Broadus Wood Elementary should continue bearing the name of the Earlysville farmer and businessman who sold and donated the land for the building, an advisory committee and schools Superintendent Matthew Haas said this week.
During Thursday’s meeting, the School Board heard details about the recommendation. The committee made of teachers, parents, community members and former students surveyed the school community, held public meetings and reviewed information about Broadus Ira Wood’s life and contributions before making a recommendation.
“Broadus Ira Wood’s contributions align with the division’s values and the school’s guiding principles,” according to the presentation at the meeting.
The committee said he advanced education opportunities for African American and rural students. In fact, a majority of the students voted in favor of the current name after learning more about Wood’s life and involvement in the community.
The School Board will officially vote on the recommendation at their next meeting.
Among the five possible names, Broadus Wood was the top choice for 63.5% of survey respondents. Buck Mountain Elementary was the second choice overall, though students preferred Rivanna and Rivanna River Elementary as their second choice. The other three options were Northern and Piney Mountain.
Following the presentation, the School Board applauded the committee’s work to engage students in the review process. That outreach included history lessons with students, a discussion about the importance of a school’s name and a student assembly for Election Day where they voted for their preference.
Broadus Wood is the sixth school to have its name reviewed following a 2018 School Board directive. So far, four of the six have emerged from the review with a new name. The division is planning to review each of the schools that are named after individuals to ensure they reflect the division’s values, which currently are equity, excellence, family and community, and wellness.
Eight schools are left. The next school up for review will be named later this month, according to the presentation.
In its recommendation, the committee highlighted an October 1931 letter from W.D. Gresham, who was the state supervisor for Negro education at the time, in which Greshman expresses “deep regret” that Wood resigned from the Albemarle County School Board. He had served on the board for 36 years.
The committee did take into consideration research from Jordy Yager, a digital humanities fellow at the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center. That research showed 15 members of the Wood family had enslaved Black people, according to the presentation/news release. Wood’s grandfather and four siblings enslaved at least 52 Black people, according to the division.
“The advisory committee noted, however, that based on the evidence they had compiled, Broadus Ira Wood himself was known to have been an advocate for the education of all Virginians and members of his community,” according a division news release about the recommendation.
The school opened in 1906 as Earlysville High School and was named after Wood in 1935 following his death in 1932. When the school first opened, the campus also included a 10-stall stable where students could house their horses after riding to school, according to the division.
Most of the original building burned down in 1934, though the middle section remained intact. The school became an elementary school in 1953 when Albemarle High School opened.