The Southampton Spotlight
Dear Southampton Students, Parents, Staff, and Community Members:
In this edition of the Southampton Spotlight, we will highlight how our students continue gaining momentum in their academic and personal lives. Our students are taking on new challenges by participating in spelling bees, winning auto races, learning entrepreneurship skills, learning how to swim on the Southampton County Public Schools’ swim team, and much more! Our administrators, educators, and staff continue to support students while challenging them to reach their potential. Southampton County Public Schools’ Division is more than a school district; we are a loving family.
February is often affiliated as a month to exhibit acts of love and kindness in the spirit of love. Our school community will participate in World Kindness Day on February 17, 2023. World Kindness Day promotes random acts of gratitude and positivity. As a community, we can extend more love to each other by showing appreciation for one another; each one reaches one. One act of goodwill can make a difference in someone’s life. I invite you to celebrate World Kindness Day with us.
Make Everyday a Great Day!
Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon
Did you know that all district work revolves around our six major Division Goals? Our six goals are as follows:
GOAL 1: Expand Learning Opportunities and Increase Student Achievement
GOAL 2: Expand Our Safe and Healthy School Culture and Climate
GOAL 3: Expand Professional Training and Improved Employee Retention
GOAL 4: Expand Community and Parental Partnerships
GOAL 5: Expand Capital Improvement Efforts and Acquire More Fiscal Resources
GOAL 6: Expand Opportunities to Make School More Equitable for All Students
By focusing on these six goals, we can make learning M.A.G.I.C.A.L.! Look for a "Magical" section in each Southampton Spotlight that focuses on one of these areas, as tied to our Division Goals.
Meet Southampton County Public Schools’ First Swim Club : SOCO H2O
Written By: Wilhelmine "Willow" Bellevue
"Keep going, don't stop! Give me 100 laps," the swim coach yelled.
The girls on the swim club feverishly went from one end of the pool to the other at the sound of their coach's command. The water leaped, splashed, and surged around them as they swam.
The swim coach was Amy Jiggetts. She smiled and stated, "They [the swimmers] couldn't do 25 continuous laps when they first started. They would find ways around completing their laps. They would stop and fix their goggles or fix their hair. Now, they do not freak out when I say, 'Give me 100 laps’."
Jiggetts is the bookkeeper at Riverdale Elementary School, but most importantly, Jiggetts is Southampton County Public Schools' first swim coach. As an avid swimmer, Jiggetts noticed that the school district did not have a swim club. She wanted to share her passion for swimming with Southampton County Public Schools’ students and her own children.
"Over a year ago, I started thinking of my children, my past experiences in swimming, and my expertise in swimming, and then, I pitched the idea [of starting a swim club] to Dr. Shannon," Jiggetts said.
Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon is the Superintendent of Southampton County Public Schools. With Dr. Shannon's support, Jiggetts reached out to the James L. Camp Jr. Family YMCA to gain access to their pool.
"The YMCA gave me two lanes, Monday through Thursday. They let us use their swimming equipment [such as paddles and weights]. They are great," Jiggetts said.
Currently, Jiggetts has seven athletes in her club: six girls and one boy. Two out of the seven kids are Jiggetts' children. The group ranges in grade levels from 7th to 12th grade. Recruiting swimmers to the team was a minor hurdle for Jiggetts. Teaching some kids how to swim was one of Jiggetts' biggest obstacles.
"I taught two of the kids how to swim. During the first practice, they were paddling across the pool. Now, they can swim underwater. The others were self-taught swimmers. I am teaching them how to glide with the water and not fight with the water. There are a lot of regulations and rules regarding swimming. If they were to compete now, they would get disqualified, but they all are coming along. They have heart," Jiggetts shared.
Jiggetts named the team SOCO H2O. "SOCO stands for Southampton County. H2O stands for water. Our team is in the water," Jiggetts explained.
Robbie Lynn Phippins, a 7th-grade Southampton Middle School student, is one of the swimmers on the SOCO H2O team. Phippins is affectionately called "Ms. Robbie" as she is an all-around athlete in the Southampton community. Phippins stated she desired to master swimming as a sport.
