When severe weather threatens Western North Carolina, David Jones does not get a lot of sleep.
It is not that the associate superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools is apprehensive about how he will make it to work the next morning. He’s much more concerned about how more than 13,000 public school students will safely get to class the next day.
“Typically, what will occur is that our school bus transportation folks get up before 4am and start checking things,” Jones says of the early morning ritual that frequently takes place when ice and snow coats local roads. “Usually around 4:15am, they give me a call and we find out what we are working with. We have school mechanics in certain areas of the county and we all get out there to evaluate the roads, in addition to talking with the N.C. Department of Transportation, local law enforcement and weather folks to see what the day is going to hold.”
Jones says before 5:30am he and his staff consult with the school superintendent to make the final decision if busses will run at all that day or if the schedule needs to be delayed to allow safer access. Calls are then placed to local media and announcements are made on the school system’s web site and telephone notification system alerting parents of any schedule changes.
“We seldom make everyone happy, but it is always our goal not to put anybody in jeopardy when it comes to dangerous conditions,” he explains. “We’re always going to make decisions that we think are safe for our students and teachers. That could be a school closing or a delay, depending on what we’re dealing with.”
When the weather is not presenting any problems Jones, a 10-year veteran at the school administrative office who was principal of what is now Flat Rock Middle School before that, is still in high demand.
In addition to the transportation department, his duties include overseeing school policy, middle and high school athletics, after and before school child care programs and child nutrition. He is also the administration’s point person when someone has a question involving activities at any of the system’s 22 public schools.
“If we have a parent or guardian with questions or concerns about something going on at a school, once they call I am the one who is going to help them get to the right answers and information,” he says. “I have always loved my work because it is really rewarding. There are challenges, but I like to be part of the process that resolves issues and every day I get up in the morning is a great day to come to work.”