New schools dedicated

Published 10:55 pm Monday, October 1, 2018

Suffolk Public Schools held two ceremonies on Sunday afternoon to dedicate two new schools, Florence Bowser Elementary School and Col. Fred Cherry Middle School.

“This is a tremendous day for our city,” said Mayor Linda T. Johnson. “I’d like to say to all the School Board, all the city councilmen, to Dr. (Deran) Whitney and to Pat Roberts, our city manager, this is what happens when we all work together.”

Both ceremonies included family members of the schools’ namesakes, student performances and kind words from city and school representatives.


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Florence Bowser Principal Melodie Griffin reminded the large audience of the legacy of the school’s namesake and how the school will continue to strive to uphold that same legacy.

“Although the school has grown in size, it still has the same heart and passion,” Griffin said.

The new school is filled with state-of-the-art technology as well as non-technology related educational aids like the new learning stairs.

Florence Bowser Elementary is so advanced that Richmond Public Schools is looking to model new schools after the new facility, according to Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney.

“We all know that copying is the best compliment,” Whitney said.

Both Suffolk School Board Chairman Enoch Copeland and Mayor Johnson praised both the School Board and the City Council for making the decision to approve and fund the projects for the new schools.

“This is where the money should go,” Johnson said. “Today we will celebrate $60 million for our two new beautiful schools.”

The great-granddaughter of Florence Bowser, Bonita Gilchrist, spoke on behalf of the family at the ceremony.

“Florence Bowser was a community activist and she saw what the children in Nansemond County needed, and she set out to make a difference,” Gilchrist said.

The auditorium at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School was filled to the brim in the late afternoon for the second dedication ceremony of the day.

The remarks from special guests focused on Cherry’s love for Suffolk and his overwhelming determination while in the U.S. Air Force, including his nearly seven and a half years of captivity as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“Today, we welcome and invite part of his legacy to this school,” said Assistant Principal Dana Cherry-Bilby.

Among the speakers was Cmdr. Porter A Halyburton, a Navy fighter pilot who was imprisoned with Cherry during their time in Vietnam.

Halyburton recalled their time together as prisoners of war and the bond that grew between them.

“He saved my life. He was an inspiration to everyone. His life after prison was one of service and determination,” Halyburton said. “He was one of the most patriotic people I’ve ever known. I pray the students here stand for his memory.”

Both Griffin and Col. Fred Cherry Principal Dr. Shawn Green received flags for their schools as well as symbolic keys to the schools from the architecture company.