I finally got a good look inside those brick walls

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2006

Andy Damiani and I dropped in on the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy to meet the new head of the school, Shane Foster, a gentleman selected by the NSA Board of Trustees. He is an athletic man with a genuine Australian accent, not new to town as he had served seven years as Upper School headmaster.

He has more degrees, boring to read, than Carter has Little Liver Pills. Careful when you shake hands, his time participating in decathlons enables breaking fingers. I suspect students know about this.

Of course we took the Prime Media camera crew, because this was another of Andy’s Roundtable Talk Shows. You can catch it on Charter Cable 13, 10 times weekly.


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We were greeted by an attractive and pleasant staff, and the rain held up so we could shoot under the flagpole.

I learned a bit about NSA; I’ve heard it before, but never really paid attention.

They have 1,006 enrolled, with 21 percent coming from other cities. Tuition averages $8,500 and $9,440 for seniors, lower than other peer schools. Not bad when you consider grads leave equipped for continuing on to college, and last year, 100 percent did.

And consider this: over $2.5 million of merit-based scholarships were offered to the class of 2006.

I would guess the main reason for their success is a class ratio of 1-11. And they do offer need-based financial aid, about $650,000 annually.

They tell me there are 120 teachers, more than half of them with advanced degrees.

This academy is not sitting still: they just completed a $4.2 million renovation, that included a new library/media center and a new lower-school building for grades 5 to 7. I was surprised to learn they had their own set of school buses, but then I don’t get out much.

Oh yes, they just purchased 47 acres for athletic fields, but you’d expect that from a decathlon man.

This academy was founded back in 1966; grades 1 through 7, and was located in a downtown factory. It was 1970 before they picked up 50 acres on U.S. 460.

Art Jones was the first president, and he was an all American football player at the University of Richmond. He was around until 1984, when Al Barrett took control and innovated college prep.

In 1989, Dr. Doug Naismith left the Board of Trustees to become president of NSA; he served 16 years until the summer of 2005.

This is a first-class operation, and we are fortunate to have such a highly-rated academy in our city. The beautiful part of this, it’s my guess, is that such a school need not tolerate students who are not there to learn and become good citizens. What a joy this must be for the teaching staff. And I figure that a parent who can afford both local taxes and academy tuition is not about to put up with a child who won’t cut it. The graduates I have known are sharp as tacks.

Can anyone save the

Kings Highway Bridge?

I was told an engineering firm would do a complete study of the bridge underpinnings for about what it cost to construct that little fountain by the courthouse. Our Council generously contributed to that project, used once a year when our Italian friends fly from Oderzo.

I know of 4,200 people who would like to make that trip across the great water, the Nansemond, twice daily on their commute.

Surely, by now, Council members have been approached by Linda Wright, member of the now-famous Bridge Club, for the funds. Perhaps when Council gets its analysis of our financial predicament, they can squeeze out enough for the engineering cerebrate. If the findings are negative, that will kill it. If the answer is positive, the battle rages on. The osprey family on the bridge packed up and left, afraid of the unknown.