April 4, 2019

Fond memories of South Smithfield School

School children join dignitaries for a flag-raising ceremony in May 1958. Among the adults are Superintendent of Schools Evander Simpson and long-time Smithfield School Principal A.G. Glenn (on the right).

In the beginning . . .

South Smithfield Elementary School opened its doors to young students in early February 1957, starting out with just one class each for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders and two classes each for first, second, and third graders. There was no public kindergarten in those days.

The school's present-day staff came up with the idea for Sunday's "Dedication and Reunion" celebration because the school was never "dedicated" after it opened. Actually, most new schools weren't "dedicated" 62 years ago. They simply opened their doors and the staff and students poured in.

Today's South Smithfield Elementary has more than 550 students in grades K-5.
The facilities have been expanded and renovated several times over the years,
but memories from those first few years linger on.

Pictured below is the present-day "media center," occupying space that originally housed the combination cafeteria and auditorium.

One of Sunday's speakers was Denton Lee, who moved into one of South Smithfield's brand-new first-grade classrooms in '57 and called the campus "his home away from home" through Grade 6. Among his memories over the years:
• Receiving the first polio vaccine in a sugar cube in the school's cafeteria.
• Watching on a black-and-white TV with "rabbit ears" as astronaut John Glenn rocketed into space to become the first man to orbit the Earth.

• Playing kickball during recess with the school's first principal and sixth-grade teacher Carlton Daughtery. "He always pitched for both teams," Mr. Lee recalled.

Other former South Smithfield students on Sunday's program: Diana Flores, a present-day student at Smithfield Middle School; Sha'kerr Howard, a current student at Smithfield-Selma High; and Aleiyah Sanders, a 2012 SSS graduate.

Several former South Smithfield principals were present: Jack Temple (1964-70 and 1976-87, pictured on the right with Carlton Daughtery in '64), Kenneth Bennett (2000-02), Brian Vetrano (2004-06), and Carla Taylor Withrow (2006-16).

Completing the list of principals who served the school: Carlton Daughtery (1957-1964), Justin McNeil (1970-71), William Parrish (1971-76), James Barbour (1987-92),
Bryan Martin
(1992-97), T.B. Mitchell (1998-2000), Rodney Peterson (2002-04).

Laura Makey, who presided at Sunday's celebration, has served as South Smithfield's principal since 2016. She's pictured below (on the right) with a couple of her associates: (on the left) Jill McKay, a pre-K teacher who's working on her master's degree in school administration, and Hadley Lee, the school's community and engagement liaison. While the school doesn't compete in interscholastic athletics, it has a mascot nonetheless as the sign doth proclaim....