Name: Mary Watson Wales
Biography: Mary Watson Wales graduated from Elon College with a degree in English and taught at Virginia Beach City Public Schools for 30 years. As a teacher, she began First Colonial High School’s Operation Smile Club and the National English Honor Society.
1. Why should residents elect you to the School Board?
I recently retired from the school system after 30 years in the classroom, so the issues are very fresh for me. I fully understand the demands placed on the teachers, the concerns about grading and discipline and the measures we need to take to make our schools safe.
2. What would you do to improve school security?
School safety has many layers to it. We have to examine ways to improve safety internally and externally. We need officers in EVERY school. Retired police and military would be assets for providing security as well. Mandt training is offered to our security officers, and this needs to be available to faculty, staff and administration. Some schools across the country have implemented Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) who volunteer to be in the schools patrolling the halls. They take the time to get to know the students. Random bag checks would also be beneficial. Standard Response Protocol is a model being used in Colorado, and it encourages evacuation when one feels it’s to leave the building. Tip lines such as Safe2Tell would allow people to anonymously report any threats or strange activity. Lastly, Stop the Bleed campaign provides bleeding kits for the classrooms and trains students and staff what they can do to save more lives. We need to make every effort to remove portables from our schools and to keep our doors locked during the school day. We have started using the buzzer system and visitors have to sign in and provide ID.
3. What are the most challenging aspects of being a teacher in your community? How would you support your teachers through these challenges?
The most challenging aspect of being a teacher is providing an engaging learning environment when our class sizes are so large. We need to reduce class size and by doing so, we would eliminate many of the discipline issues. Currently teachers are being discouraged from giving referrals; administrators do not want students to miss time from class. However, when students create a disturbance and the teacher is having to manage that, no instruction can occur. Teachers need to be supported and class size needs to be reduced.
4. What would you do to better support your vulnerable students? For example, those who live in poverty.
There are many services already being provided for our most vulnerable students. I encourage our community to donate clothes directly to our schools. I have been doing this for years. Administrators and teachers can identify students in need of shoes or winter coats, for example. Some schools across the country have started food pantries where students are sent home with food each week. This is done discreetly. We offer free and reduced breakfasts and lunches. Teachers are available before and after school to assist our students and many teachers spend their planning time tutoring students who need extra help. Students need to be encouraged to get involved with sports and/or school activities. Student mentorship is also a valuable tool for helping our more vulnerable students. Much like running a campaign, schools need to canvass neighborhoods to engage families to be involved. The success of our children depends on a partnership between our schools and our community.
5. What are your top three budget priorities?
The 3 top budget priorities are:
- school safety
- new construction
- improving teacher pay