"My speed now is 50 seconds. My goal is to get across the pool in 30 seconds. Over three weeks, Ms. Amy has taken me a long way. My teammates are also very motivational. Every day, I tell Ms. Amy how thankful I am to her for bringing this [the swim club] to our schools because we've never had this before. I am so proud of her!" Phippins said.
Jiggetts plans to focus on building the kid's confidence and teaching them swimming techniques till the end of the season.
"They are not ready to compete now. Our goal is to compete in meets with Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News next year. The faster they learn techniques, the easier swimming will be for them. I am currently teaching them the freestyle stroke and the breaststroke. I will teach them the backstroke and the butterfly stroke next. The butterfly stroke is the hardest one to learn," Jiggetts said.
According to the SportsKeeda website, the different strokes used in Olympic swimming are freestyle, breaststroke, back, and butterfly stroke. The freestyle stroke is known as the “front crawl”; it enables the swimmers to glide fast on the water’s surface. The breaststroke is slower than the freestyle stroke. This technique does not permit the swimmers to move their torso while swimming on their chest. Swimmers can glide on their backs with the backstroke while experiencing the ease of breathing. Lastly, the butterfly stroke requires more muscle control as swimmers swim face down while moving their arms and kicking their feet like a butterfly.
Jiggetts' daughter, Lily Jiggetts, is a 10th grader at Southampton High School. Jiggetts [Lily] has high hopes for herself and her teammates, "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want our team to win championships. It's going to take a lot, but we can do it," she said, hopefully.
The SOCO H2O club is determined to make their coach proud. More importantly, they have grown as a club and as individuals.
Swimming fosters the most team comradery out of any sport. It's like a relay, the fastest wins, but they have the responsibility of passing the baton to each other," Jiggetts stated.
If you would like to sign up your child for the swim club next calendar year or would like to learn more about the swim club, please contact
Mrs. Amy Jiggetts at email@example.com
Capron Elementary School Students Learn About Jamestown
Written By: Kathy Thompson
Fourth grade students in Mrs. McGee's Virginia Studies class recently completed an activity called "Invest in Jamestown Poster Project." The exercise focused on the Jamestown Colony's economic foundation and financial interests. Students pretended to live in 1607 and tried to get investors to settle in Jamestown. For example, they used persuasion techniques to make Jamestown sound like a great place to start a business, make money, and have a good life. The learners also designed advertisement posters to attract people from Europe to Jamestown. The posters featured catchy slogans and historically accurate information. Later, the students presented their posters to their classmates. It was an interesting way to learn and share educational information about Jamestown while covering the Virginia Studies Standards of Learning objectives.
Southampton High School Students Bond with Guardians and Cops
Written By: Wilhelmine “Willow” Bellevue
Southampton High School (SHS) welcomed the holiday season with three days of sweet treats for moms, dads, and police officers. Tuesday, December 6, featured Muffins for Moms, followed by Coffee for Cops on Wednesday. Lastly, SHS hosted Doughnuts for Dads on Thursday, December 8. According to Principal Dr. MeChelle Blunt, it was the first year the school held all three events, which aimed to kick off the holiday spirit by promoting healthy relationships and providing an opportunity for students to spend quality time with adults.
“We want parents to feel welcome in the schoolhouse. We want parents to come into the schoolhouse for positive things. It sets the tone for the holiday season,” said Dr. Blunt. “Our police department has been a visible presence at our games and schools. We want students to know that [the officers are here for us]. The students have never had this before. They get to eat, take pictures, and ask the officers questions.”
Dr. Blunt and her staff decorated the cafeteria with holiday-themed decor, including red and green tablecloths with delicate gold details and trimming. To help set the mood, an adult staff member served as DJ, playing old and new holiday tunes throughout the day. The event also featured delicious food, including a coffee and apple cider station and a dessert station layered with cupcakes, muffins, and doughnuts. Gift bags for the special guests encircled the special treats. The moms were given a pocket mirror, a candy bag, and other practical goodies such as hats, hand sanitizer, and body care products. The dads also received useful items like screws, pliers, sweets, and socks. Though each group of special guests celebrated separately, every day focused on what matters most: quality bonding.
