FEATURE VIDEO: Celebrating the 2016 City-Wide Teachers of the Year

April 29, 2016

Join us in celebrating our 2016 City-Wide Teachers of Year and all who teach, coach, motivate and engage.

 This video shares the teaching experiences of the 2016 Teachers of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.

Click here for the video:

The video made its debut at the 2016 Teacher of the Year Banquet, celebrating all school-level and division-level Teachers of the Year, held Thursday, April 28 at the First Lady of Suffolk.

TOY banquet_group

Virginia’s First Lady to Kick Off Teacher Appreciation Campaign at Suffolk Elementary School

April 26, 2016

The Virginia Lottery is teaming up with Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Virginia PTA in support of National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2 – 5, 2016.  The goal? To thank as many Virginia teachers as possible during a week which celebrates those who help shape the future of our children.  Visit for all the details.

Virginia’s First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe will help the Virginia Lottery introduce the campaign in Hampton Roads, which coincides with National Teacher Appreciation Week – starting at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, May 3 at Mack Benn, Jr. Elementary School. This event will be the single opportunity for South Hampton Roads and the Peninsula.


Students will be assisting the First Lady in signing a giant Thank-You card to share with teachers.  She will be joined on stage by Virginia        Lottery Executive Director Paula Otto, Suffolk Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis, and Mack Benn, Jr. Elementary          Principal David LeFevre.  Please RSVP to Jo Murphy by Friday, April 29 at


Early Start Pre-Screening Applications Now Available

March 25, 2016


Submitting this form does NOT guarantee acceptance into the program.  

Click here for Information Flyer.


  • Child must be Suffolk resident
  • Child must be 4 years of age by Sept. 30, 2016

Eligibility criteria considered includes, but not limited to:

  • Income – Family income at or below 200% of the poverty level
  • Family income is less than 350% of federal poverty guidelines in the case of students with special needs or disabilities
  • Homelessness
  • Education – Parents or guardians are school dropouts
  • Language and Development Assessment of child

You will receive an appointment date to have your child screened for the Early Start program.

Acceptance letters will be mailed the week of August 3, 2016.

NOTE:  Because Early Start classes are not located in each elementary school, school placement will be determined based on Early Start zoning. Students are not guaranteed placement in the home-zoned school.  Transportation is provided.


Kindergarten Registration – Wednesday, May 4

March 10, 2016

KINDERGARTEN Registration for 2016-17 …  Link here for 2016-17 informational brochure on Kindergarten.

NEW Local Videos in March 2015:

Spring Registration Dates:

  • Wednesday, May 4, 2016 – 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. at the school your child will attendCall secretary Keesha Hicks at 925-6759 for more information.


Enrollment Process

Students entering Kindergarten must have reached their fifth birthday on or before September 30th of the year in which they enroll.

Students must register at the school to which they are zoned before beginning classes. School attendance zones can be found using the “School Messenger” tab to the right.  A specific street number and street address must be used after you link to the SCHOOL ZONE LOCATOR. 

At the time of registration, the parent or legal guardian (proof of guardianship required) must submit two (2) proofs of residency in the City of Suffolk.  Post office boxes and drivers’ licenses are not considered proofs of residency.  Acceptable proofs of residency include, but are not limited to:

  • Utility company statement,
  • Rental lease, rental agreement, deed or mortgage contract,
  • City of Suffolk receipt for paid personal property taxes

To enroll a child in a public school division in Virginia, state law required the parent/guardian provide certain information to the school division:

    • Birth Certificate, original certificate of birth or certified copy
    • School Entrance Physical and Immunization Certificate completed by a physician. This form may be obtained from any Suffolk public school, the Suffolk City Health Department, family practice medical office, or military medical clinic
    • Immunization Record
    • Expulsion Statement, if applicable


Immunizations Required by Virginia Law

  • 4 DTP or DTaP – at least one dose after 4th birthday
  • 4 Polio – at least one dose after 4th birthday
  • 2 Measles – 1st dose on/after 12 months of age; 2nd dose prior to entering kindergarten
  • 2 Mumps – 1st on/after 12 months of age; 2nd dose prior to entering kindergarten
  • 1 Rubella – on/after 12 months of age
  • Note: Measles, Mumps, Rubella requirements are also met with 2 MMR – 1st dose on/after 12 months of age; 2nd dose prior to entering kindergarten
  • 3 Hep B – (2 doses if Merck adult formulation given between 11 – 15 years of age)
  • 2 Varicella – to susceptible children born on/after January 1, 1997; 1st dose on/after 12 months of age; 2nd dose prior to entering kindergarten


MBES selected for PBS KIDS Camp

April 12, 2016

What’s better than an afternoon snack in front of the television?  For 20 students at Mack Benn, Jr. Elementary School, it will be creating their own stories with their favorite PBS KIDS characters during this week’s Code-to-Learn After-School Camp.

