The first time Gary L. Jones went to work for Ronald Reagan he was fired when his boss, Reagan's former campaign manager John Sears, fell from grace.

Months later, after the election, Jones was laid off when his job with the Reagan transition team expired.

Now, for the third time in two years, Jones is going to work for the "Gipper" -- in a job the president hopes to abolish.

Last week Jones, a Fairfax County school board member, was appointed to the No. 3 slot in the U.S. Department of Education.

"I wasn't completely surprised by the appointment. I suspected it was in the works," says the 36-year-old Jones in his characteristically unruffled manner.

At first it appeared that Reagan's offer would cost Jones his seat on the Fairfax school board since it might pose a conflict of interest. But after a flurry of meetings with White House lawyers earlier this week, Jones said he is confident that he can work for both Uncle Sam and school board Chairman Ann P. Kahn.

"I think I can bring the vantage point of being a practitioner -- and one who is still practicing -- to my new job," says Jones, reflecting on his four years as an at-large member of the Fairfax board.

Ironically, even though Jones is about to assume one of the most time-consuming jobs in Washington, he says he is grateful for the opportunity because it will allow him more time for his favorite pastime -- his family. Until three weeks ago Jones had been commuting between his suburban Fairfax County home and his job with the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. That left little time for his wife Barbara and their two elementary school-aged children Julie and Gary.

Since he graduated from Albion College in Michigan 14 years ago, Jones has earned two advance degrees from Michigan State and held a variety of jobs. Among his most interesting endeavors was a summerlong stint as a centerfielder with the Cincinnati Reds and a term as vice president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

In retrospect, Jones said, his four years on the Fairfax County school board -- where he is known as one of the more conservative voices on the 10-member board -- have been the most satisfying of all those jobs.

Among the accomplishments Jones is proudest of are approval of tougher graduation requirements for high school seniors, which came about at his insistence, and the addition of a political science course to county curriculum.

Jones also has been outspoken on the controversial subject of sex education -- he favors a conservative course rather than one that might conflict with the moral beliefs of some families. Jones cautions, however, that he is not completely opposed to sex education.

"I advocate being very careful with what we do with sex education," he says. "I am very concerned about whose values we will be teaching."

Looking ahead to his tasks at the Education Department, Jones says he will help reorganize or dismantle the department according to Reagan's wishes.

"I'm genuinely pleased to have this opportunity to work in the administration," he says.