Each event featured a fun holiday activity for the kids to enjoy with their guardians. The mom’s customized ornament station consisted of balls, detergent, glue guns, glitter, and other fancy decorative materials. In contrast, the dad’s station had socks, dry beans, wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, cotton, colorful adhesive fabric, and rubber bands. As they decorated their ornaments, it was clear that the moms, dads, guardians, and children all cherished their sacred time together—not a single person was on their phone.
Jennifer Talbott, the mother of Trinity Talbott, spoke warmly of the event. “We usually pick out a new ornament each year, and now we get to make an ornament here,” she said. “This is going to be a special memory to have. The school is doing a great job. I am glad they have this for parents.”
During the event, it seemed as if the students were kids again, not mature young adults. Some students hugged their guardians, others held their hands, and many giggled with childlike glee. The body language of the students and their parents spoke, “I love you.”
One dad shared, “I enjoy spending time together; this is a rare moment. We do not have time to do this at home when we are at home. He is doing his thing, and I am doing my thing.”
At the end of Muffins for Mom and Doughnuts for Dads, SHS Counselor Ashley Card provided parents with resources for career readiness skills, grief counseling, and mental counseling.
“Parents do the best they can. The parents need to know that we are here to support them,” said Card. “With the holidays, we want to make sure we can address the emotional needs of the families as well as their social needs. For some families, this may be their only holiday activity.”
Bonding and safety were recurring themes at all three events. The presence of the deputies from the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office undoubtedly provided comfort and security to the students. One student said, “I am glad the cops came out here. I had questions regarding life issues, and I needed direction. The officers were helpful when they spoke with me.”
The officers attended in rotation; every 20 minutes, a group of officers would relieve those stationed at the cafeteria. Many already knew the students as they called them by name, gave out high-fives, and asked them earnestly how they were doing. The students took pictures with the officers, and some even asked them hard questions. Sheriff Josh Wyche also attended and engaged students in conversation.
“This means a lot to me because of the fellowship with students,” said Sergeant Jovan Stith. “Society offers a lot of negative stigmas on those who work in public safety. Sometimes we need these environments [ like Cupcakes with Cops] to promote a better relationship between law enforcement and the public. We always have pleasant interactions with students; we go to their football games, basketball, and anything the school has.”
Thanks to the festivities at SHS, students and guardians strengthened their bonds and brought the holiday cheer. Though we live in an era where anything can be caught on camera in seconds, the memories created this month will be captured in the participants’ hearts for a lifetime.
Charity Becomes Championship Racer
Written By: Alfred S. Charity
Sherod Charity finished the 2021 karting season with a six-hour race in West Virginia. His free-agent team finished 10th out of 20 teams and 4th place in the rookie class, one step off the podium. He also completed a two-hour solo karting event at Virginia International Raceway, finishing 7th out of the 18 teams that entered.
Sherod became a Hampton Roads Kart Club member in March 2022 and started racing at Langley Speedway in April 2022. His grandfather, Herman A. Charity, purchased his Arrows X3 LO206 go-kart for him. Tommy Jeter, Phillip Pearson, and Chris McCoy, owner of Endurance Karting, have also been a big part of Sherod's development as a racer. Sherod was asked to join an established team that ran the northern schedule. He competed in the Fall Racing 6-hour Classic at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and helped the team secure 2nd place for the season. He also had the fastest lap of any team member. One of his teammates, another 13-year-old, has a Porsche sponsorship and has tested various race cars. Though Sherod hopes to earn his own sponsorship one day, he has already made others take notice of his talent and earned their respect.
After driving back from the race, Sherod competed at Langley Speedway Sunday morning after a nine-hour ride and only three hours of sleep. He was the number one qualifier in TAG and won his race. Sherod finished the season in 4th place TAG after entering just over half of the races. He finished 4th overall in LO206 in a stacked field of competitors.
