BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Members of the community and the Greene County School System bid a fond farewell to long-time educator Roger Jones on Tuesday.
Jones announced in September that he would resign from his position on the Greene County Board of Education, effective this Thursday.
The Greene County Commission formally accepted his resignation on Monday (Please see related article, Page A-9.)
Jones and his wife, Yhona, who retired from the school system's Central Office at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, are moving to Knoxville, where he will serve as director of the city's branch of the National College of Business and Technology.
Following a daylong retreat for the board at Central Office on Tuesday, friends, co-workers and former students gathered in a reception to recognize Jones' years of service.
He briefly addressed the group that had gathered early in the drop-by reception, expressing his appreciation for being able to serve.
"It's been great. It's been a great ride; it's been fun," he said. "I look around, and I see a lot of different faces from over a lot of different parts of my career. Yhona and I both, we love you, and we love Greene County. We love education.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I've got the greatest wife, and I was able to get up every morning and go to a job that I loved."
Jones began his career with the Greene County School System in 1978 at Glenwood Elementary School, where he was a teacher and a coach until transferring to McDonald Elementary for the 1981-1982 school year.
There, he served as boys' and girls' assistant basketball coach, and as track coach for West Greene High School.
From 1982-1994, Jones moved to North Greene High School, where he taught geography, biology, physical education and driver's education.
He also served during that time as head coach of the girls' basketball team, in addition to holding roles as an assistant boys' basketball coach, assistant football coach, tennis coach and softball coach.
Moving into administration, Jones spent a year as principal at Baileyton Elementary before serving as principal at South Greene High School from 1995 to 2002.
It was during this time that he became involved in a new form of public service -- politics.
"I didn't like the way we were getting treated, as far as educators, so I ran for County Commission in 1998 and got elected," Jones said.
"I [saw that] I was just one of 21, and I couldn't do a whole lot. So I decided I would try to make a difference and run for county mayor.
"We hadn't gotten any new money for a long time -- in about 30 years. I got [a property tax levy of] 15 cents given to the school system to give all the teachers and people a raise.
"I had a great time with that. I loved being mayor."
Jones served in that capacity for one term before returning to finish his career in the Greene County School System as principal at Ottway Elementary from 2006 to 2008.
"Ottway sort of embraced me, loved on me. I left there after a couple years and left you," he said. "I couldn't stay away from you so I got appointed as a school board member.
"About every time I got into a heated situation, it wasn't something about me. It was me standing up for you. I appreciate the opportunity to stand up for you."
Jones has served on the school board since 2009 and has been chairman for the past three years, after being elected to that post by fellow board members.
In September, with Jones' resignation imminent, the board appointed member Nathan Brown as chairman.
"No one is going to be able to take Roger's place on the school board. Roger's always been able to help me as a board member and all the rest of us as board members to understand what's going on behind the scenes," Brown said.
"Even for local government and how that works, he's helped me to understand that. No one could ever replace him.
"I appreciate the hard work he's done. His heart has always been in the right place, for Greene County schools and the kids."
Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk said that she barely knew Jones before she started as director, but that he had been a great help to her.
"I appreciate his commitment to education and his support to the school system," Kirk said. "It's been phenomenal, and I'm very sorry to see him go."