School History

The first school of Westhaven was started in 1912, in one room of a private home on the corner of Rodman Avenue and County Street; then known as the Rodman Heights School. The first, second and third grade classes were all taught by Miss Blance Spivey.

At that time the only means of transportation to the Churchland School, where the children were required to go, was by the street car, which crossed the Western Branch River by bridge. The school patrons decided the smaller children were not safe traveling this way. Therefore, the first graders were provided for on the east side of the river.

While this temporary school was in progress, plans for a new and proper school were being made . After much debate over a suitable location, Norfolk County purchased, from the Bullock Land Corporation, the land situated on northwest corner of Rodman Avenue and Griffin Street.

The first building of four rooms in 1912 was thought to be sufficiently large enough to care for the area enrollment. But by 1915, four more rooms were planned and added the following year. The first principals serving Westhaven School in the early days of its history were a Miss Rankin, Mr. James Poteet, Mr. Robert Johnson, and Miss Edna Everett.

Still another addition was made to the school when an annex was built in 1924, while Miss Everett was still principal. Ill health caused her to resign and a member of the faculty, Miss Evelyn Peake, succeeded her. In December, 1941, Mr. Hardin became principal of Westhaven School, and remained until his retirement in 1973.

With the influx of war workers in the early forties in Portsmouth, a new building was erected. It was known as the “war building.” It was a “brick building of permanent construction, “ one story, with six classrooms and cafeteria.

When the area was annexed from Norfolk County (now Chesapeake) by the City of Portsmouth in 1948, Westhaven was part of the school property received by Portsmouth Schools. A new six-classroom addition to one of the buildings was planned immediately after this annexation at an estimated cost of $175,000. It was subsequently reduced to $135, 000. This new annex had a pupil capacity of 210.

World War II had boosted school enrollment from 500 to 1200 in a space of five years. Eight classes had to go on double shifts. The new John Tyler Elementary School was in the planning stage to be built at that time. It was felt that this would reduce the eight part-time classes at Westhaven to only four classes. The opening of John Tyler was delayed however, and Westhaven had to place twelve classes on part-time before another year would bring some small class space relief.

New school buildings replaced the old with the erection of an eight-room school in 1954, with a new cafeteria and auditorium. There were subsequent additions. A second wing of sixteen rooms was added in 1968, after a spring fire destroyed the “war building.”

By 1970, the 1924 building was demolished and Mr. Hardin officially accepted the keys as a new annex was once again dedicated. This addition was built at a cost of $275, 000.

Rezoning and restructuring of school attendance regulations in 1971 again forced an escalation in enrollment. This time escalation was from 550 to 987 pupils: fifteen mobile units had been added and there remained further need for more classrooms.

Following the retirement of Mr. Hardin, Mr. William J. Wiseman was appointed principal. He remained principal until 1976, when he was transferred to Shea Terrace Elementary as principal. Mr. Wiseman currently serves as principal of John Tyler Elementary School. During the summer of 1976, Mr. Raymond Hale was appointed principal; he remained principal until 1980, at which time he was reassigned principal of Cradock High School.

Mr. William J. Askew served as principal from August, 1980 - November, 1980. Mr. Askew accepted employment as a principal in Winchester, VA in December of 1980. Wilbert D. Hawkins succeeded him as principal from December, 1980 until June, 1983.  Next in line was Mr. Lindell Wallace from September of 1985 until June 1987, then it was Dora Harris from September, 1987 to June, 1989.  Mrs. Ethel Porter held the helm for the 1989-1990 school year.

In 1990, Dr. Helen Taylor was appointed principal where she remained until 1999 when she was promoted to Director of Reading for the district.  For the period of September, 1999 through June, 2002 the principal was Mrs. Valerie Brown.  Ms. Pamela Hunter followed Mrs. Brown until July, 2005 when Mrs. Patricia Williams was assigned the honor; she held the post through September 2014.  Mr. Ralph K. Snowden was appointed principal in October, 2014, and remained at Westhaven through June, 2017. 

Mrs. Venessa Whichard-Harris was appointed principal In July, 2017. She is served as the building principal for the 2018-2019 school year. She was followed by Mr. Patrick O'Neal and the present principal Dr. Patrizia Grigsby.

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