These first-, second- and third-graders will be “test pilots” for a new mobile app under development by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) called “ScratchJr” – an introductory computer programming language that enables young children to create their own interactive stories and games.

Using characters from Peg+Cat, The Kratt Brothers, and Word Girl, children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. According to the website, children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves — then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.

PBS was awarded a grant by the Verizon Foundation to help educate students and teachers about integrating computer coding into the classroom. WHRO was selected to receive funds from that grant to pilot this training, and will provide the instruction and bring its traveling iPad lab so each student will have hands-on access to the technology.

At this week’s camp, the five-day sequence of activities will use both digital and physical activities to teach children about computer coding. The students will progress from basic knowledge to more advanced programming skills over the course of the five days.  A national research firm will be on-site to evaluate the camp.

In addition to the camp for children, WHRO will host professional development coding camps this summer for elementary teachers as part of this grant.  Details on that opportunity will be available later this spring.

Developers explained on their website why they created ScratchJr:  “Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing. As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just to interact with it. In the process, children learn to solve problems and design projects, and they develop sequencing skills that are foundational for later academic success. They also use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood

numeracy and literacy. With ScratchJr, children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.”  The PBS KIDS ScratchJr app is available free through the App Store.

For more information, contact Angie Callahan, WHRO Director of Children’s Services, at (757) 889-9407 or

United For Children – Community Update

April 8, 2016

Suffolk Public Schools and United Way of South Hampton Roads recently shared a Report to the Community about the Suffolk United for Children program.

In the summer of 2015, United for Children was instrumental in expanding elementary summer school. The program was named LEAP – Learning & Enrichment for Academic Progress.

The attached report shares how LEAP students benefited from the new approach to summer school.

It also describes a new look for middle school summer school which will start this summer (2016).  The program is named LAUNCH — Leading, Achieving, Unleashing, Navigating & Creating through a Healthy Lifestyle.

For more information, contact Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis at (757) 925-6760.

Click here for a PDF of the 36-slide presentation.

United For Children - March 2016 presentation - LEAP and LAUNCH_Page_01



2016 City-Wide Teachers of the Year Announced

March 24, 2016

Congratulations to Michele Waggoner, Suffolk Public Schools’ 2016 City-Wide Teacher of the Year, who serves as the library media specialist at Oakland Elementary School.

Kudos too to Tracy Halvorson of John Yeates Middle School, named Middle School Teacher of the Year … Ariane Williams of Lakeland High School, named High School Teacher of the Year … and Cierra French of Elephant’s Fork Elementary as Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Now in her 20th year of teaching, Waggoner is known for her innovation, creativity, enthusiasm, and outstanding work ethic.

City Wide_Michele Waggoner

Waggoner has worked with all grade levels as a school librarian for nine years, and previously was a first- and second-grade classroom teacher.  The Oakland Elementary School library is more than just a place to check out books.  Waggoner has created a space where students develop hands-on projects and regularly use drama, music, and art in weekly resource lessons.

This top teacher shared her approach in encouraging life-long lovers of reading: “I believe reading is the key to success in all academic areas. Knowing all children are different and come with various strengths and weaknesses, my goal is to create a positive learning environment where students can feel safe taking risks.  A student’s love and excitement about reading is contagious!”

