Above and beyond building maintenance: Mr. Jim Gray

Not your ordinary maintenance worker: Mr. Jim Gray

If you walk through the halls of Three Oaks Public School Academy, you cannot miss Mr. Jim.

Mr. Jim can be seen walking a student to class or helping fix a locker. He serves as the hands and feet of Three Oaks, and according to some students, he is their favorite person at the school.

Mr. Jim’s official title is building maintenance but holds the unspoken title of counselor, disciplinarian, greeter and friend at Three Oaks Public School Academy in Muskegon, MI.   Photo of Mr. Jim and his podium

At Three Oaks, everyone is focused on kids’ success. Despite various titles and areas of responsibility, Mr. Jim is challenged to identify ways to be responsive to the needs of the students.

Mr. Jim has found his niche in mentoring students that need extra love.

One year ago, Mr. Jim met his match – a third grader named Corbin. At first, Corbin didn’t like school, but then Mr. Jim took him under his wing. Now, Corbin loves school!

“Mr. Jim is my favorite person at Three Oaks,” Corbin said. “He really cares about me and fixes everything. I hope to be like him someday.”

Corbin likes to hang out with Mr. Jim while at school and helps Mr. Jim work on projects. Every week, Corbin can earn points to have lunch with Mr. Jim and has not missed an opportunity yet.  

“For me, it’s about the kids that come here every day; keeping them safe and teaching life lessons is what I try to do,” said Mr. Jim.

Mr. Jim’s dedication is deep and he knows how to get things done with minimum resources.

Dubbed, “the owner” of the school by the students because he fixes everything, he has personally built items from recycled wood that the school needed. He built a podium, cornhole game and graduation stand with the school’s lion mascot carved in the center.

While the school was enjoying Christmas break, Mr. Jim was at Three Oaks Public School Academy doing what he does best – making sure that the building was safe for everyone.

On Christmas Eve, Three Oaks was getting a new walk-in freezer installed in the cafeteria. When contractors came in and started the work, they accidentally cut into a gas pipe.

“It was absolutely crazy and scary,” Mr. Jim said. “I could smell the gas from outside and immediately became nervous for the safety of the workers and school. I didn’t want anything to happen to anyone.”

The school building would have blown up, literally. Not only did he take initiative to be there when no one else was, but he quickly solved the problem and got other contractors there to fix the gas leak so that students and staff could come back to school safely.

Having worked at Three Oaks for the past 10 years, he has a grasp on the nuances of the building and ensures the building runs smoothly. Most importantly, he is there because he loves the students.

It has become his personal mission to ensure the safety and security for the students who walk the halls, including his favorite buddy, Corbin.

Mr. Jim is a true example of someone living out the Choice School Associates values – a true servant leader.