Time magazine puts Kira Orange Jones, local Teach for America leader, on list of 100 most influential figures _lowres

Kira Orange-Jones

Kira Orange Jones, the head of the local branch of the national teacher recruitment organization Teach For America and one of New Orleans’ representatives on the state’s top education board, said Friday she will leave her current job with TFA after nearly a decade.

“After nine and a half incredible years leading Teach For America Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta, I am launching the search for my successor,” Jones said in a Friday email to her colleagues.

She isn’t leaving the organization entirely, however. In her new role, she will manage and support the national organization’s executive directors across 15 regions, a job that will not require her to leave New Orleans, she said.

That means she’ll be able to keep the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seat to which she was elected in 2011.

She will also support TFA's new Louisiana director.

“With this opportunity, I hope to continue fostering progress for students here in Louisiana while influencing momentum toward educational equity across the country,” Jones said.

TFA will begin searching for Jones’ successor this month. She will stay in her current post until that person is hired.

The national organization recruits college graduates, puts them through a few weeks of training initially and more later and sends them to teach in some of the nation’s most challenging public schools for at least two years.

As executive director of the organization's local branch, Jones led a group that became ubiquitous in the city after Hurricane Katrina and the state’s takeover of most local public schools.

Many TFA recruits ended up in the autonomous charter schools that cropped up throughout the city after the storm, a move critics said hurt veteran teachers’ chances of finding work. Proponents, however, said the rookie teachers helped fill a critical need.

Jones’ dual roles with BESE and TFA did not escape scrutiny. Because the teacher group frequently enters into contracts with the state’s top education board, an attorney for the state Ethics Board said in 2012 that Jones’ position with BESE ran afoul of state ethics law. An exception to that rule for someone is not a director, officer, partner or trustee in a private company did not apply in Jones' case, attorney Tracy Barker said. 

The board itself, however, did not agree, saying that Jones was just one officer among many in a large corporation. In the end, she kept her seat on the state board. 

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.