As part of the school’s resource team, Waggoner works with the music, art and physical education teachers to create unique grade-level learning experiences through special day-long celebrations, where students have fun with SOL-related and real-world activities.  Early Start preschoolers have a Shapes & Colors Fair. Kindergarten students have Five Senses Day. First-graders have Patriotic Day. Second-graders have China Day or Egypt Day. Third-graders have Greek Celebritas. Fourth-graders have Colonial Days. Fifth-graders have Civil War Days. These special days culminate several weeks of classroom lessons on the topic, and they include a fun activity in the music room, the art room, the gym, and the library.  For example, Waggoner’s library activities include first-graders learning about Benjamin Franklin’s printing press, and then creating their own books with paper, paint, and stamps. Fourth-graders read “Stone Soup” and then create their own soup to share with apple cider and pie. Fifth-graders read about Civil War soldiers, and then taste beef jerky, dried fruit, hard tack, gingerbread and peanuts.

Waggoner has also been successful in securing grant funding to supplement the library book collection.  In the past nine years, she has increased the number of books from 5,200 to 7,600 and updated the average copyright date from 1983 to 2003.

She believes family engagement is crucial to student success in school, and she encourages regular communication with parents, interactive homework assignments to encourage teamwork at home, and volunteer opportunities at school to provide parents the chance to be part of their child’s day.  At Oakland, she coordinates the school’s partners-in-education program, its Volunteer Connect program, career days, book fairs, and many PTA events.

Principal Temesha Dabney said she sees “the dedication and commitment Ms. Waggoner has for all students, staff and families. She continually works to ensure she only gives our students the best. Throughout teaching and modeling the importance of reading, her hope is that students will gain an interest and passion for reading.”

Oakland music teacher Rena Long added that Wagonner “is extremely dedicated to teaching the whole student. Her concern for her students’ learning and well-being surpasses that or the average teacher-student relationship.” Part of that unique connection is that resource teachers get to know students as they grow up and advance through the grade levels – often for six years from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Wagonner earned her bachelor’s degree from Christopher Newport University and her two master’s degrees from Old Dominion University.

JY_Tracy Halvorson

Tracy Halvorson, a social studies teacher at John Yeates Middle School, has been named the 2016 Middle School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.  This year, she is teaching both sixth-grade history and seventh-grade civics and economics.

In the classroom for 12 years, Halvorson is known for her dedication to students and her willingness to step up to a challenge.  Principal Daniel O’Leary praised Halvorson for agreeing to start teaching seventh-grade civics as well as sixth-grade history this year.  Students in civics must take a state SOL assessment, and their performance accounts for the entire social studies portion of the school’s accreditation status.

Halvorson explained her teaching philosophy:  “I believe a good teacher most importantly should be confident in what she is doing, should be someone all children can look to as a good role model, should have the ability to relate to students, and not only teach them, but inspire them. I believe education is a treasure – a treasure that should be freely accessible to everyone. Teachers should develop classrooms that practice fairness, trust and equality. Students need a sense of community in the classroom in order to feel more confident about their work and to be in a comfortable atmosphere for learning.”

Outside of the classroom, Halvorson organizes the school’s United Way student campaign, and she supports the school’s team to raise money for the March of Dimes and Relay for Life.  She said as a civics teacher, she wants to model civic responsibility and giving back to the community.

Halvorson earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Longwood University, and her master’s degree from Old Dominion University.


LHS_Ariane WilliamsAriane Williams has been named the 2016 High School Teacher of the Year for Suffolk Public Schools.  A 14-year classroom veteran, she teaches English at Lakeland High School.

She has been applauded by her colleagues as diligent, thoughtful and gracious. This year, Williams stepped forward as senior class sponsor.  Principal Douglas Wagoner said “the patience she demonstrates is sincere but always limited by appropriate boundaries. Her blend of love and toughness reaches her students and creates an environment where students can and do learn.”

Williams shared in her application:  “I believe that building a great rapport with my students and parents means I must have an open line of communication. I must be willing to make adjustments. I must be willing to listen. Although my classroom is firm, there is a sense of freedom in my class that gives students the room to learn from their own mistakes, accept responsibility, make wise decisions, and monitor their own growth.”

Outside of school, Williams is active in her church’s mission work, drama team, and praise dance.  She is a published author of the book “Images of Destiny.”  The senior pastor at Restoration Christian Church said she “possesses remarkable versatility in that she can transition from instructing teens and children, to providing insightful teaching to adult leaders as well.”

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University, and her master’s degree from Norfolk State University.


EF_ROOKIE_Cierra French

Congratulations to Cierra French, a fourth-grade teacher at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, who has been named the 2016 City-Wide Rookie Teacher of the Year.

She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Meredith College.

More information coming soon.