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Groundskeeper been keeping schools tidy a long time
Vera Mobley sits on a spreader while working the landscape at Liberty County High School. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge
Vera Mobley is proud of her callused hands and freely admits landscaping “gets in your blood.”
The diminutive Mobley heads Liberty County School System’s grounds-keeping crew, a job she has found rewarding for 11 years.
“We do a little bit of everything,” she said earlier this week while mowing the field in front of Liberty County High School.
Mobley works alongside her crew of eight people year round, operating heavy equipment, putting out fertilizer, fixing fences, maintaining sprinkler systems, delivering supplies for school green houses, trimming hedges, planting flowers and trees and even occasionally moving furniture and office equipment. The LCSS’s groundskeepers maintain and beautify the campuses of nine elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools and Liberty County Pre-K, board of education office buildings, the Liberty County Performing Arts Center and all school athletic fields.
“Vera and her crew do a wonderful job of keeping our school properties looking great and attractive for the students, parents and the public,” said Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer. “Attractive, well-maintained landscapes make learning a pleasure in a warm, inviting environment.  Vera and her crew also keep the athletic fields in top shape for competition. People who come to our schools often comment on what beautiful facilities we have.”
Mobley and her staff’s collective efforts even earned their department the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s Win-dex Awards two years in a row. She said her crew deserves recognition, naming each in turn: Stacy Wheeler, Russell Ditlow, Orlando Ware, Mike Patti, Matt Boyer, David Quandt, Jason Woods and Joshua Futch. And, she expressed appreciation to school mechanic Robert Goodrich for keeping ground keeping equipment running smoothly.
“We have (an equipment) breakdown every day,” Mobley said. “He (Goodrich) is the silent soul behind our whole program.”
The system’s ground crew supervisor has been in the landscaping field for 20 years. She gained experience in turf grass during her tenure at Cherokee Rose Golf Club and is an avid gardener at home.
Mobley also oversees her office’s budget, tracking invoices and ordering supplies.
“Whatever I’m doing, I try to keep the taxpayer in mind; because I’m a taxpayer,” she said.
Mobley added some of the flowers her crew plants are paid for by each school’s principal out of their individual principal funds. This money is not funded through tax dollars, she said.
The groundskeeper said her primary challenge is to maintain a greater number of school properties with a smaller staff today than in years past. She does not want to lower her standards, she said. Mobley approached the school board last month requesting additional personnel, specifically someone skilled in the care and protection of 419 Bermuda grass.
“The BoE will re-evaluate the staffing needs of the ground keeping crew as we plan for the upcoming budget year,” Scherer said in an e-mail.  “Right now, money is very limited for hiring of any additional personnel.”
Mobley’s office comes under the school system’s maintenance and operations department. The department is also responsible for janitorial services, utilities, general maintenance such as air conditioning, plumbing, electrical, and ground keeping, the superintendent explained. 
“The ground keeping crew was formed several years ago and made up of members of the janitorial staffs from the schools specifically for the care and beautification of the landscapes at each facility,” Scherer said.
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