A new era at Southampton Middle School

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

COURTLAND—The new front-office furniture may not be the most important change at Southampton Middle School, or even the most visible.

But replacing the furniture in their school’s main office is indicative of the changes students and parents will notice when school starts in September.

&uot;This is a tremendous time for this school system, for the county and for teachers, and everything is coming together,&uot; said Mike Booth, who took over late this summer as the new SMS principal.

&uot;We are going to have one of the best years we’ve ever had. We know where we’re going, and we have the plan to get there.&uot;

Booth is one of three members of the school’s leadership team who is new to the school — if not the school system — this year.

Also new on staff are Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Pam Hartnett and Guidance Counselor Travis Parker. They join Assistant Principal Darian Bell, the lone holdover among last year’s top administrators at the middle school.

The school’s leaders are working to create a welcoming atmosphere so parents and members of the community can visit the school and see what kinds of things are happening there.

But those visits will be in vain if the right impressions are not encouraged from the start, Booth said. Hence, the need for new office furniture.

&uot;If we wanted to make the school run like a good timepiece, we needed to make it show well,&uot; he said.

The timepiece analogy is a considered one, as perhaps the biggest non-personnel change at SMS is in scheduling. This year, the school will operate on a six-period schedule, rather than the seven-periods-per day timetable it has used in recent years.

The change is designed to increase instructional time, cutting back on the time students spend in the hall, changing classes. It will add about 10 minutes to each class.

Booth spent the past two years as assistant principal at Southampton High School, which he called &uot;one of the best places to work.&uot; He came to Southampton from Amelia County, where he had also worked as an assistant high school principal.

A veteran of Vietnam in the U.S. Army, he has 22 years of educational experience. He has taught physical education and special education classes.

He lives in Franklin during the week and spends weekends in Ashland with his wife of 37 years. He has three grown children.

Pam Hartnett, the new assistant principal, comes to Southampton from Brunswick County, where she served as assistant principal at J.S. Russell Middle School.

The Courtland job, she said, gets her significantly closer to her home in Petersburg, but the move came only after she had done significant research and learned of Southampton’s success with the Standards of Learning tests and with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

A graduate of Virginia State University, she taught in Virginia Beach for two years and served as a teacher or administrator in Brunswick for 20 years before the move to Southampton.

She said she is particularly excited about the opportunity to work closely with and help train new teachers.

For Travis Parker — who has taken over the job of guidance counselor from Ted Nadeau, who retired last year after many years of service to the county school system — walking the halls of Southampton Middle School will feel very familiar.

A 1985 Southampton graduate, he remembers when the building housed the county’s high school.

He returned to the school system 11 years ago as a seventh-grade science teacher and has also worked during that period as an assistant football coach and as an assistant softball coach.

His experiences as a teacher and a coach have helped him develop a rapport with kids that falls somewhere between teacher and friend.