Southampton students can expect changes

Published 9:21 am Friday, August 31, 2012

Southampton County Public Schools’ new Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish is implementing changes. -- Gwen Albers | TIdewater News

COURTLAND—Expect changes from Southampton County Public Schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Alvera Parrish.

When school reopens on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the nearly 1,400 students at the four elementary schools are going from six-week to nine-week grading periods just like Southampton Middle and High schools.

Middle school students are going to a block schedule — meaning they will no longer have six, 45-minute classes daily. Students will have four, 90-minute periods, taking four classes the first semester and four different classes the second semester.

Parrish, former superintendent for Petersburg Public Schools, replaced Charles Turner, who retired in June. When Parrish took over in Petersburg two years ago, none of its seven schools were accredited by the state. By the time she left, three had earned the status, while another three reached the level for accreditation.

“We are looking at changes in the curriculum,” Parrish said about adjusting grading periods at the elementary schools. “The nine-week period is more aligned with the level of assessment that students will have to perform. We are developing a pacing guide aligned with the SOL blueprint and frame work.”

SOLs, or Standards of Learning tests, are given annually in Virginia public schools to make sure students are meeting minimum expectations in English, mathematics, science, history/social science and more.

Parrish also believes the block schedule at the middle school will help students meet those standards.

“This will give students more time to master the objective and will give teachers more time for remediation and enforcement,” she said. “At different localities, it’s been very successful.”


The school district, which employed 520 last year, will have 45 fewer workers for 2012-13.

Budget shortfalls resulted in not filling 24 positions left vacant due to retirements and resignations. Another 21 teacher and bus aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support staff were laid off.

“We’ve made some major adjustments to accommodate the individuals we lost,” Parrish said. “We’ve been working with staff. They’ve been real troopers.”

Doing more with less also has been part of professional development for teachers, staff and administrators, she added.


Southampton County Public Schools has 2,828 students enrolled this year; 2,711 were expected.

“We’ve had more people move into the county,” Parrish said.

There will be 192 students at Capron Elementary School, 268 at Meherrin Elementary, 293 at Nottoway Elementary, 629 at Riverdale Elementary, 627 at the middle school, 741 at the high school and 34 in the Fresh Start alternative high school program.


Capron Elementary School will have a new principal. Virginia Hawkins, who had been the district’s instructional specialist and school test coordinator, replaces Sandra Pettigrew, who retired after 37 years in education.

Hawkins put together a bus tour for teachers to see where their students come from.

“They were able to get off the buses, knocked on some doors and let people know about open house,” Parrish said. “It’s that out-of-the-box thinking that is very much in line with my thinking. We’re always looking to do better and improve on services we provide.”

Parrish is also working on differentiated instruction.

“You look at strategies to reach all students,” she said. “We believe all can learn. It’s something we are committed to, but we have to reach children on every level.”

Students have different learning styles, and the goal is to work with what works best for each student.