LaBrae treasurer spent 49 years with district
LEAVITTSBURG — She had planned to be a stewardess for United Airlines. That plan was grounded in her senior year when the bank across from Columbiana High School got new bookkeeping machines.
Carol Jones said the bank president in Columbiana asked one of her teachers if a student would work at the bank and learn the new machines.
“My teacher suggested me, and I worked at the bank on Saturdays and after school during the week. I worked my way up to a teller,” Jones said.
It wasn’t the only detour Jones would take on her way to working 49 years in the LaBrae Local School District, the last 40 as the district treasurer.
Jones retired at the end of July from the job she said she always loved. She said earlier this year, prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it just felt like it was time to retire. Considering her contract ended Aug. 1, now seemed right.
Even though she retired, Jones did renew her treasurer’s license. She said she’s not sure what she’ll do next.
Jones said she wants to spend more time with her two sons, Rick and Chris, and their families, which includes eight grandchildren — some in Ohio and some in Arkansas.
She said she enjoys gardening and growing flowers and often left work after a 10-hour day and go home and put on work shoes and spend time in her garden.
“I was always happy being able to do that after a busy day at work. I have many roses in the garden,” Jones said.
Jones said a group of her classmates from Columbiana High School still get together once per month for lunch and for special annual events.
“They have been getting together once a month for a long time, so I will now be able to be there with them. They are all retired, and I am the last one to retire,” she said.
Jones was the oldest of five children. In high school, she took commercial business courses such as bookkeeping, shorthand and other related classes.
After high school, Jones stayed two more years at the Columbiana Bank. She was recruited by North Bloomfield Bank, now Chase Bank, in Champion. She handled the bookkeeping machines for eight years.
She set aside her banking career after she married and had two children. Then her husband, Robert, passed away unexpectedly in 1970 at age 34. Her children were ages 2 and 5 at the time.
“I had stayed at home because my children were so young, but I knew I had to get out and get a job. I went for the first time to the unemployment office. They told me about a job at LaBrae schools since I was living in the district. I contacted them and came in for an interview, and two days later I was hired in 1971 in the treasurer’s office,” she said.
It was one year after the Braceville and Leavittsburg school districts merged to form the LaBrae Local School District.
Jones started off as a secretary and the moved to assistant treasurer and when the former treasurer Ray Matwitch retired, she became treasurer in 1980.
“I had chances to go other places and work, but I was always happy here. My family and friends are all here, so I stayed in LaBrae. This job put food on my table and a roof over my head,” she said.
Jones said like any school district, there are good years and bad years, but one of the best was when the new school complex opened in 2005.
“To see it being built was amazing. It was a dream of (then-Superintendent) Ron Joseph’s. It was the biggest project in years for the school district. I am blessed to be here,” Jones said.
She said her former office at the old LaBrae High School on West Market Street was a small room with a desk and file cabinet above the gymnasium lobby.
“There was a hole in the wall, and you could see into the gymnasium. The students would play basketball, and the balls would hit the office walls,” she said.
She said the treasurer’s office was the last office to move from the old building to the new one.
“I was the last person to leave that office. I was at my computer making out checks the last day as we were boxing up stuff from the file cabinets and from my desk,” Jones said.
Summer is very busy for treasurers. It’s when they close out the fiscal year, which ends June 30, do all the ordering and then begin the new fiscal year.
“The staff gets paid every two weeks, so I am here working,” she said of people who often ask her what she does in the summer when schools are closed.
Jones started her day at 6:30 a.m. and usually did not leave until after 5 p.m.
“I get more done when no one was here,” she said.
She said she has been very busy with the COVID-19 funds to handle, which made it an unusual summer.
Jones has worked for six superintendents, including Harold Everling, Al Lopez, Harry Benetis, George Geordan, Joseph and Anthony Calderone.
School officials noted with Jones’ expertise, they have not had to go back to the voters for a school levy since 1992.
“I am amazed how the people of the community support the schools. The staff trusts me when we don’t have the money to do things. The teachers don’t ask for more than we have,” she said.
Jones said she enjoys watching sports and will walk to the schools to watch the games where her grandchildren play soccer and football and are in the band.
“I love the sports and the band. I love the band nights and coming to the concerts,” she said.
Helping her in the treasurer’s office is Debbie D’Orio, who has been her assistant treasurer for 27 years. Jones also has worked with 12 secretaries including the current one, Olga Best.
“They and all my former co-workers, board of educations, my friends and family have made my time here wonderful,” Jones said.