From the Desk of Dr. Joseph Cox, Jr.
Superintendent of Colonial Heights City Schools
Published in the Colonial Heights Patriot, Sunday, October 26, 2003


I had the good fortune of attending North Elementary, Colonial Heights Junior (now Middle) School and Colonial Heights High School, graduating in 1972. After attending Atlantic Christian College and completing requirements to be a teacher, I returned to Colonial Heights where I was hired to teach 7th and 8th grade at Colonial Heights Junior High School.

What a great life that was! To teach history, always my favorite subject, for nine years. From 1976-1985, I taught Virginia History, United States History, and Civics. At Colonial Heights High School, I had the opportunity to teach United States History and Government for a year. It is always a thrill to hear from former students.

I have always been fascinated by the history of Colonial Heights, in particular the history of our schools. My mother, Margaret Cox, taught at Colonial Heights High School for many years, so in a sense I "grew up" in the school division in a way that most do not. My father, Joseph Cox, Sr. was very good about taking me to sporting events from the early 1960's on. I was thus able to avidly follow Colonial Heights sports from a very early age.

Through my mom, I was able to meet, at an early age, many outstanding professional educators who not only became role models and positively influenced my career, but to witness first hand the many contributions that they made. This outstanding group of educators have made Colonial Heights Schools an on-going teaching and learning organization that many others seek to emulate.

Success does not automatically breed future success. Indeed, it requires the hard work, attention to detail and commitment to excellence of many over a period of years, to achieve success. It takes that same dedication to maintain the expectations, standards and rigor required to remain successful. In an ever changing city and region and with a "new" layer of federal testing mandated by No Child Left Behind, that task becomes more complex and difficult with every passing day.

When parents with children are asked, "Why did you move to Colonial Heights?" you typically hear a common response..."because of the schools and the educational opportunities available here." I join the school board, our many community partners, parents, teachers, staff members, administrators and students who work hard to be certain that this response will resonate with the same clarity as a new generation of Colonials passes through our schools.

From "Whence We Came"

I believe it is always important to acknowledge the contributions of those that have come before us. The Colonial Heights Colonials Hall of Fame is an example of this. We have recognized three outstanding teams for their accomplishments. Their pictures and a record of their singular feats are now showcased at our high school for all to see. Their example provides us with successful role models of accomplishment and inspires us to achieve.

The staff of the Colonial Heights Patriot have asked me to contribute columns during the course of the school year. What I have proposed, is to submit a series of articles that, in part, chronicle the History of Colonial Heights City Schools, to be followed by a second series of pieces on Early Pioneers of the Colonial Heights City Schools. This series would include some of our early, significant educational pioneers as a way to acknowledge their contributions.

For those of you who are recent arrivals to our great city, it is hoped that this will be a "point of reference" in understanding our history and tradition. For those of you who were "raised" here and went to or have worked in Colonial Heights Schools, it is hoped that this series will provide a nostalgic journey into the past. Above all, it is hoped that this will inspire us to appreciate our history and to never, ever take "what we have for granted."

Finally, for any interested readers who have pictures, newspaper articles, artifacts, or other interesting information about any of our schools or early educational pioneers that you are willing to loan or donate, please contact me at the Colonial Heights School Administration Building at 524-3400 or send to 512 Boulevard, Colonial Heights, 23834 (Attention: CH Artifacts)

A Brief History of Education in Colonial Heights By Flora M. Hill

When one thinks of early educational pioneers in Colonial Heights, Miss Flora M. Hill, immediately comes to mind. As principal of Flora M. Hill School from 1925-1962, Miss Hill had a significant influence on many generations of students who came under her tutelage and guidance. Her outstanding career and many significant contributions will be detailed in a future article.

What better first installment in this series than from the pen of Miss Flora M. Hill herself. In 1962, Miss Hill wrote, A Brief History of Education in Colonial Heights, that gives us a wonderful historical summary from the years 1642-1962.

My thanks to Bruce Hansen and the Colonial Heights Public Library, for a wealth of material that captures this early period.

And now, Miss Flora M. Hill...

A Brief History of Education in Colonial Heights
By Flora M. Hill (1962)

In the past decade the Colonial Heights School system has grown from a combined school system with Chesterfield County with a single elementary school to a separate school division with two elementary schools, a junior high school, and a senior high school which opened last September. In these schools 3,041 students are being taught by 130 teachers. Colonial Heights schools have been under the direction of five superintendents since the first school was organized and opened. They are T.C. Williams, B. Clifford Goode, E.S.H. Greene, Fred D. Thompson, and Charles G. Smith, Jr., present superintendent.

