Hampton City Schools
Hampton City Schools: A Model of Innovation and Collaboration for Student Success
Hampton City Schools’ innovative approach to student success and community collaboration is transforming the educational landscape throughout the district and beyond.
Hampton City Schools is a unique school district with a notable history, dating back to the early 1800s when it became the first free school district in America. Today, the school division is a trailblazer in education, focusing on academic excellence through community collaboration, diverse innovation, and a commitment to students which is embodied in its mission, which states, “In collaboration with our community, Hampton City Schools ensures academic excellence for every child, every day, whatever it takes.”
Mission, Vision, and Core Values
The heart of Hampton City Schools lies in this mission, providing opportunities that support student success for all. Driven by core values such as integrity, responsibility, innovation, excellence, and professionalism, the school division collaborates with the community to make its vision a reality.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is the partnership and collaboration we have with the city,” Superintendent, Dr. Raymond Haynes, depicts. “When we’re talking about the city manager, or city council members, our relationship with them is pretty strong. In terms of what we do on a regular basis, focusing on our core business of teaching and learning, we have a buddy system where we pair up with one another to share insights about the school division, as well as things that are pertinent to the city as a whole. It is something that we feel we’re very fortunate and blessed to have because we recognize that there are other localities that do not have that.”
Kelly Goral Executive Director of Public Relations & Marketing adds, “It goes beyond that city partnership. We’ve got our business partners, our faith based partners, our military partners, our nonprofits. I think we’re very rich with our partnerships.”
Hampton City Schools serves approximately 19,600 students from kindergarten to twelfth grade, supported by a dedicated teaching staff of 1,500. At every level, the district is committed to fostering excellence, even designing its own curriculum, as Deputy Superintendent and Chief of Staff, Dr. John Caggiano, conveys, “We say that experiential learning is exponential learning. We’ve done a lot of revisions based on conversations with business and higher education to revise our curriculum. We know that business leaders say we don’t need students graduating who can Google things. We need students who can think critically, collaborate, and communicate effectively. We see the future of education, and it needs to be engaging.”
Dr. Haynes remarks, “Dr. Caggiano and I just came back from a conference the other day and a gentleman made a very profound statement. He said, ‘We are preparing students for the world they are entering into and not the world we came from.’ So, we’re looking at it from that lens, preparing students for the world they are entering into.” Focusing on what has been termed ‘The Portrait of a Hampton Graduate,’ Hampton City Schools has outlined a specific set of skills that students should acquire in order to be college, career and life ready. “I think that we have to look at making the necessary adjustments and adaptations as the world changes,” he acknowledges. “Things are different from 2 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Being on top of that and making certain we’re getting insight from educators coming into the profession new, as well as the student voice, will drive our work for many years to come.”
Academies of Hampton
The Academies of Hampton, a transformative endeavor, featuring 16 unique academies and 44 pathways, exemplifies the school’s commitment to STEM education, emphasizing hands-on experiences, interdisciplinary connections, and partnerships with over 200 local industries. “Folks are choosing to come to Hampton based on the innovative things we’re doing around the Academies of Hampton, and the choice programs we have at the elementary and middle school levels as well,” notes Goral.
Through these academies, Hampton City Schools offer a diverse range of strands, ensuring that each of its four high schools provide opportunities in engineering and technology, business, creative studies, and public service. From there, students have a variety of real world opportunities, based on their own area of interest. Goral elaborates, “At our Academy of Law and Public Safety, we have a full courtroom with jury deliberation rooms in the back, in the middle of our high school. We have a full working maritime at another high school space, we have a bank, we have a black box theater, we have a simulator for a police car, and our Governor’s Health Science Academy have top notch equipment.” She emphasizes the importance of the continued support from the city, both financially and as ambassadors for the school system’s work.
Superintendent Haynes remarks, “We’re looking at this through the equity lens too. If a young person wants to go to a school that they’re not zoned for, we provide that transportation to them to ensure they are able to participate in an area. We make certain that we eliminate all barriers to ensure young people have access to what they are desiring to pursue.”
A Ford NGL Learning Community
As a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community, Hampton City Schools has been revolutionizing teaching and learning at the high school level, through their unique academic approach. “Our first inaugural class graduated from that model in 2021, and it has just continued to grow,” reports Goral. “We have been designated first in the nation as a K-12 NGL community. That’s not pushing the academies down to that middle or elementary school level. But it’s looking at third through eighth grade signature events, touch points, throughout our curriculum. We’ve rewritten over 200 curriculum, hiring our teachers to do that. We are putting those experiences in there so that students are more aware of their self, their community, and what is past elementary school or past middle school or what a high school will look like, because we do not have that traditional brick and mortar high school.”
A Holistic Model
Along with the intentional approach to curriculum and academics, the school system places emphasis on social-emotional learning to support the overall well-being of students and staff. This includes a deliberate focus on the whole child, providing resources and support for emotional well-being. Dr. Haynes suggests, “When we’re talking about the excellent things that are occurring in the school system, we know it’s not done by accident, we have been deliberate in our work. When we’re talking about young people getting what they need academically, we also want to look at the whole child and provide things in the curriculum around social emotional learning, and also provide resources and support to staff members as well.”
Caggiano conveys that the value placed on innovation in the district is another reason for the ongoing success. He shares, “We’ve been a leader in a number of areas, to include technology integration, and transforming teaching and learning. We believe in calculated risk taking, and there are a number of innovations that have come out over the years here in Hampton, as a result of that culture that supports that, all on behalf of students and staff.”
Engaging the Business Community
Hampton City Schools places a strong emphasis on engaging with the business community, with a particular spotlight on partnerships with Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls and a major employer in the region. “Newport News Shipyard is right in our backyard,” relays Dr. Caggiano. “We are working closely with them, as throughout the country there’s a need for a highly qualified workforce. So, they’ve come in and given us some of the equipment that their employees use. Our students are training on equipment. That’s one of the pipelines we’re looking to create.”
This approach is used throughout the school division, connecting valuable learning to experiences that prepare students for the future. “We have the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, and our business partners connect with us to give us insight on how we can connect the English, math, science and social studies classes to the hospitality and tourism industry as well,” portrays Haynes. “They’re not just getting the learning experience through the lens of whatever CTE, or course is associated with it. We are purposely embedding lesson activities inside of the curriculum. And we do so with the input and insight from the business partners that serve on our academies.”
A vision for the Future
In summary, Dr. Haynes highlights Hampton City Schools’ continued focus on transforming teaching and learning. This includes ongoing innovations related to climate and culture, social-emotional learning, one-to-one technology initiatives, and the recruitment and retention of exceptional staff. The overarching goal is to ensure that every aspect of the educational experience aligns with the vision of a Hampton graduate, starting from elementary school and culminating in a successful graduation. He concludes, “When we are talking about a young person graduating and walking across that stage, we know it doesn’t start when they enter high school.”
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AT A GLANCE
Hampton City Schools
What: A longstanding school division serving 19,600 students.
Where: The city of Hampton, Virginia
Hampton Roads Educators Credit Union, Inc. – HRECU.org
Hampton Roads Educators Credit Union was chartered by two Hampton High School teachers in 1954. These visionaries saw the need for a financial institution that could assist school employees. At that time, the treasurer operated mostly out of the trunk of his car. Many things have changed since we first opened our doors, but our mission remains the same—helping educators and the community, putting members first and striving to provide exceptional service.