Standing by the copier in the main office of Fair Haven Union High School is Ali Jones. As she punches her code into the machine, the voice of the receptionist catches her attention over the soft beeps and shifting of paper.
“Ms. Jones? I have a banner for you to hang up in your hallway,” the voice says while a blue and white polyester mesh sign unravels onto the floor with the smiling faces of the “2016 SLATER FOOTBALL SENIORS.”
She walks back down the hallway, past the gymnasium and over the floor that reads FHU in bold letters. Just four months ago she was walking past her own court, where she called herself a Spartan for four whole years.
A voice comes from the sky asking students to turn in athletic uniforms. She checks her office phone’s voicemails where one new message awaits. It’s Castleton University’s Renee Beaupre-White inviting her the senior class banquet as a guest speaker.
With a check of the well-kept schedule and to-do list placed carefully on the desk, she sees that she’s already booked that day with a mandatory winter athletic meeting.
A chime signals the end of one class and the start of another as Jones looks over the 30 emails waiting for her from the weekend.
This is the start of new day for Jones.
She’s 22 years old and the athletic director of an entire high school.
“It’s been hectic and stressful because you learn all of this in school then you get to the job and feel like you don’t know anything at all. I’ve learned something new every day,” she says from behind the desk of her “new office.”
“It used to be the showers,” Jones remarks with a look at the glossy white-walls that have seen better days. It sports random holes and markings, shelves placed haphazardly in one corner, a few electrical outlets and singular light switch by the door. Picture frames filled with friends and dogs, next to motivational plaques that remind their readers to “Do something amazing today” and “Don’t ruin a good day by thinking about a bad yesterday” sit on the shelves next to a large binder marked “Budget Bible.”
“I’m thinking a nice white for these three walls,” Jones says sardonically with a gentle wave of her hand on the upcoming painting of space,
“Then get some art students involved and put a nice FHU on this one,” she points in a more serious tone.
There’s no heat in this office and a soft hum can be heard from the space heater tucked under her desk
The original office given to the school’s AD is down the hall. She gave it up to make the slightly larger room a place to organize uniforms and create a new multi-sport team room.
“All uniforms were being kept in a shed out back, and I wanted them moved in here to be better sorted and kept,” she said
Ali Jones grew up in Poultney, Vermont as the oldest daughter to Kim and Dan Jones. She majored in sports administration during her time at Castleton University and was a four-year member of the women’s basketball team.
Mom Kim has kept tabs on her daughter’s goals and visions growing up.
“She was always very determined. She came home in about the second grade, might've been first grade, and they were doing basketball in school and she came home and said, ‘Mom, they showed me how to use the backboard in gym and they said if I use the backboard I could score a lot of points.’”
Jones then proclaimed that she was going to score 100 points before she came back inside that night.
“And she was only this big,” Kim said with a hand hovering a few feet off the ground, “She could barely get it over the rim. But she stayed out there. We had to turn on all the outside lights, on a SCHOOL night, until she made 100 points.”
By the time she reached 100, dinner had been eaten and it was past her bed time.
She used the backboard for each shot.
“I said, that right there, is a determined little girl.”
Many factors went into the hiring of a new athletic director at the high school that boasts being the only “Slaters” in the world. In Jones’ case, she faced interviews with the 11-person committee interested in being a part of the hiring process.
“We’re so passionate in this greater Fair Haven area about athletics. We have the best student section in the entire state: positive, passionate, outgoing. We have a high number of community members that travel to games and then we do have high, high expectations,” said Principal Brett Blanchard.
“More people were interested in being on this hiring committee then on most. So in other words, with a teacher, I will get a very small committee. Here, several board members wanted to be on it, several coaches wanted to be on it; so they came from different perspectives.”
Jones remembers a larger room of people during the application process.
“There was like, 15 people in the room for my interview. It was the most terrifying experience, but I must have done something right,” she said through widened eyes and a smile.
Stepping into her family home, Jones is met by an army of dogs. The two English springers go by the names Carter and Cash. Lola and Cider are toy poodles. The walking group of wrinkles is non-other than Jones’ own Chinese Shar Pei, Gus. He was a Christmas gift to herself last year after much back and forth with her parents on the responsibility of having her own dog at such a young age.
“I told my parents that I handle everything that gets thrown my way so I can handle a dog. Plus it would be a happy addition to my life.”
Like Gus, each dog has a story in the map of Jones’ life.
Take the Poodles. They weren’t originally her family’s, but belonged to the grandmother she lost earlier this year.
“The day Nonny died was the saddest day I’ve ever experienced,” Jones said.
It was two days after Jones’ birthday, and all she asked for on her special day was for her to get better and come back home.
It’s hard to find bumps in the journey of Jones’ life. Through her well-planned and organized demeanor, to the warm relationships she surrounds herself with, she tends to come off as almost perfect. This recent event she couldn’t have planned for, left her devastated and still brings a tear to her eye.
Every Sunday afternoon since her freshmen year, her closest teammates and friends gather at her house in Poultney for what’s known as “Family Dinner.”
“The funny thing about it is that it was never a thing until I went to college. It’s a time to come together after whatever happened throughout the week and unwind,” she said.
Her mom makes whatever the highly anticipated dish of the week is, while a gaggle of girls and the occasional boyfriend hang around the living room doing homework and swapping stories.
“She looks weird while she’s sleeping,” Jay Morgan confidently states when asked about his girlfriend of three years at a recent family dinner.
With a smirk in Jones’ direction, she promptly rolls her eyes and he pats her leg while the two seem to conduct a silent conversation.
They met her sophomore year in the dorms of Castleton University and have been a major part of each other’s lives ever since. So major, that they're closing in on buying a house together after months of searching and conversations with the bank.
“I knew right away she would get the job. She’s the most determined person I've ever met. She's just a rare type of person who knows exactly what she wants and makes it happen,” Morgan said.
Jones agrees that she has indeed planned every little detail of her life and tries to follow it to a tee. From her college basketball career, year-long internship with the associate athletic director at Green Mountain College, to buying and owning a dog, landing a job in her exact career path, and the impending purchase of a house. She describes herself with a laugh as a “psychopath” in that respect.
“Plus she's probably had that interview planned out since 7th grade…and she's cute,” adds Morgan.
Back in the office, where large plastic bags full of cheerleading and men’s soccer uniforms can be found, her biggest project at the time is the hiring of new baseball and softball coaches for the upcoming spring season.
“Positions are open,” she notes with a raise of her eyebrows and a smile as if to suggest, “If you know someone, let me know.”
After having only opened the position a few days before, she’s already got three prospects.
It’s also the close of the fall sport activities. Jones is busy organizing the end of the season banquets, determining who wants to go where on what day and when and ordering trophies for each team’s individual awards.
“I’m still kind of learning,” said Jones,
“Some weeks I'm in the office getting everything done and other’s it’s event after event.”
She’s handled her first budget, routinely lines up busses and schedules games and practices for each team. She handles event management for home games and will have to give out awards at the coming banquets. Although having to publicly speak makes her skin crawl, she's gotten better overtime.
“Athletically, Castleton is one of my biggest achievements. I learned a lot about myself and many life skills. Multitasking, time management, leadership, and hard work.”
Her position has been much more than she ever thought, but she wouldn't have it any other way. She looks forward to the Slater’s upcoming basketball season where the women’s team is the defending division two state champions.
It’s lunch time for the new athletic director of FHU. Careful to turn off the space heater under the large metal desk, she grabs her car keys that sport a singular basketball-shaped keychain, and heads for the door.