PVMS students will be excited for a future in which they:
Providence Middle School empowers our students by:
School Colors: Black & Gold
The Providence Story…
The First 25 Years
By Barbara Thorpe
1968 has been called a year of crisis. It was the year of the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, urban rioting, and violence at the Democratic National Convention. Young people were wearing psychedelic colors and listening to the Beatles and the Doors. They spent hours in front of the TV watching the top-rated shows such as “Laugh-In: and “My Three Sons.” But 1968 was not a year of crisis in Chesterfield County. It was a year of Pride – Providence Junior High School was opening its doors for the first time to 990 students in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. The administrators, Joseph Spagnola and Linwood Gibbs, along with the faculty, eagerly and nervously awaited the arrival of that first student body. Of course, there were a few minor inconveniences. The students’ desks had not arrived; instead, folding chairs would have to do. The school cafeteria wasn’t ready, so everybody would have to “brown bag” it. Despite the inconveniences, everybody survived. That first student body decided that black and gold would be the school colors, and the Ram would be the school mascot.
The next school term brought changes to the administration. Willard Kaempf became the new principal and Raymond Vernall was his assistant. By the 1970-71 school term, the enrollment reached 1313, and Providence then qualified for two assistant principals. David Jones and James Price became Mr. Kaempf’s assistants. Before the end of the school term, John Taylor replaced Mr. Price.
Headlines in 1972 included President Nixon’s trip to China, the beginning of détente, and the Watergate break-in. The war still raged in Vietnam. Young people were now listening to Elton John, Steely Dan, and the Moody Blues. The mini skirt was still the rage. As a matter of fact, school policy at Providence required that skirts had to be at least fingertip length. In a faculty meeting, Mr. Kaempf kindly reminded the female teachers that the policy applied to them as well as the students.
The fall of 1972 had brought tremendous change to Providence; there were many new faces. The ninth grade was gone; and, in its place there were twelve self-contained classes of sixth graders. The school enrollment had now dropped to less than a thousand. This was the year that Mr. Kaempf and Mr. Jones, along with 53 faculty members, put in countless hours completing Providence’s first self-study. That self-study described the Providence study as being “eleven to fourteen years of age, average in intelligence, normally healthy, and, in general well-cared for. He comes from all levels of income, from $4,000 to $25,000. He has lots of school spirit and exhibits genuine concern for others.” Wasn’t it said that the more things change, the more they stay the same?
Again, adjusting to an ever-changing population, Chesterfield took the sixth grade out of Providence and returned the ninth grade for the 1974-75 school term. By now, Francis Frymier had replaced Dave Jones as assistant principal. The afternoon announcements were never the same after that as Mr. Frymier gently informed students to “get on the bus and go home.” Paul Martin came on board as the second assistant principal the following year.
1976 was a year of celebration in our country – we were celebrating the bicentennial. Providence had its own celebrating – Mr. Jones was returning as principal following Mr. Kaempf’s retirement. This led to a rather long period of stability in the administration but not the student body. It was changed one more time in 1979 – again, the ninth grade was sent to high school and the sixth grade returned. It was beginning to look like the grade that nobody wanted!
On the national scene, the 1980’s were marked by a surge of patriotism and prosperity. Advertisers told us, “the pride is back.” Pride had never left Providence; neither had change. In 1981 William Morris became principal; soon thereafter and again in 1987 Providence added classroom additions which included an auxiliary gym and two chorus rooms. The teachers in the new wing swore that it was a shorter walk to the office at A.M. Davis than to the one at Providence! The 1980’s was also the decade that ushered in the middle school concept, the idea of time on task, and the founding of the West Moseley Women’s Club.
Now, the Providence faculty has always been a group of hard-working professionals, but it also has enjoyed its own unique social life. The teachers have dined on breakfasts cooked by the administration, attended annual Christmas dinners, shared happy hours together and taken their children to springtime pool parties. The WMWC tried to do its part in contributing to the social life at Providence.
Christmas took on a special meaning when the WMWC decorated the teachers’ lounge and sponsored the winter parade led by the “Eternal Snow Queen,” who, by the way, resigned when her dress became too tight. The parade was a sight to behold. Who would have guessed the Snow Queen was actually riding the garbage can cart? The WMWC also went out of its way to make new administrators feel welcome. Mr. Morris was the first recipient of the “sacrilegious” silver Christmas tree which, for unknown, he graciously declined to take home. (And so did everyone else who won the thing.)
One of the most exciting affairs sponsored by the WMWC was the first annual (and only) Easter egg hunt. Everyone was having a grand time, but the scene turned ugly when the math department decided to cheat during the relay games. Finally, order was restored when Mr. Morris won the grand prize, a jug of live goldfish. Again, for unknown reasons, he graciously declined to take the prize home.
One of the more popular customs was the winter snow pool. Now, there is no sweeter sound to a teacher’s ears than WRVA announcing that “Chesterfield County Schools are closed due to snow.” Providence teachers has an even better reason for wanting snow. After all, the snow pool had brought “wealth” and happiness to more than one teacher.
Leaving the 1980’s and entering the last decade of the century, Providence saw a complete change in the front office. In 1983, Mr. Paul Martin left for Swift Creek, and the following spring, Mr. Francis Frymier retired after being serenaded by a pink gorilla. Mr. Morris stayed just one more year before retiring. Dr. John Galloway with his assistants, Mr. Gabe Pascarella and Ms. Eileen Ford, were now in charge. They would have the task of leading Providence to the 21st century. This will not be a problem; after all, Providence teachers have always adjusted. Gone are the days of balancing the blue registers, averaging grades without calculators, and getting early release time for the county fair. Instead, we have laser discs, Virginia’s PEN, more than one CD ROM, Enlightening, Project TEE and TNT. It makes a person wonder what the next twenty-five years will bring.
For the most part this has been a somewhat lighthearted look at the history of this school. But anyone who knows Providence knows that it always has been about the serious business of teaching young people. May the next twenty-five be as good for everyone as the last twenty-five have been.