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'Always happily willing to help': Amherst schools' handyman honored for 41 years of service
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'Always happily willing to help': Amherst schools' handyman honored for 41 years of service

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On a recent afternoon at Amherst Middle School, Robert Jones installed plaques of three educators along the school’s new Hall of Fame wall.

It’s an example of the various tasks Jones, a longtime employee of the Amherst County Public Schools’ maintenance shop, performs as needed. For 41 years he has worked for the division, the majority of that time as part of maintenance staff that keeps the buildings operating efficiently.

He said whatever the need is he will tackle, from simple fixes to plumbing and carpentry. Jones recently was named one of the division’s two Support Staff of the Year recipient for the 2020-21 school year for his service to the division, an honor Jones said he was touched by.

“I think it was great,” Jones, 64, said of the recognition.

The maintenance staff’s mission is to operate and maintain 15 buildings consisting of more than 787,000 square feet, equipment and other assets as well as monitoring gas, water and electricity usage by implementing cost-saving measures as appropriate, according to the division’s website. The maintenance department, which consists of a dozen craftsmen, used combined skills to tackle any job asked of them, along with maintaining more than 260 acres of lawns, trees and shrubs to enhance exterior landscapes, the website states.

Jones, who started his career with ACPS in the late 1970s, said he’s had 10 bosses and enjoys going out to all the schools and interacting with principals, administrators, teachers and students.

“It’s a good place to work,” Jones said. “I just look forward to getting up and coming to work.”

A Madison Heights resident who has lived in Amherst County his entire life, Jones said he grew up fixing things and took part in shop class in junior high school across the street from his office at Amherst Middle School. Around the time he graduated from Amherst County High School, he said, he drove a bus for the division and later became a custodian at Elon Elementary School before joining the maintenance staff.

“Mr. Jones is known not only for his extraordinary work ethic but also for his willingness to assist when others are in need,” a news release from the division announcing Jones’ award said.

Wayne Cocke, who recently retired as supervisor of maintenance and operations for ACPS, nominated Jones for the award. In those comments Cocke said Jones always has demonstrated exceptional dedication not only to fulfilling his assigned duties but also supporting students and staff.

“Robert is highly respected by faculty, staff, and administration,” Cocke said in the comments attached to Jones’ nomination. “He is always happily willing to help out wherever needed, and does so with a kind word and a smile on his face. He has demonstrated exceptional attendance and punctuality throughout his career, and frequently steps in to support others in various departments and roles within the division.

He is truly a team player and a valuable member of the Amherst County Public Schools family. We are grateful to have Robert on our team.”

Assistant Superintendent William Wells said Jones is a true asset to the school system.

“We greatly appreciate all he has done and continues to do for the faculty, staff, and students at ACPS,” Wells said.

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