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As Whaley retires, schools lose a special voice

She's been strong in her convictions, passionate about the needs of Pasco students and mindful of what teachers need for schools to be strong. Marge Whaley didn't acquire these traits from just being on the local school board.

They go back as far as 1980.

In the fall of that year, a group of new teachers stood in back of the room with a line drawn down the middle. The trainer read questions and teachers were "forced" to make decisions, stepping to one side or the other of the line.

Once there, they stayed — maybe standing alone. Sometimes the choices were uncomfortable.

But on that day 28 years ago, Marge Whaley directed the activity, putting teachers at ease with her warm smile and touch of humor.

I was a new Pasco County sixth-grade teacher and the training was for a growth and development class. Teaching a coed class about the physical developmental changes of puberty was a new concept in Pasco, one that Marge had a role in developing from needs she saw firsthand.

I recall thinking that she really should be in charge in the county. Her expertise and commitment to her job said she was right there beside us and was someone we could turn to for support.

Today, in 2008, it's still the same with Marge Whaley. She's retiring from the School Board and when she leaves a special voice will be gone.

As a Pasco teacher for nearly three decades, I've held a high regard for Marge and I always knew her vote would be for what students need most to succeed.

Marge didn't vote just the way she felt — she talked and listened, and even wrote written thank you notes — to educators in the classrooms. Those actions mean much to teachers who often feel a great distance between their classrooms and the school board.

Shortly after Marge was elected in the mid '90s, schools were participating in Career Week, forerunner of the Great American Teach-In. Marge came to Seven Springs Elementary.

I met her and said, if she had time, my third graders would enjoy meeting her. At the end of the day, with a beaming smile, she sat down in my classroom and just talked.

She shared personal family stories about jobs and her role as a School Board member. I was impressed with how she listened and responded to each child's question, even at the end of a long day when she could have easily dropped in briefly and left.

The last question got the same attention as the first and I went home feeling grateful for her.

Marge's listening skills were unsurpassed and she was frequently referred to as "the voice of reason."

A few years back there were rumblings near the beginning of school regarding a dress code issue. Many teachers had shopped and were fearful of having wardrobe items that couldn't be used.

My daughter, a newly hired Pasco County teacher, and I ran into Marge. I introduced my daughter and Marge immediately asked her opinion about the dress code. Later my daughter remarked about how Marge had listened to her, a beginning teacher. I assured her that Marge did, indeed, hold a deep regard for all teachers, new or veteran.

A short time back, Marge battled cancer. But whenever I met her during that time, she never focused on her problems. After a brief greeting she'd ask my thoughts on something about schools. It wasn't as though I had expert answers. Marge was dedicated to gathering information and I'm quite sure I wasn't the only one from whom she sought ideas.

Marge did more than ask and listen — she was quick to notice when someone had worked hard. A few years back, I was one of several educators working diligently to pull a school's D grade out of the ruts and was pleasantly surprised when a handwritten thank you note arrived. Notes from School Board members were not common and it confirmed everything I'd ever thought about Marge Whaley.

When former superintendent John Long died unexpectedly, Marge was quoted as saying, "He did the right thing even when no one was looking."

That thought has come to me many times in regards to Marge's retirement. To use her own words and adding to them: "Marge Whaley did the right thing when no one was looking and she did the right thing when everyone was watching."

Students, educators, staff and community members have been fortunate to have Marge Whaley represent them on the School Board. I'm sure my voice joins many thanking Marge Whaley and wishing her the very best for a long, happy and healthy retirement.

As Whaley retires, schools lose a special voice 11/13/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 7:27pm]
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