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Sewell leaves lasting legacy
Departing official shaped foundation for future learning
Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans congratulates Robert Sewell, the district's outgoing chief facilities and operations director, left, during a retirement ceremony Thursday. - photo by Autumn McBride

Under Robert Sewell's watch, more than half the schools in Forsyth County were built.

Perhaps more impressive, the 18 new campuses and 182 classroom additions have come just since 2001.

Sewell, the school system's outgoing chief facilities and operations director, also helped the district acquire seven sites for future schools.

“You built schools, you’ve upgraded schools and you got us prepared for the future,” said Superintendent Buster Evans during a farewell reception Thursday.

“That’s a legacy I know that each one of us would be proud to say we were a part of.”

In addition to the construction Sewell has overseen in the last 10 years, he’s also responsible for maintaining nearly 5.2 million square feet of property.

“Robert, if we had paid you one dollar for every square foot, it wouldn’t be one penny too much,” Evans said.

Sewell’s wife of 46 years, Faye, was pleased to see him "fulfill what he wanted to accomplish all these years.”

“He’s always respected the people he’s done business with and in return, they have always respected him," she said.

The school district was more than an employer for Sewell, who graduated from Forsyth County High "when it was the only high school in the county.”

Prior to education, Sewell's career included stints at Lockheed Martin, the Atlanta Housing Authority and an architectural firm. He also owned National Facility Consultants.

Sewell has overseen construction of 10 elementary, six middle and two high schools. But for students on older campuses, Sewell helped make upgrades.

“Robert standardized so many things across the district for us that we didn’t have in place because we were growing so fast,” said Jennifer Caracciolo, system spokeswoman. “It doesn’t matter which school you walk into, facilities-wise or maintenance-wise you’re getting the same high quality.”

All of the county’s schools also have sewer access, which Sewell said “was a huge accomplishment.”

Building was always a fun time for Sewell, but “where I had the most fun was on the maintenance side.”

“Our goal has always been to provide an indoor learning environment that’s conducive to learning,” he said. 

It's Sewell's dedication and attention to detail that Bill McKnight, maintenance coordinator, will miss most.

“He was so straight forward and he never wondered anything,” McKnight said. "He was always clear and concise and stood behind you."

His greatest memory of their time together was building five schools in one year while at the same time handling $23 million in renovations.

“As you can imagine, it was a pretty hectic time, but during the whole time, he was just calm and cool,” McKnight said.

“You won’t ever replace Robert because there is nobody else like him.”