Hardin Park’s Mary Smalling is Principal of the Year

Last Updated on October 2, 2022 5:47 pm

Mary Smalling, principal at Hardin Park School, has been named Watauga County Schools Principal of the Year for 2014-15.

Her selection was announced in a surprise visit to Hardin Park Thursday morning by WCS Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca, Human Resources Director Dr. Stephen Martin, and other representatives of the Watauga County Schools central office. Several hundred students in the gymnasium for the occasion clapped and screamed their approval as the announcement was made.

Smalling responded to the honor by telling the assembled students and school personnel “the reason I am Principal of the Year is because of you guys. It’s the students and staff that I work with every day at Hardin Park that make this such a great school. We have a wonderful community as well, and I am truly grateful for their support.”

Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca congratulated Smalling on her award and praised her leadership at Hardin Park. “Mary Smalling is truly an outstanding principal. She is always committed to making the school more effective and more welcoming for all its students. She brings out the the best in her personnel with her respectful and inclusive leadership, and she never wavers in her focus on what is best for the children she serves.”

The Principal of the Year is chosen by a confidential vote of the nine school principals in the Watauga County Schools system. Smalling said she is grateful to her fellow principals for her selection as Principal of the Year.

As Principal of the Year, Smalling will receive an award payment of $500 from the Watauga County Schools. She also becomes a candidate for additional honors as Regional Principal of the Year in North Carolina’s Northwest Region and possibly for NC Principal of the Year.

Smalling has been principal at Hardin Park for 14 years and previously served as an assistant principal at Hardin Park and at Watauga High School. This is the second time she has been named Principal of the Year, having also received the honor in 2005-06.

Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Art Education and a Masters in School Administration, both from Appalachian State University. She has maintained a strong commitment to professional growth during her career, winning a Fulbright Administrator Exchange Grant in 2008, and completing the Distinguished Leadership Program (DLP), a year-long leadership development program for school principals, just last year.

Smalling is an advocate for bringing a global perspective to education. During her tenure at Hardin Park, she developed a Polish/American Teacher Exchange Program, worked with a Mexican/American Teacher Exchange Program, and has served on Appalachian State University’s International Outreach Committee.

Along with 2013-14 Principal of the Year Toby Cone, she was part of a national contingent of principals that helped construct a school building in the Dominican Republic two years ago, and she worked with educators in Argentina in connection with her Fulbright Grant in 2008.

Most recently, Smalling traveled to Pakistan last year as part of an exchange program between the Watauga County Schools and schools in Taxila, Pakistan. Hardin Park participated in the American/Pakistan exchange program again this year.

She is also recognized for her commitment to serving students in the exceptional children program. Hardin Park serves the Watauga County Schools students with the most severe disabilities, and Smalling has helped lead the school’s efforts to fund a more inclusive playground, a long term effort that raised nearly $100,000 so far.

Hardin Park School is the largest of the eight elementary/middle schools in the WCS system, serving approximately 775 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The school met all 21 federal and 34 state targets for academic performance in 2012-13. Hardin Park students also substantially exceeded state averages in their performance on all state tests of academic proficiency for 2012-13.

Photos: Watauga County Schools

Mary Smalling with Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca (at left) and Human Resources Director Dr. Stephen Martin.

with Dr Fonseca & Martin

Dr. Fonseca addresses students and teachers as he congratulates Ms. Smalling.

with Dr. Fonseca


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