Bessie Watson – Whaleyville Borough (School Board)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Name: Bessie F. Watson

Age: 54

Profession: Director of Youth and Family Services, Isle of Wight County


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Education: Attended Norfolk State University and Hampton University.

What are your qualifications for this seat? I have been involved with the PTA on all levels, including the PTA Council, and am committed to youth development and community advocacy. My job as youth director, which involves grant writing, allows me to keep abreast of educational policies, procedures and data regarding youth issues. Having lived in this area for more than 25 years, I truly have a vested interest in the community and school system.

Why should people vote for you on May 4? Because of my experience as a concerned parent and grandmother and my direct involvement in the educational field and the community. My commitment to the Whaleyville citizens is to share information and communicate monthly with families to keep them informed of new policies, issues and changes that will affect them and the community. I believe my skills as a grant writer will … enable me to bring forth innovative ideas that can only enhance the board’s efforts to better serve and make positive changes in our community.

Suffolk Public Schools has traditionally had trouble recruiting teachers. What would you recommend that Suffolk do to get attract and keep top-notch teachers?

The standard response is to talk about qualifications, teachers’ salaries and class size. But I also believe principals and school teams should be given the authority to shape their own teaching staff in such a way to shoulder accountability for school results. They must be free to select from a wide range of candidates and have the flexibility to compensate them based on marketplace condition and individual performances. They must be able to remove those who do not produce satisfactory results.

…School-level administrators and teachers are in the best position to know who teaches well. Once hired, teachers should be evaluated based on the only measure that ultimately matters: whether their students are learning.

The nation recently observed the 5th anniversary of multiple school shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School. How safe are students in Suffolk today? Does more need to be done to strengthen school safety?

Suffolk schools are as safe as most schools in the surrounding area. However, more can be done to ensure the safety of Suffolk students and school personnel.

Recommendations for strengthening school safety include 1) establishing a crisis management team of school personnel, community leaders, students, and emergency service personnel, which would be responsible for developing and providing training programs in crisis preparedness, safety, and security plans; 2) Improve school crime reporting and related data collection; 3) Strengthen penalties for crimes committed in schools; 4) Fund, possibly through grants, programs for specific security and crisis-support materials; and 5) Strengthen prevention, intervention and alternative programs for at-risk and delinquent youth.

Suffolk is one of the fastest growing school divisions in the state today. What steps do you believe the school system needs to take in order to keep up with the rapid growth?

Dr. Milton Liverman is on point with the rapid growth and development as it relates to Suffolk Public Schools.

The City Council has recently expressed a strong desire to see more neighborhood schools in Suffolk’s future. But during a recent joint meeting between council and the School Board, Dr. Milton Liverman indicated that neighborhood schools would not be the most economically feasible way to grow schools. What are your thoughts on this topic?

I totally agree with Dr. Liverman. I feel that he is the expert and is very knowledgeable on this topic.

— Compiled by Allison T. Williams