The last outdoor race was in Jacksonville, FL, on December 3, 2022. Quadrant Racing finished 12th overall but 1st in the rookie class. The Quadrant Racing Team is the National Champions for Endurance Karting Championship (rookie class). Sherod also started competing in the Teen Cup League in May 2022 at K1 Speed in Richmond, VA. Sherod has won five times, placed 2nd once, and 4th once. The last race was December 6, and even though he did not make the podium, he had enough points to be crowned the Teen Cup Champion of K1 Speed in Virginia. That will add to his accomplishments as a member of the Southern Division Championship team and the overall National Championship Team (rookie class).
Your financial support has allowed Sherod to race and bring home three karting championships to the Franklin, Southampton County, and Greensville County areas. Next year he hopes to race at Daytona, Pittsburg, New Jersey, and Chicago and compete in a one-off money race at Go Pro Motorplex. If you would like to sponsor Sherod's racing endeavors, please contact Alfred S. Charity at firstname.lastname@example.org. In honor of Herman A. Charity, my father and Sherod's grandfather, the team name he will race under next year will be Herman Charity Racing.
Southampton Middle School Holds a Spelling Bee Contest
Written By: Wilhelmine "Willow" Bellevue
On Wednesday, January 11, Southampton Middle School held a school-wide spelling bee and crowned eighth- grader Ivy O’Neil as the Southampton Middle School spelling bee champion. O’Neil will compete in the regional spelling bee contest in Norfolk, Virginia. WHRO Public Media is a sponsor of the regional competition for the Scripps National Spelling Bee (SNSB). SNSB started in 1925 when newspapers collaborated to create a spelling bee; since then, 11 million students have participated in spelling bees. SNSB competition entails the school’s first hosting a spelling bee in their classrooms before advancing students to a regional round. The winner of the regional competition moves to the national finals. According to Southampton Middle School Principal Billy Jenkins, it had been years since the school held a school-wide spelling bee. However, the school registered for the Scripps National Spelling Bee (SNSB) this year.
Southampton Middle School started the first phase of the spelling bee in early January. Ten students from each grade, 30 students total, were identified as classroom champions and qualified to compete in the school-wide spelling bee. At 9:00 am on January 11, the classroom spelling bee champions trickled into the school’s auditorium and took their seats on the stage. Each student was assigned a number and sat on the red chairs, which indicated their number. Though 30 students qualified to compete, 28 students participated. Before starting the spelling bee, the district’s Stem Innovation Specialist, Rachel Boag, read and thoroughly explained the SNSB rules to the contestants. Boag’s calm and reassuring voice eased the anxiety of the contestants.
As the silence grew, one of the students waved from the stage and said, “Hi, Dr. White!” Dr. Tonica White smiled and waved back to the student. Dr. White, Southampton Middle School’s 6th-grade principal, was also one of the judges for that day. The Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Kelli Gillette, was a judge as well. The district’s Curriculum Specialist, Raechelle Doyle, served as the pronouncer, the official who read out words to the contestants. Doyle also informed the contestants whether or not their spelling was correct. The students went up to the stage as Doyle called their numbers; the students thoughtfully spelled their words. Those eliminated sat in the audience with the teachers, parents, and principals. Among those who were rooting for the contestants was the district’s Superintendent, Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon. Dr. Shannon and the audience members were visibly proud of the students. Students who were eliminated also cheered for those who were still contending.
When the last round came, O’Neil was the only one standing, the word she was given to spell was “deviation”. There were two possible outcomes; if O’Neil spelled the word correctly, she would be crowned the school’s spelling bee champion, which was what occurred. If O’Neil misspelled the word, then school-wide competition would start over again, bringing all those who were eliminated from the previous round onto the stage.
Southampton Middle School’s Teacher of the Year and Language Arts Teacher, JamieElliott, organized the school-wide spelling event and was among those in the audience. She overflowed with joy as she congratulated Ivy and took pictures of her. Like Boag, Elliot is passionate about spelling.
