Homegrown in SPS

Published 9:23 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When Anthonette Ward saw the opportunity to come home and work for the school division that helped mold her into the person she is, she jumped at the opportunity.

And now, just over two weeks into her new job with Suffolk Public Schools as its new community engagement officer, Ward, 28, who went to Elephant’s Fork Elementary and King’s Fork Middle schools before graduating from King’s Fork High School, is filled with excitement about her new job and the opportunities it presents for her.

“It does speak to the foundation of the school system,” Ward said. “It speaks to the commitment of the teachers, the dedication the teachers have, because as they remember me, there are select teachers that I remember as well for their engagement, how hands on they were with us in class, how a lot of teachers were involved in our personal lives. … They cared to be involved.”

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At Virginia Commonwealth University, where early on she switched majors from forensic science to communications, she recalled bragging about her education at King’s Fork High School.

“I always carried a sense of pride,” Ward said. “Even now, with me being from King’s Fork High School, just being from the King’s Fork community in general, my friends know that.”

At VCU, she got involved in various student groups, taking on roles in public relations, social media and other communications, and found that she liked it. After graduating VCU in 2013, she moved to New York for an internship in a public relations and marketing agency. About five months later, she took a job at The KBD Group, a marketing agency in Norfolk, and worked there for about a year and a half before moving to Geico as a customer service representative, working there for just under four years before coming to Suffolk Public Schools.

She said it has not been a difficult transition for her from her previous work, despite being learning all of the nuances and job responsibilities. One of the big takeaways from her previous work at Geico was being solution-focused, something that translates well to her current role.

“I feel like the more than I’m exposed to different things, and of course, getting out in the community and really going out to the different organizations, meeting people, going into the different schools, having those conversations, is going to help with that,” she said.

For instance, she had not been to a School Board meeting until this month. Still, she stepped in comfortably during her first meeting Jan. 9, helping with the presentations to recognize former board member, the late Lorraine B. Skeeter, as well as Ward’s predecessor, Bethanne Bradshaw, who worked for the school division for 32 years before her recent retirement. She also presented the division’s Good News Report, highlighting things happening in the division’s schools.

Ward has been thankful for the help from Bradshaw, as the two have been meeting regularly to talk about the different aspects of the job responsibilities. She said her predecessor has allowed her not to feel overwhelmed in her responsibilities.

“She prepared me for a lot of things,” Ward said.

While Ward has been getting much help from Bradshaw, she’s soaking in everything from the rest of the administrative team in the division, including new Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III. Ward noted that in her interview for the job, a lot of what she said, unbeknownst to her at the time, aligned with what Gordon’s vision for the school division.

“Everyone in the building is all on that same mission of building the best SPS,” Ward said. “Dr. Gordon literally says, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ and everyone’s like, ‘OK, this is what we’re doing and this is how we’re going to get it done.’ Everyone has that same drive.”

Ward still has a connection to her former schools, with her younger brother at King’s Fork Middle School and a younger sister across the road at King’s Fork High School. Another younger brother graduated from King’s Fork High School two years ago.

With the family ties, her familiarity with the city and the division and her excitement to make her mark in her new role, she believes she’s in the right place at the right time in her career.

“Everything,” Ward said, “worked out (and) aligned perfectly.”