CHS Principal Bob Wales – Committed to the Students

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Interview by DeeDee Dupree

  Arriving early at CHS for my interview with Mr. Wales, it was quickly made apparent he was a man in demand. Both students and faculty were pulling him in different directions. Watching, and waiting for my turn, I noticed one immediate trait on Mr. Wales-  Calm.

During the hustle and bustle of the school day, the towering figure remained calm and diligent in his duties. Mr. Wales has been the principal for three years and has been at the school for 25 years, serving as both Asst. Principal and as a math teacher and coach.

Entering his office, preparing for the interview to begin, he made a statement that had an impact on me.  “You can see the papers covering my desk. All of which are important but not nearly as important as the people walking these halls.  When choosing People or Paperwork, People win every time.”  As the interview proceeded, you can tell this man meant what he said. The tone in his voice, the words out of his mouth, you can truly tell his heart and commitment belong to the students and faculty of Central High School.

When asked what accomplishment he is most proud of since becoming Principal, his answer was quite humble. “I am most proud of the students and the work that they do and proud of the dedication of our teachers. I guess I have my hand on the steering wheel but I think it’s like in football, quarterbacks and coaches take far too much blame when teams lose and far too much credit when the team wins. It is a group effort.” He was very willing to share the success of CHS with all involved. He shows a real fondness and respect of the educators put in charge of our students. Every team needs a leader but you only truly win as a team.

Interviewer: Where do you feel the school excels and where is the most improvement needed?
Mr. Wales: I feel we do a great job in meeting the needs of our students. Most of our students are driven to excel. And for those that aren’t, or have an ‘I don’t care attitude,’ we make a real effort to try to win them over and show them the benefits of education.  We win a lot of those battles but to me, if we lose even one, that’s too many. I do not want any student to feel anonymous or as if they do not matter. That student matters and belongs to someone! It’s our job to make sure they know the opportunities available to them.  We all should want that, as a school, as a community.
A remark he made I found impressive was when he was asked about Central in comparison to other schools… without hesitation, he responded, “I am not interested in CHS being the Best but I am interested in us DOING our BEST. That’s all I can ask for. If we can do that, we have maximized our potential.”
CHS currently has approx 1200 students and many measures are taken to make sure that only Central residents are enrolled. He laughs saying, “We have nicknamed the program ‘SnoopDog’ which aggressively pursues the safeguards we have in place.  We watch for red flags, returned mail, out of state license plates, etc. This is important to us as a school and community. The system is requiring the proof of residency to be even stricter next year.”
As a parent of a student at CHS, I am always surprised at the sincerity in the voice of Mr. Wales and how he will tear up occasionally when talking about the school.  I asked him how he was able to stay sensitive, compassionate and benevolent day after day.  Before answering, he paused and took in a deep breath. “I love what I do and I love these kids.” I could see emotion well up in him as his voice cracked.  “Is it hard some days? Yes. But I believe in what I do and know that the kids are not here for us, we are here for them.” Observing him, I believe God has blessed this man with a sensitivity chip that most of us do not possess. He has remained diligent in his desire to see each student do their best and somehow, has not become numb to it all. I would think that would be a hard thing to retain after so many years. That is an admirable trait.

Interviewer: What are your thoughts on these new requirements to graduate? How are 8th and 9th graders expected to know what they will want, muchless who they will be their senior year?
Mr. Wales: These new requirements were handed down from the state level. My advice to students, more particularly freshman, is speak thoroughly with their guidance counselor. They are ready and available to help guide the students through this process. My hope is this doesn’t prevent any student from graduating and I know parents are frustrated, but we are doing what we can to help with the transition. Hopefully this will help remedy some of the panic that everyone is experiencing.

Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the weight of a typical book sack? Any ideas on how schools could help lessen the loads?
Mr. Wales: It is a mission of ours to one day eliminate the text book and move forward where students actually have all of their text books as downloadable content for computers or hand held devices such as Kindle or Nook.  This is not going to be a quick or easy transition, but it is something I would like to see in the future.”

Interviewer: What is a perfect day for you at CHS?
Mr. Wales: Each day I hope to positively impact a student’s life. A perfect day to me is knowing I’ve made a difference.

Interviewer: What is your fondest memory? 
Mr. Wales: There are so many. I’m not sure if you could say this is my fondest memory but it certainly is one that has made an impact on my life.  You won’t read about this in any paper and it isn’t the story people most like to print but…(Mr. Wales stops, sighs and begins to tap his pen on the side of the chair. You could see the flood of emotion consume him. He then smiled and continued speaking affectionately.) We had a student here many years ago named Chris Schafer.  When he came to us he was non-verbal. He wouldn’t say a word to anybody. And during the time he was here, he mastered that skill. As a matter of fact, he would take my walkie talkie and say hello to Mr. Devall, the principal at that time. And Chris now works here in the library as an aid. And that is just so special to me. I am very fond of him and the way he has flourished. That is just a memory I hold dear. I am as proud of Chris and the things he is doing as I am of any of our honor Graduates.  

Interviewer: Kids that have a high grade point average but then end up getting a 12 on the ACT, How do you help explain that?  What do you say to parents whose child is simply just not a good, timed test taker?
Mr. Wales: I say you are not alone. It happens. Your student will have to find other ways to excel. Colleges require a good ACT score, so students have to find a way around that. For example, having a much better GPA. I honestly wish I had the answer to that question.

Interviewer: I noticed that CHS not only has prayer in school, they seem to support it.  Being a Christian parent, I am 100% supportive of this. How is Central able to do that when other schools have weeded prayer almost completely out of their schools?
Mr. Wales: I can tell you this. When anyone asks me what they can do for Central, I always respond by saying, You can pray for us. Prayer is completely optional. Students don’t have to participate. We have a wonderful group of women that come on Tuesdays called, Praying Moms. We have a very active FCA group. Fortunately Mr. Faulk is a strong Christian and supports prayer in schools. For any success that may have come my way, I give God the Glory.

In closing, I asked random questions getting his views and opinions on different policies. One of my last questions and his last answer of the interview possibly impressed me the most.  I asked him what he thought parents could do more to help their students in their journey through high school.  You could see this was a question he looked forward to being asked. It appeared to be one of those that needed to be asked and honestly answered.

Mr. Wales: I would say be supportive, be involved and pay attention.  Your child needs a parent, not a friend.  An analogy I like to use is if you go into our gym, you will see many lines on the floor.  These lines indicate boundaries for basketball and help contain the game. But we also need referee’s there to enforce these rules and boundaries. Be that for your child. They not only need it, but they want it.

Happy 50TH Birthday, Bob Wales – May 12th


  1. Alton R Ashford

    May 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    It is quite evident this man loves what he does. What blesses our community is that he does it well. He seems to a have competitiveness about him, but finds greater pleasure in watching the underdog succeed. I get the feeling from your interview that he would much rather impress a parent with a well rounded student than the state with a high test score. Thanks for the interview. Hope you will consider doing more interviews with leaders in the community. We all recognize them and say hello, but most never get to know them on a personal basis. Well done.

  2. Alton R Ashford

    May 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I’m sorry Mrs Dupree, I just realized you did the interview. Thanks!

    • dave

      May 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm

      You should know I can’t write like that!

  3. Central Resident

    May 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Wonderful article!

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