In 1966 a group of approximately 100 parents organized a
elementary school in Suffolk, Virginia serving grades 1
7. Located in a former factory on Newport Street,
Academy (NSA) opened with 128 students, six teachers and a
Mrs. Ruth Watts, formerly with the Chesapeake public
The school quickly outgrew its makeshift facilities and,
moved to a 50-acre site on Rt. 460 west of downtown. A
building was erected in 1970 followed by an Upper School
to house grades 8-12 in 1971. The school held its first
with the class of 1972.
Under the leadership of Headmaster Arthur E. Jones
the school developed a full range of academic, athletic
programs and began to draw students from Portsmouth,
and surrounding areas, as well as from Suffolk. Upon Mr.
retirement, J. Albert Barrett (1984-1989) became President
the school adopted an exclusively college preparatory
During Mr. Barrett’s tenure, enrollment grew to 850, a
was established, expansion of the Lower School took place,
the school became a member of the National Association of
Dr. Douglas C. Naismith (1989-2005), the Academy's
President, continued to pursue a course of academic and
excellence. Through his leadership, enrollment grew to
1045 making NSA one of the largest independent schools in
In addition to continued expansion and improvement of
the Academy adopted programs for financial aid, foreign
exchange, minority recruitment, character education,
technology, and an expanded array of athletic offerings
Mr. Shane A. Foster (2005-2008) assumed the President
renamed the Head of School, in July 2005. Prior to
of School, Mr. Foster served as the Upper School
seven years. Under his leadership, NSA purchased 47 acres
adjacent to the school's existing property, renovated the
W. Johnson gymnasium and secured the largest foundation
the school’s history from the Beazley Foundation.
The Academy’s fifth Head of School, Mr. Colley W. Bell III began his tenure in July 2008 after Mr. Foster relocated to the Midwest. Recognizing the significance of the Academy’s place in serving the Hampton Roads region, Mr. Bell helped shape curriculums and student leadership opportunities, enhanced the Academy’s technology platforms and facility and guided the school through its 2011-2016 Strategic Plan.
The Board of Trustees named Deborah B. Russell as Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s sixth Head of School in April 2013. Mrs. Russell will help forge the future at the Academy, a school that develops and promotes leaders who value diversity, excellence and honor. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, we recognize that our school has been fortunate to have many strong leaders in its history and Mrs. Russell will continue this legacy.
Mrs. Russell came to NSA in August of 2011 as the Director of Admissions where she used her impressive arsenal of skills to help shape the Office of Admissions. Her outlook is informed by a multitude of skills that she acquired in a variety of organizational structures around the world at the senior management level. Her experiences in high-level management, coupled with her institutional knowledge about NSA, have well-prepared her for the Head of School role.
Mrs. Russell's experiences in leading strategic initiatives, crafting marketing plans and managing technology implementation within organizations has already shaped and strengthened the school’s independent school practices. In addition to the recruitment and retention of students and families, the Office of Admissions, under Mrs. Russell's leadership, has successfully focused on diversity, which provides NSA students with a broader view in a global world. Mrs. Russell is well-suited to guide Nansemond-Suffolk Academy into its next fifty years while maintaining a commitment to the school's mission of honor above all.