Joni Sears has helped “raise” thousands of children in Germantown.
As secretary at Valley View Primary School for 30 years, Sears is the first person many parents interact with in the district. She handles kindergarten registration and daily student attendance.
When her youngest son was three, she joined a Mom’s Day Out program called Love is a Hug. The program eventually transformed into a preschool and daycare, and Sears worked there for nine years before moving to the primary school. Over the decades, Sears has watched as many of the children she registered for kindergarten graduate high school and have kids of their own.
“What’s so funny is a lot of the kids that I had at Love is a Hug have kids that have already gone through my building. It’s a cycle,” Sears said. “Not all of them, but a lot of them have decided to stay [in the district], and now I’m getting their kids.”
Angie Valenti met Sears when she turned in preschool paperwork for her children nearly 20 years ago. She said Sears never meets a stranger and every parent and child she interacts with becomes part of her community, making her a Dayton Daily News Community Gem. Valenti called Sears the “Germantown Grandmother” because of the generations of children she registered and watch go through the district.
“You didn’t worry about your kids in the building because you knew Joni was there to take care of them and really the whole the whole staff,” Valenti said. “Join’s just like the local grandmother.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Sears orchestrated “Foodie Fridays” and “Munchie Mondays” for the school’s staff. She would order food from local restaurants and have it delivered to the school for the teachers and staff. Sears also solicited over $15,000 from local businesses to build a shelter house that is used by students during recess and by classes for special projects.
Because of the pandemic, the district started to move toward online kindergarten registration, but Sears said she believes her in-person interactions with new parents help build lasting relationships during what can be a anxious process of transitioning their kids into school.
Having dedicated her life to the children of Valley View Schools, Valenti said Sears “bleeds blue,” referencing the school’s colors. Sears’ sons were once on the football team, but she can still be seen watching the Spartans play at the junior high to cheer on the children in the district that she has watched grow up.
Sears has one last grandchild going through Valley View Schools, and she said she hopes to be able to stick around as secretary until he graduates in four years.
“I was just blessed end up here in Germantown. I was blessed enough with a job in the school district,” Sears said. “I always tell everybody: I have the best job in the world.”
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