“I loved spelling, and I was good at it! So, when Dr. White came to me and asked me to spearhead the spelling bee, it was up my alley,” Elliott stated.
O’Neil beamed with gladness and seemed relieved at the same time. “I feel great! I wasn’t sure if I was going to win. I just focused on spelling the words correctly,” O’Neil shared.
The middle school teachers prepared their students by giving them a list of words to study. In conjunction with the list provided to her, O’Neil shared that she created a fill-in-the-blank study sheet for herself and downloaded the Scripps National Spelling Bee app. She also looked up the definitions of the words and typed the words, which further helped her to commit them to memory.
This may not be the last time the students engage in a spelling bee at the SMS. According to Elliot, the students have been asking her to continue with spelling bee competitions.
“They have been asking to do it again. I was surprised by how serious they were about it and how actively they studied. I am sure we can do this [spelling bee] as a club in the future.”
O’Neil already has a plan of action for the regional competition and is looking forward to challenging herself to learn more words.
“This was a good opportunity and event. Even if it [ the competition] does not matter academically, I will do my best,” O’Neil said proudly.
Meherrin Elementary School Students Perform Surgery
Written By: Lynn Varian
The students of Mrs. Stacy Barnes’ fourth grade language arts class at Meherrin Elementary (MES) School have been busy learning about text features by creatively conducting surgery. The students had to search through magazines and other written works to search for items on their list of text features. The students then “stitched” the written pieces onto their patients with band-aids and glue. This lesson was enhanced by one of MES’s room transformation kits prepared and maintained by Ms. Sledge and Mrs. Barnes for the whole school to use and reuse! Keep up the great work, fourth grade, and kudos to Mrs. Barnes for making learning interactive and fun.
Riverdale Elementary School Co-Principals and Staff Host Frosty Shop
Written By: Wilhelmine " Willow" Bellevue
For many, holiday shopping can be a stressful experience. The uncertainty of what to get loved ones while staying within a budget can further add to one’s stress. What would that look like if you could create a simple shopping experience? Imagine you are in a shopper’s paradise: Shopping at your favorite store. You have a personal shopper. Your shopper has your list of who you are shopping for and checks off the list as you both acquire gifts. The lines are short, and your shopper gift wraps your items at the end of your shopping experience.
The Riverdale Elementary School students experienced this ideal shopping experience at their Frosty Shop from December 5th through December 9th. All the students at Riverdale Elementary School attended Frosty Shop during their resource periods. Co-Principals Tamee Railey and Kisha Watford transformed one of the vacant spaces into a dazzling retail store.
Store items were laid out and categorized as the following:
• Gifts for mom and dad
• Gifts for grandparents
• Gifts for siblings
• Gifts for teachers and loved ones
• Gifts for pets
There was also a waiting area where students could sit and watch movies while waiting their turn to shop. Once students were called to the front of the store to shop, they were escorted by a principal or staff member as they browsed through items. The adults held each student’s pre-paid registration form as they assisted the shoppers. Before attending the Frosty Shop, guardians had to submit payment and indicate on the record how much students could spend. The registration also provided a budget for how much students can spend per loved one. The registration form allowed the students to shop while enabling their guardians to control how much they could spend independently.
According to Railey and Watford, every student can attend the Frosty Shop at least once a week. Students whose families could not afford the Frosty Shop were still allowed to shop. The staff members and the principals of Riverdale Elementary School were committed to creating positive holiday memories and an ideal shopping scenario for their students.
Senior Spotlight: Jason Owen
Written By: Jason Owen
At long last, my senior year has finally arrived! I figured it would be my slowest year in high school, but to my surprise, it is passing by quickly. I am a few months away from walking across the stage. I have been waiting for this moment all my life. I will be done with homework assignments, classwork projects, and tests. I can now focus on my work life. I will finally be able to make more money! However, I also realize that I will no longer have a daily school routine. I will no longer be riding the bus. I will no longer see the friends that I made over the years. Lastly, I will no longer see my teachers again. I am concerned about the future since I will enter a new life chapter. I have so many unanswered questions like, how do I pay bills? Will I have to rent? Is adult life better than life as a high school student? What will it hold? What will I accomplish? What will I decide to do for the rest of my life? I have a lot to consider and plan. Overall, I am happy that I will finally be graduating from high school, though it is bittersweet.
