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Name review committees make recommendations for Murray Elementary, charter school

The name review committee for Virginia L. Murray Elementary School wants to keep the current name, the division announced Friday.

That was the opinion of most community members who weighed in on surveys, as well. The name review committee, which is made up of parents, teachers and community members, made its recommendation to Albemarle County schools Superintendent Matt Haas, who will make his own suggestion to the county School Board, which has the final say.

Haas will make a recommendation at the School Board’s April 1 meeting, and the board will vote at its April 22 meeting. At the April 1 meeting, he’ll also make a recommendation about the name of Murray Community Charter School. A committee recently suggested changing the name to Community Lab School.

The division is currently reviewing all schools that are named after individuals. Of the four reviews so far, the Murray Elementary committee is the first to recommend no change.

Virginia Murray was a longtime Black educator in the school system and served as a demonstration teacher until 1931. She then was promoted to supervisor of elementary education, the first Black supervisor ever appointed in Albemarle County.

“She ensured those students in need had food and clothes in the summer and heat and coats in the winter,” said Teller Stalfort, parent of a Murray student who chaired the advisory committee, in a news release. “She had a tremendous work ethic and it was said you could not spend five minutes in her presence without learning something.”

Murray was one of 10 final potential names. In a survey of those choices, Murray received 89% of the votes.

The committee said in its report to Haas that Virginia Murray was a role model for tenacity and perseverance at a time when Black women faced many institutional barriers, according to the release. She died in 1959.

The school opened in 1960 for Black students in first through seventh grades and was desegregated five years later. The advisory committee included a student who was part of the first class of Murray students.

“Serving on the committee as its chair was a treasured experience,” Stalfort said. “It was an opportunity to see our school community come together around the values and mission we want for our children. Ms. Murray certainly was ahead of her time, and by a great deal. Today we talk about doing what she did nearly 100 years ago. She insisted on tailoring instruction to each individual student and she set expectations high, asking the best of every student.”

Another naming advisory committee also wrapped up its work recently. Last week, a committee recommended that the county’s charter school be named Community Lab School. Murray High School and Community Public Charter School merged in July, and the name review process for the combined school started in May.

“We truly are a new school, not just structurally in that we serve grades 6-12, but we are a new school conceptually, and Community Lab School best describes our mission and values,” Principal Chad Ratliff said in a news release.

In the committee’s initial survey last fall, community was a top value cited by survey participants, according to the release. Two of the top choices for a new name among survey respondents were Community School of Albemarle and Lab School of Albemarle.

“We believe Community Lab School combines two of the most popular choices while celebrating a distinguishing strength of our school and helping to explain the purpose and mission of the learning experience we offer to students,” said Stephanie Passman, the charter school’s head teacher who chaired the advisory committee, in the release.

Murray Community School also received strong support in the surveys, Passman said. However, over the years, parents, employees and students have raised concerns about having two schools in the division with the same name.

The charter school and elementary school have shared a namesake for decades.

The charter high school opened in 1988 in Murray Elementary School, which was closed at the time. When the elementary school was needed again, the school moved to its current location and students asked to keep “Murray” in the school’s name.

The school will honor Murray with a plaque in the school’s front entrance and in special student projects this year that will display her achievements and community service as part of a historical exhibit, according to the release.


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