New Names Announced for Clark and Venable; Review of Burnley-Moran and Johnson to Begin

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

 

January 6, 2023: Charlottesville Schools will Rename Two Elementaries to Reflect Community Values

Two Charlottesville City Schools elementaries will be renamed to reflect the community’s values.

The Charlottesville School Board voted last night to change the name of Clark Elementary School to Summit Elementary School, and Venable Elementary School to Trailblazers Elementary School. These final decisions cap a review process that began in the summer of 2020.

The name Summit Elementary evokes the school’s mountain views; it is also meant to encourage students to both reach new heights and consider themselves “a gathering of leaders,” touching on three meanings of the word summit. The name Clark was for Gen. George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War leader who also enslaved people and led in the genocide against Native Americans.

The name Trailblazers Elementary honors the Charlottesville 12, the students who first desegregated Venable Elementary and Lane High School, as well as their parents and other early desegregation trailblazers in Charlottesville Schools. The name is also an invitation to current students to continue blazing new trails today. The name Venable was for Col. Charles S. Venable, a member of the Confederate Army and math professor at the University of Virginia who ardently perpetuated damaging myths about slavery throughout his life.

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The School Board voted on these names after hearing recommendations from the Naming of Facilities Committee, which had gathered community feedback via several public forums and surveys. The committee also heard from third and fourth graders at each of the two schools. In addition, for the naming of Venable, members of the Charlottesville 12 were consulted throughout the process.

Clark and Venable were the first two Charlottesville schools to have their names reviewed. The Naming of Facilities Committee will meet next week to begin its review of the names of Burnley-Moran Elementary and Johnson Elementary. Information about both of those schools’ namesakes—and other materials relating to the process of reviewing school names in Charlottesville—can be found at charlottesvilleschools.org/school-names.

If the committee recommends new names for Burnley-Moran and Johnson, it plans to avoid new names that honor an individual, as well as geographical places with associations that do not reflect the division’s values (like Belmont or Monticello, which are both connected with plantations and slavery). Instead, the committee will seek out names that are “aspirational” or that honor the school or community’s history and geography.

A timeline for implementation has not yet been finalized. The earliest date would be August 2023, but depending on whether other name changes are announced this spring, there could be a decision to implement all name changes at once, perhaps in August 2024. Division leaders will work closely with school leaders to make these changes as seamless and comprehensive as possible.

 

Naming of Facilities Committee Set to Begin Review of Burnley-Moran and Johnson

After completing the review and subsequent renaming of Clark (to be Summit) and Venable (to be Trailblazers), the Naming of Facilities Committee will now turn its attention to Burnley-Moran and Johnson Elementary. The community’s input will be sought through surveys and forums. We invite you to learn more about the school’s namesakes, below, thanks to research compiled by committee member Phil Varner:

A community survey on these two schools’ names opens January 11, and a Zoom forum will be held on Thursday, January 26 at 7pm. You are invited to share your voice on the survey and in the forum.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Renaming Process

Why not just keep the old names but pick a new namesake?

  • Community surveys indicated there was mixed opinion about whether to select brand-new names or “repurpose” the names by finding 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.

What criteria has the committee used to select name options? 

  • The committee is interested in names that are “aspirational,” names that communicate our goal of helping students be their best selves and make our world better (such as trailblazers or people who reach new summits)
  • The committee is also interested in names that mark our history. For instance, the name “Trailblazers” at Venable helps people honor and remember the school’s history as a site where members of the Charlottesville 12 desegregated our schools.
  • The committee is also considering names that situate the school in its unique place (for example: the neighborhood, geographic features, or nearby streets). Clark’s mountain views led to the idea of “summit.”

Are there criteria for names the committee will avoid?

  • The committee is avoiding new names that honor an individual.
  • In addition, the committee is avoiding geographical names with problematic associations (like Belmont or Monticello, which are both connected with plantations and slavery).

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)