Nottoway Elementary School's 12 Days of Festivities
Written By: Wilhelmine "Willow" Bellevue
Nottoway Elementary School’s (NES) Principal, Susan Melbye, celebrated her staff by creating a 12 Days of Winter Wonderland theme for her team. The other Southampton County Public Schools have also recognized their staff by hosting holiday socials or treating them to a special dinner. On the other hand, Melbye's staff voted to have their annual twelve days of festivities. From December 1st through December 16th, the Nottoway staff received a treat from Melbye every day. Melbye created fun themes such as Workout Wednesday, Pajama Day, and Flannel Day. She also bought them donuts, fancy cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate bars, and mug cakes, where staff bring their mugs, and Melbye fills them up with a specialty cake. The 12 days of Winter Wonderland also included competitions such as the ugly sweater contest and a baking contest.
“I have been doing this since 2017. My staff loves this! My teachers stated they like getting a little something every day to help them get through the craziness of December. I give them a calendar of what I am doing. Everything is not monetized. Melbye shared how she appreciated the familial embrace she has received from Southampton County Public Schools (SCPS).
“I started teaching at Southampton High School (SHS) in 2008. When I got there, the principal at the time said, ‘Welcome to the family!’ And it is a family at Southampton County Public Schools. I want the teachers to know that they have a principal who truly cares about them,” Melbye stated.
The indoor snowball fight is the highlight of Melbye’s twelve days of festivities. The
snowball fight is an annual tradition regardless of that year’s theme. With the indoor snowball fight, each staff member writes their name on a sheet of paper and then crumbles the paper into a snowball. Next, the staff form a circle, and then on the count of three, they throw their snowball into the ring. Each staff member then picks up a snowball and writes thoughtful words about the person whose name is on the paper. This is done a few times, and at the end of the snowball fight, staff members retrieve their snowballs and keep them.
Normally, Melbye would give her staff their gift on the last day of the celebration, but this year, she gave them their gifts early. “Each year, I give them a gift. This year, I gifted them with beanies (knitted hats) because of how cold it has been. I try to give them things they would not get for themselves.” Melbye said.
Though Melbye celebrates twelve days of holiday cheer with her staff, it is evident that her goal is to provide them with a feeling of warmth and gratitude all year round.
Summer Session 2023 Course Registration
Course Registration Opens March 1
Online learning is possible all year—even in the summer! Virtual Virginia’s Summer Session offers online instruction for grades 6–12 and online enrichment instruction for grades K-5.
Please see the below session dates:
Grades K–5 Enrichment, Cohort 1
(Computer Science and Arts & Crafts)
Instruction: June 5–9
Enrollment: March 1—June 2
Grades K–5 Enrichment, Cohort 2
(ASL, German, and Japanese)
Instruction: June 12–16
Enrollment: March 1—June 9
Grades K–5 Enrichment, Cohort 3
(Chinese, French, and Spanish)
Instruction: June 26–30
Enrollment: March 1—June 23
Grades K–5 Enrichment, Cohort 4
Instruction: July 10–14
Enrollment: March 1—June 23
Grades 6–12, Cohort 1
Instruction: June 6—July 17
Enrollment: March 1—June 6
Grades 6–12, Cohort 2
Instruction: June 20—July 28
Enrollment: March 1—June 21
For additional information about Summer Session 2023 course offerings, enrollment, and more, visit: https://virtualvirginia.org/summer/ . If you have questions about Summer Session, please contact the VVA Main Office at email@example.com .
The mission of the Southampton County Public Schools is through the combined efforts of staff, students, families, and the community we will ensure a quality education in a safe environment that will prepare students to be successful learners and productive citizens
in an ever-changing society.
The vision of Southampton County Public Schools is that all students will be successful, productive, lifelong learners in an ever-changing world.