen.
These skills have proven particularly useful as he has spent most of the year developing a new initiative for The Mind Trust: Indianapolis Equity Cohorts. These cohorts, one each for schools and nonprofit organizations, will seek to bring organizations together that are united in their pursuit of racial justice in an eight-month experience that pushes and develops their individual and collective capacities for achieving equity.
With all the ongoing uncertainties and unique challenges of COVID-19, Patrick knows that cohort participants could easily have said it wasn’t the right time to take part in this kind of initiative. “If I were in their shoes, I would’ve been worried about time commitment and outcomes of the cohort. [Them committing to participate] depended a lot on trust and the relationship I had built with each of them.”
Another major piece of Patrick’s job is his position as the chair of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee, something he’s led since its inception in early 2019. About The Mind Trust’s DEI journey, he notes, “We’ve had some very challenging moments in our staff meetings but those have panned out for the better. We’ve had crucial conversations; everything is fair game for discussion.” Regarding the ways the organization grown, he was quick to highlight how we have broken down assumptions that previously went unmentioned. “We’re in a better place to challenge ourselves, what we take for granted, and how we fund other organizations. Every move is being internally dissected in ways that didn’t happen before.”
Patrick’s passion for his work is rooted in his life’s mission, nearly a mirror image of The Mind Trust’s own. “My mission in life is to make sure all students, particularly Black and Brown students, have access to high-quality schools. I want to be clear: a high-quality school to me means that it is able to guide students toward high proficiency not only in math and reading, but also writing, social studies, and science.”
Patrick’s dedication to his life’s mission runs deep, to a point where he never seems to pass up an opportunity to impact the student experience in classrooms across our city. Previously a highly-successful principal in the Tindley Accelerated network of schools, Patrick spends his free time coaching principals and other education leaders of color. Much of this work flows through the organization he founded in 2019, MelanatED Leaders, which serves as a connector and resource hub for Black and Brown education leaders throughout the city. He also teaches a class on The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson at Rooted School Indianapolis, which launched earlier this fall in partnership with Eastern Star Church The ROCK Initiative.
Why do all of this when some people might see his day job as more than enough contribution to education in our city? “If I can be a part of positive change, then I’m going to be part of it at every turn.”
Looking to what the future of education might hold for Indianapolis, Patrick hopes that all levels of teaching and leadership will come to reflect the students being served. “I want to see Black folks leading the work for Black children, Latino folks leading the work for Latino children, etc.”
While he likes to joke that he’s known in his family as “the robot” for the way he doesn’t display much emotion, anyone listening to him talk would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated, passionate leader who spends every waking moment fighting for the future of Indianapolis’ children. “I had champions growing up,” Patrick notes. “Every kid deserves to have a champion.”
Learn more about The Mind Trust’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at themindtrust.org/DEI.