By Brenden West
CLINTON — Throughout her 14-year tenure with Clinton Community Schools, "what's best for kids" was Karinne Tharaldson Jones' guiding philosophy.
On Friday, she told staff one child has become a priority — Liam Jones.
"Somewhere in the last few months I've been thinking about that philosophy and it's what's best for a kid," Tharaldson Jones said. "And that kid is my son. When I think about Liam, I know I'm making the right decision."
When her contract expires June 30, Tharaldson Jones will resign as Clinton High School principal. The Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency is expected to approve her as Multi Tier Support System (MTSS) Coordinator, a new position for the organization. The job, she said, will free up more time for her to spend with family, including her 4-year-old son.
Although the career change will fulfill many personal desires, Tharaldson Jones said leaving CHS was one of her hardest decisions.
"At times, I'm disappointed because it's such a great opportunity for me professionally," she said, voice thickening. "When I was offered the position, I still wanted to say 'no' in a way. It's just such a great opportunity, and I'm so excited about the team I'm going to work with there.
"It's hard for me to leave a supportive school board. If I have to be totally honest I'm really struggling now that I'm leaving Clinton High."
The CCSD board likely will not approve the resignation by its next meeting Monday. The resignation also is pending an official hire by the AEA, which won't take place until the agency's board meeting Wednesday.
However, Bill Decker, chief administrator with the AEA, said there was "no reason" to believe Tharaldson Jones won't be hired.
District superintendent Deb Olson said she informed board members of the news after a conversation with Tharaldson Jones on Friday.
"It will give her more time to spend with her family,” Olson said. “I think that was a major role in her decision.
“She has not given us anything in writing but she's letting everybody know... Her resignation will not be until the end of her contract which ends in June.”
Mississippi Bend is an organization that offers educational support to 21 regional school districts. Decker said he is recommending to his board that Tharaldson Jones be approved to join the staff. "In education all decisions like that are based upon the approval of the board," Decker said. "She's obviously done a tremendous job in Clinton and the recommendation would reflect that.”
The resignation comes weeks after CHS was named to the U.S. News national list of Best High Schools. The school also has drawn interest from high-ranking politicians for its recently implemented innovation labs.
Tharaldson Jones assumed her position in 2003, making 2014 her 11th year as principal. Prior to that she worked as dean of students and associate principal.
Part of that tenure involved controversy when, in 2010, Tharaldson Jones appeared before the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners for allegations of unethical practice. Charges that the principal used "bullying tactics" to force the resignation of three teachers were dismissed, though the principal said the incident left a lasting impact with the public.
"Not everybody likes the decisions I've made but nobody can question that I made the best decisions for the kids," she said.
CCSD board president Jim McGraw also noted that controversy, but said Tharaldson Jones proved beneficial for the district, and will be missed.
"I certainly am disappointed that she is leaving," McGraw said. "I think she's done a remarkable job and initiated some things in the district and moved the district forward.
"We'll miss her. I know that there's been some situations in the past where there was some criticism of her and her methods but they've proven to be fairly effective."
Olson said having a replacement by July 1 will be "difficult."
“Obviously for us it will be to try to find somebody, which will be very difficult to continue on the great work that (Tharaldson Jones) has done," Olson said. "The timing is a difficult one but obviously we're not going to limit anyone.”
Olson added an employment ad is already in the works.
“I'm sure that we will find a very competent person," she said.
When asked who she could see as a successor, Tharaldson Jones didn't name anyone but reiterated her philosophy.
"It's about what's best for kids," she said. "We have great people in the district. I love my team. If the superintendent selects any of those people I'd be thrilled. (Olson) is going to search to find the best candidate, whoever that is."