The history of education in Colonial Heights and the history of education in Chesterfield County are said to be synonymous. From "The Genesis of Chesterfield County", thesis of Mr. E.S.H. Greene, we learn that by 1642 settlements along the Appomattox River had reached the falls and were beginning to be permanently established at the present site of Colonial Heights. Thomas Jefferson ascribed much of the success of his efforts in founding the University of Virginia to the assistance of Mr. Taylor who represented Chesterfield County in the Virginia House of Delegates.

America's first school for deaf-mutes was started in 1815 at "Cobbs," the Bolling home on the lower Appomattox River. When the State began to consider a tax-supported system of free schools in 1846, Chesterfield County was reluctant to take advantage of the opportunity because travel to distant centers made public schools impracticable.

While formal schools were few in 1865, in nearly every neighborhood there were men who had had the advantage of some of the best schools in Europe. Some of these were glad to supplement their incomes by teaching private classes. Frances Randolph held classes at "Matoax". Formal education for girls was not entirely overlooked as we find reference to a private school for girls at Chester. Evidence of private schools were shown when teachers appealed to the court to collect fees due them for teaching.

A Chesterfield County landmark was "Mount Pleasant", built by William Archer about 1796. This property is the site of a residential area of the present city of Colonial Heights. In this neighborhood, early settlers employed tutors, sent their children to private schools, or taught them in the home until the county began to establish one-room and two-room schools.

In 1907, under the provisions of a Federal law, and with the aid of Federal funds, the Chester High School was organized to serve counties in the Third Congressional District on a tuition basis. Children ready for high school from the Colonial Heights area were enrolled. Two high school grades were provided initially and the first class had only three graduates. The school term was seven months and the building was a three-room affair. Students and parents bragged about their "patent" desks.

Records indicate that the Prospect Heights School was in use from 1909 to 1940. This four-room school stood at the comer of Pickett Avenue and the Boulevard. This area was a part of Matoaca District of Chesterfield County. Colonial Heights was a small suburban community whose northern boundary was Westover Avenue.

Photograph showing Prospect Heights School in Colonial Heights, VA

Prospect Heights School, 1911 - 1912

Through the efforts of the Community League, the Colonial Heights Elementary School was opened in 1921 as a Chesterfield County school. Growth of the community made it necessary to double the size of the building the following year, and to add larger additions in 1929 and 1937. By 1950, the population of the city was over 6,000 and the school was having growing pains. High School pupils were attending Petersburg High School and Chester High School, which had been named Thomas Dale High School, and the 900 elementary pupils were feeling the pinch of class shifts. City Council and School Board members began to look for a school site, and finally, in September 1954, the elementary school on Conduit Road became a reality. Mr. William W. Reade became the first principal of this nice modem school. The older school was named the Flora M. Hill School and the newer one became the Colonial Heights Elementary School. Extensive renovations were made in the older school and it is now one of the most modem and attractive schools in the vicinity.

In 1956, the School Board decided to establish a high school on the site of the newer elementary school, offering the eighth grade that year, and adding a high school grade each year until 1960. The first graduation class held its commencement in June 1961 in a building that had required two extensive additions since 1954. Four senior classes have received their diplomas in the auditorium of this building which became a junior high school last September when the new high school opened its doors to students of the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades.

The North Elementary School opened in 1959 and an addition was built in 1962. At present this school has children in Grades 1-5. It is located on Dale Avenue, east of the Boulevard. In fact, all of the schools in the city are east of the Boulevard.

The city has extended its boundaries to Swift Creek, annexing many acres of land. The population having reached 10,000 in 1960, Colonial Heights became a city of the first class. Mr. Charles G. Smith, Jr. became the first full time superintendent in 1961, succeeding Mr. Fred D. Thompson who had served both Colonial Heights and Chesterfield County since February 1954.

Since 1962, the school system has added a dozen new courses to its curriculum. The city is upholding its tradition of offering its young people the best possible educational opportunities. It continues to move onward to meet the changing needs of Colonial Heights youth.

The Colonial Heights Education Association was organized in 1956, and in its short history, it has had a prominent part in the advancement of its profession.