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Reassignment of Westhaven to Neighborhood School

Presentation by Beth Cheuk, Supervisor of Community Relations, to the Charlottesville School Board, September 1, 2022 as discussion item. It will be an action item on October 6, 2022.


Good evening, Madam Chair, School Board Members, and Dr. Gurley,

I’m standing in for Denise Johnson, who couldn’t be here tonight. I appreciate her work on this presentation, but even more so, I appreciate her work in facilitating school and community conversations as we make decisions that impact our students as well as reexamine inequitable choices that have been made in the past.   

Based on our commitment to equity, we recommend a school reassignment for the Westhaven Community from its current school of Burnley-Moran to Venable, its true neighborhood elementary school.

This decision rights a historic wrong that I’ll discuss shortly, and it’s also the result of several years’ worth of community engagement with the Westhaven Community. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to work together with this community as we chart a path forward. And on behalf of Charlottesville City Schools, I would like to apologize to past and current families in the Westhaven Community for this historic and recent mistreatment.

On behalf of Charlottesville City Schools, I would like to apologize to past and current families in the Westhaven Community for this historic and recent mistreatment.

I’ll give a very brief overview of this history based on Ms. Johnson’s research and her conversations with Mr. James Bryant, Dr. Alvin Edwards, Ms. Leslie Thacker, and Ms. Eursaline Inge and the Inge family. Thanks to all. Ms. Lucille Smith sets a very high bar for documenting our history in her recent book, Unforgettable Jackson P. Burley High School, and I hope we are inspired to thoroughly document our broader educational history.

  • In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. Locally, in 1958 the U.S. District Court ordered ten black students to Venable and two to Lane High School.  Instead, as part of Massive Resistance, the two schools were closed and private schools opened to teach white students.  A year later, massive resistance was overturned, schools reopened, and the “Charlottesville 12” desegregated Venable and Lane High School.
  • In 1965, the Charlottesville School Board created the concept of “neighborhood schools” but it was clear that white Charlottesville did not consider black families to be their neighbors, and lines were drawn to sustain segregation, with students in the Westhaven community sent to first McGuffey and later, Burnley-Moran.

Many years later in 2003, the School Board voted to reassign the 10th & Page Neighborhood to Venable but fell short of reassigning students who lived in Westhaven.  And on paper, even today Westhaven students remain zoned to Burnley-Moran.

However, in 2019, the decision was made to begin righting these historical wrongs.  At that time, Charlottesville City Schools worked with the City of Promise to provide families who lived in Westhaven with the option of attending Burnley-Moran or Venable.  Today, we are requesting that the School Board move into the final phase of this transition by voting to reassign the Westhaven community to its neighborhood school- Venable Elementary.

We are officially recommending that Venable become the assigned school for students in the Westhaven community effective immediately. Most students in the Westhaven community have already transitioned to Venable, but we would also like to provide the option for the current Westhaven Burnley-Moran students to remain at Burnley-Moran until they move on to Walker if they choose. Those families would complete the out-of-zone application and provide their own transportation.

If this is approved we will continue to have transitional conversations with the community as needed, especially to make sure those who are directly impacted understand this decision and their options moving forward.

Thank you all again for allowing me to present this information to you all this evening.