Name Recommendations Announced for Clark and Venable

Like many communities, universities, and K-12 schools across the country, Charlottesville City Schools is aware that our schools’ names send a message to our students, staff, and community and should therefore reflect our values.

Update on School Names

After two years of public feedback, the division’s Naming of Facilities Committee is recommending new names for the first two schools discussed. Although the committee considered keeping or modifying the names Venable and Clark, in the end, members decided that maintaining the original names in any way would continue to uphold the original, problematic namesakes. The final step of the process was for third and fourth graders at the two schools to vote:

  • At Venable, students selected Trailblazers Elementary by a wide margin. The name:
    • honors the Charlottesville 12, their parents, and other early Cville Schools desegregation heroes 
    • is an invitation for students to continue blazing new trails today. 
  • At Clark, students chose Friendship Elementary by a narrow margin. 
    • The name Friendship Elementary honors the relationships that are at the heart of a school and references the current name of Friendship Court, which anchors the school in a geographic place that is home to many Clark students. The name of Friendship Court is subject to change as part of the facility’s redesign.
    • The second-place vote at Clark was Summit Elementary, which evoked the school’s mountain views and the goal of encouraging students to reach new heights. 

The Board questioned the small margin of voting (5 votes) between Clark’s two names. They requested the community’s feedback on the selection of a new name for Clark between “Friendship” and “Summit.” To express your opinion, email schoolboard@charlottesvilleschools.org prior to the January 5 meeting.

 

History

  • The Naming of Facilities Committee was formed in 2020. You can find information about their past meetings and work below.
  • After a pandemic pause, the division’s Naming of Facilities Committee  (formed of teachers, parents, administrators, community members, etc.) resumed work this year. The first schools they are focused on are Clark and Venable.

What’s Being Decided?

  • After two years of forums, surveys, conversations and more, the committee recently made the decision to select new names for both Clark and Venable and has committed to not selecting names that honor individuals. At the last community forum (Oct. 19), participants directed the committee to send any final questions back to the schools for input, so 3rd- and 4th-graders are holding elections on the possible new names.
  • At Venable, the final two options were Trailblazers Elementary (in honor of the Venable 9, their parents, and other early Cville Schools desegregation pioneers AND in the spirit of encouraging our students to continue blazing new trails) and 14th Street Elementary (in honor of the street where the school is located, as a geographic connection to the school’s Civil Rights history).
  • At Clark, the final two options are Friendship Elementary (for the relationships that are at the heart of our schools and the Friendship Court neighborhood where so many Clark students live) and Summit Elementary (since Clark sits on a hilltop with views of the summits of the Blue Ridge Mountains and since reaching a summit evokes the idea of accomplishing goals and reaching new heights).
  • Students at both schools also have the option of write-in votes.

What Was the Community Input?

  • As reflected in the October 2022 survey, there was an overwhelming majority of people in the community who felt that the schools should no longer maintain a connection with their original namesakes. There was mixed opinion about whether to select brand-new names or “repurpose” the names Clark and Venable and find new namesakes. Ultimately the committee decided that to maintain the names – even with new namesakes – would uphold the connection to two people who directly enslaved people, perpetuated damaging myths about slavery, and/or led in the genocide against Native Americans.
  • At the community forum on October 19, 2022, participants directed the committee to use their own judgment and to see further input from the schools for any remaining questions.
  • Venable third- and fourth-graders voted during the week of November 7; Clark third- and fourth-graders will vote on November 21.

School Names Committee

Beginning in the fall of 2020, the superintendent convened a committee to review our schools’ names. The committee took a pause to address the pandemic, a new superintendent, and other matters, but is now resuming work. Updates from the committee will be posted to this page. 

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Resources for the Committee

Community member Phil Varner has compiled historical resources and information on our schools’ namesakes and the original process for naming our schools. You can find a brief introduction to the namesakes and a 56-page research compilation.

If you have additional materials that you believe are relevant and helpful, please email schoolnames@charlottesvilleschools.org so that this process can be as informed and complete as possible.

Notes from Committee Meetings (listed oldest to most recent)

Reporting/Media Coverage

City schools to review names of Clark, Venable elementaries first (Daily Progress, April 29, 2021)