“Internet is down!” reads the 10:08 Slack message. Kristin Jones, VLACS’s Registrar and Administrative Assistant to School Counseling, Slacks me from her phone, apologizing for being late to our 10:00 interview. “Call me,” says her next message, followed by a phone number.
Over the next hour, one of VLACS’s most veteran employees--and one of the kindest, most dedicated and upbeat people I’ve ever met--shares her perspective on family life inside and outside VLACS.
“Hi!” she says. “Wouldn’t you know it, there was an accident outside the office and no power for the whole building. At exactly 10. Just in time for our meeting!” She laughs. “No problem,” she says. “The phone still works!” For an organization that relies heavily on the internet for both communications and content, VLACS still uses 20th-century technology.
To understand what Kristin does for VLACS--more like what doesn’t she do--you need to understand who she is and what she values. The answer is simple.
“My family,” she says. “That’s the most important thing.”
She married her high school sweetheart a little over 13 years ago. “We met at work when we were 15 and 16,” she says. “We both worked at the Seabrook Dog Track, but in different departments.” Their two daughters, ages 13 and 9--and their dog, Zoe--are their world. “A lot of what I do outside of VLACS revolves around them. My girls love basketball — that’s what I loved, too -- dance, and other activities. I’m always managing kids’ schedules, bringing someone to practice, heading to dance class, or helping someone with homework. And my husband? He loves to travel! He has done some pretty extreme endurance events and has gone to China, Japan, and Nicaragua. Since we had children pretty early in life, we plan on doing lots of traveling in our 40's and 50's!”
Family time is at the crux of Jones’s life. “Game nights, just hanging out together. That’s what I like best,” she says.
Jones’s sense of family comes from her upbringing in Seabrook, NH. “My family is very close,” she says. “I am one of 4 and have a pretty strong relationship with all 3 of my siblings.”
She recalls time with her dad. “As a child, my dad used to take me fishing and to the car races all the time. He still loves taking all of us out on the boat and going fishing.” As for her mom? “My mom is the best cook and family dinners were always very important growing up. It was a great time to all come together, talk about our day and fill our bellies! I'm not as good of a cook as she is, but try to make dinners a special family time.”
Summer is no exception. She savors the family time and the recharge of the season. “We all hang out at my parents’ pool,” she explains. “My in-laws have a cabin in Vanceboro, ME, which is about a 6-hour drive on the border of Canada. We really rough it--there is no running water, no internet, and no power except for using some things that get hooked up to a small generator. The cabin is in the middle of the woods, right on the lake, and is one of my favorite places to be with everyone.”
Jones not only brings that sense of family and togetherness to her own family but to her VLACS family, too.
“What I do,” she says, “varies from day to day, but I would definitely call everybody here my VLACS family — I’ve worked with several people here for many many years. I’d rather call them family than co-workers.”
When I ask her what, exactly, she does, she laughs. “A little bit of everything,” she says. “A lot of people come to me for a lot of different things because I’ve been here so long.”
Jones explains her role. “Well,” she says, “I register our dual enrollment students, but students can create their own accounts and register on their own. It’s not the same as a typical registrar.” She also lends a hand to the tech department, testing new systems and giving feedback, works with human resources to assign students to instructors, adjusts caps on different sections, assigns substitutes, sets up student waitlists, and interviews prospective staff. She works with a lot of VLACS’s full-time students, too, taking care of registrations and withdrawals, preparing graduation documents, filling transcript requests and getting information off to colleges. Oh, and she answers the phone.
“We have a receptionist here at VLACS — her desk is the first one that calls hit, then there are 7-8 of us on the phone tree. If the receptionist can’t answer the phone queue — I might be the first one that someone gets when they call the office.”
That’s not how things began though. I ask her how she started.
“I think there was one person in the office who was here before I was,” she says. She’s referring to Sabina Silva, her friend, and VLACS’s Data Specialist. “When I started for VLACS,” she says, “I was working at the dog track in Seabrook. I was laid off --- the dog track was seasonal. Sabina was heading out on a vacation and VLACS needed someone to help with coverage. A relative of mine, who works for another charter school, was helping VLACS with some state reporting and recommended me to come in and cover.”
Jones recalls January 2008, when VLACS started. She says, “When VLACS launched, I was there — and I pretty much never left.” She started by answering phones and taking care of administrative tasks around the office. “They kept saying, can you come back a couple more days? I did. A couple more days has been 12 years,” she laughs.
She’s seen and heard a lot in that time. “What I like the most,” she says, “is how much we help students. When I explain to people where I work, a lot of times people assume we’re for students who have dropped out, but I feel like the majority of students come here because it better suits their lives. I’ve talked to so many families over the years--everyone has a different reason for coming. I’m glad I can be a part of that.”
Jones’s love for her family shines through in her VLACS work. She says, “Everyone here works very much as a team. I can’t imagine ever leaving or working somewhere else or with different people. I’ll be a lifer that’s for sure.”
Be thankful that she is. It doesn’t get much better than Kristin Jones -- beloved family member at home and at VLACS.