Meet Mr. Slater, the new administrator-in-charge

With over 50 years of experience, Slater is ready to facilitate change at Jones

On Friday, Nov. 5, Arthur Slater became Jones’ Administrator-in-Charge, filling the absence of Principal Paul Joseph Powers, who is under investigation by CPS. 

Slater began his decorated career by teaching computer science at numerous high schools on the South Side before eventually taking on a role as assistant principal. 

“I started teaching in 1972 at Simeon Vocational High School. I stayed there for maybe two or three years. Then I left and went to Carver High School, where I remained for about five years,” Slater said. “Then I went to Wells High School, and I stayed there for about three years. I [then] went to Hyde Park High School, where I stayed for 17 years, 15 of those years as an assistant principal.”

Slater received his first principal position in 1999, taking the job at Austin High School. 

“I went to my first principalship at Austin High School on the west side. I’m a southsider, so I knew very little about the west. The school was on probation for academic reasons,” said Slater. “I was successful and was able to get [Austin High School] off probation; it took a lot of work.”

Following this achievement, Slater was offered a choice between different career opportunities and decided to become an education officer. 

“When I got my school off probation, they offered me several things that I could do. You could pick a school that you want to go to or you can move up a little higher and become an officer. I took the offer and moved up a little higher to become a Regional Education Officer. I had about 89 schools under my supervision,” said Slater. 

Though Slater was comfortable in his new role, he was asked to become the interim principal at Kenwood Academy, an offer he was hesitant to agree to.

“When your boss tells you they want you to do something, I’m not foolish enough to say no. They could have said, ‘Well, if you don’t do this, you won’t be coming back downtown,’” said Slater. 

After two years at Kenwood, Slater retired in 2007, following a 35-year career. After just a week of retirement, he was asked back to the CPS central offices. 

Though every school Slater has been at is different, he emphasizes how students are at the center of all his work. 

“Our schools are different. But there’s some things that are the same. They all have students; that’s the same,” said Slater.

Coming to Jones, Slater brings a lifetime of experience. Though only having been here for a  couple of weeks, Slater has already implemented large changes. His first priority: implement stronger security measures.

“I want you to understand that [things like more security] are not punitive, it’s for the better good,” said Slater. “Coming through these metal detectors, I know you don’t like [it, but] we’re gonna get better at it, because it’s taking a long time to get through. But understand it’s really for your safety.”

Jones is also receiving more CPS support, as the school is working closely with district offices during this time of transition. This represents a drastic change for Jones, as the institution was considered an independent school (ISP) during the tenure of Dr. Powers. According to CPS, ISP schools receive autonomy in network membership oversight, approval, and professional development (except for CPS-mandated training). 

“I never wanted to be an ISP because I want to be able to network with principals and go to principals’ meetings and meet with my colleagues,” said Slater. “When you become an ISP school, you don’t do any of that; you are strictly just running the school without any supervision.”

In addressing the tense environment at Jones following the recent Halloween incident, Slater emphasizes that change can be slow, but he hopes to make the school better for future classes of students. 

“I can’t change [Jones’ environment] overnight. This will be a gradual change,” said Slater. “Hopefully, the input of everyone will make it a better place for the kids starting [next year].” 

In approaching change, Slater is focused on communicating with members of the school community and hearing their perspectives. 

“In dealing with teachers, I [have] to build relationships and trust. We all need to be listened to, and all need to be heard,” said Slater. “It [situations] might not work out the way you want to, but I want you to feel that you have every right to come and bring me suggestions.”

Slater emphasized that he welcomes student visits to his office at all times. 

“I have an open-door policy. Feel free to come [anytime]!”