BROOKSVILLE — Latressa Jones has spent much of her life working with impoverished, at-risk children and built a career through alternative education.
At 31, Jones was recently named the new principal at Endeavor Academy in Brooksville, an alternative school for sixth- to 12th-grade students with discipline problems.
“There will be some changes” at the school, Jones said. “Before, students were on computer-based instruction. We’ll go to a direct instructional model. Technology has to be incorporated as part of our standards, so it’s not that there won’t be any (technology), but we’re moving to a lot more direct instruction.”
Jones replaces Tim Urban, who led Endeavor Academy last year.
Schools Superintendent Lori Romano did not reappoint Urban to a position in the district in the coming year.
Jones said she is excited about the opportunity to lead Endeavor Academy, which has undergone several name changes.
When it opened in 1976, it was called the Opportunity School at Lake Lindsey. In 1996, the school was moved to its current campus on Varsity Drive. The following year, the name was changed to the STAR (Students At Risk) Education Center.
It was renamed Endeavor Academy in 2012.
The school had about 100 students last year, but Jones said it is too soon to say how many students might be enrolled next year.
“We look forward to being able to provide services so kids can successfully complete the program and get back into the traditional school environment with the skills to graduate,” said Jones, who is married to Micheal Jones, head basketball coach at Pasco-Hernando State College.
The couple have an 18-month-old son, Micheal, Jr.
Latressa Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in social science education from Florida State University in 2003. Four years later, she completed a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at FSU. In 2009, she earned an educational leadership certification from the university.
She previously worked as a youth counselor, world history teacher, and as director of education at AMI Kids Tallahassee, a non-profit organization for troubled youth.
Last year, Jones was assistant principal at Springstead High School. She spent the previous three years as assistant principal at Central High School.
Jones is from Sanford, where her parents are longtime community activists.
“The story of my life is working with youth through church and other community organizations,” she said. “My mother has one of the largest African-American Girl Scout Troops in that area. We’ve always done outreach, since I’ve been old enough to realize it.”
She said she was drawn to educating at-risk youth, because “educational models don’t always provide the missing pieces they need to achieve.”
“They’re missing academic skill sets and social skills, and when they have had a not-so-great start in life, you have to take time out to develop those skills and empower them to be successful,” Jones said.