In the spring of 2017, a group of concerned parents and citizens met in a Virginia Beach living room. The group consisted of men and women from all walks of life – teachers, lawyers, businessmen, law enforcement, and full-time work-at-home parents. This group decided that our voices were not being heard in the Virginia Beach Public Schools and determined to make those voices heard.
Each group member either currently has children in or has children who have graduated from the Virginia Beach School system. Each member dedicated him or herself to making VBCPS the best in the nation for our children and the ones who come after. The meetings and determination became an organization that is now called VB SPARK.
Meet the Leadership
Ray Cheng, President VB SPARK
Dr. Cheng has lived in Virginia Beach for over 20 years, and has three children in VB Schools. His wife volunteers at each of their children's schools. He earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia. He has 15 years of experience in executive management of information technology companies, and 15 years of experience teaching at the collegiate level. He is currently a math professor at Old Dominion University. Professor Cheng’s background in both business and higher education brings a distinct perspective to SPARK.
Paul Day, Vice‑President VB SPARK
Mr. Day considers Virginia Beach his home, having lived in the city for 39 years. Originally from New Philadelphia, OH, he graduated from St Leo University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. Mr. Day is a retired Va Beach Police officer who served his community for 27 years. His 2 children both attended VBCPS and he was an active Dad in their schools, including serving on the Ocean Lakes High Planning Council. Paul currently has a grandchild that attends VB Public Schools. He continues to be an active participant in our schools, serving as a substitute teacher for nearly 10 years. Mr. Day seeks to ensure that VBPCS adheres to the highest standards in the areas of both education and discipline. Paul is active in his church, Azalea Garden and serves in their food bank. His outgoing and warm personality is an asset to VB SPARK.
Karen Blythe, Second Vice‑President VB SPARK
Ms. Blythe was born and raised in the Tidewater area. She works in Occupational Therapy, with experience in pediatric critical care and special education. She grew up with a mother who was a teacher for 43 years. Ms. Blythe is very active in her community. She is currently a Deacon at her church, First Presbyterian Church, Norfolk and volunteers with the soup kitchen, ALS, and Special Olympics. VB Spark is an exciting part of her life-long passion to improve the lives of kids through education. It is focused on the responsibilities and needs that lie with the child, parents and teachers. That is what cannot only change our city, state and country but the world. It only takes one spark to light a fire!
Laura Hughes, Secretary VB SPARK
Ms. Hughes is a native to the Tidewater area. She received her Juris Doctorate from Regent University School of Law. She volunteers as a Virginia Beach CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and is also trained as a Special Education Advocate. Laura’s daughter is currently a special education student in VBCPS. VB SPARK is fortunate to have Ms. Hughes as one of its leaders, bringing to the table a special insight about the needs of special education students. She is also very involved in her community and an active member of her church, serving on various committees and assists in fundraising for community outreach.
Dane Blythe, Treasurer VB SPARK
Mr. Blythe is a native to the Tidewater area and received a B.A. in Government and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. He is the former Chairman of the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance and currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Commission. His financial expertise and knowledge of City of Virginia Beach operations are assets to VB SPARK. He currently works as a Biopharmaceutical Representative, is an active member of his church, and a respected leader in the Virginia Beach community.
[TBA], Director VB SPARK
[to be announced]
Cindy Becker, Director VB SPARK
Ms. Becker is a Virginia Beach native and a proud product of Virginia Beach public schools and Virginia state colleges. A graduate of Frank W. Cox High School and the Medical College of Virginia- Virginia Commonwealth University, she is pharmacist in the community and is a volunteer in the VBCPS elementary and high schools. She has 2 students in high school and has volunteered at their schools running an elementary school science lab for 8 years, tutoring math, starting a chess club and 2 Lego clubs at 2 different schools. Ms. Becker is currently a “band mom” and vice-president of the Cox Band Boosters. It is her concern for student’s education in VBCPS that brought her to VB SPARK.
Mary Watson Wales, Director VB SPARK
Mary Watson Wales is a retired First Colonial High School teacher. During her time at FCHS, she started and sponsored the Operation Smile club and the National English Honor Society. She also was the 9th grade class sponsor for several years. From 2005-2006 Ms. Wales participated in Action Research, and in 2010 Ms. Wales worked on Curriculum Revision. She served on a Writing Center Committee and a Literacy Committee.
Ms. Wales served on several boards that include: The Virginia Children's Chorus, North Alanton Civic League, and Linkhorn Bay Condo Association. In addition to serving on several boards, Ms. Wales has been an Election Official and is currently an active member at Virginia Beach United Methodist Church.