Advisory committee narrows down potential new names for Cale Elementary to six

After reviewing hundreds of potential new names for Albemarle County’s largest elementary school, the Cale Advisory Committee has narrowed down the options to just six.

Advisory committee narrows down potential new names for Cale Elementary to six
Cale Elementary School (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - After reviewing hundreds of potential new names for Albemarle County’s largest elementary school, the Cale Advisory Committee has narrowed down the options to just six.

The county decided to rename the school after comments by its namesake surfaced that some people consider racist. The final list of names reflect the school's geographic location.

The committee went through more than 250 different names submitted from students, parents and the community for a new name for what is currently Cale Elementary School.

The six options came down to Mill Creek, Avon, Mountain View, Biscuit Run, Southside, and Avon Ridge.

Dennis Rooker is the chair of the committee that narrowed down a list of hundreds of names to just six. "We were really amazed by the number of submissions that were made, there were like 550 total submissions by people that included 253 separate names,” he stated.

Teachers at the school hope the experience was a teachable moment for their students. Jeannie Ballard has seen a lot of change during the 25 years she has taught at Cale Elementary School.

"We will always be Cale, whether we're named after Paul H. Cale or not, we will always be the Cale community,” she said.

Wednesday night Ballard says she made sure she was there when the Cale Advisory Committee read off the final six potential new names for the school she considers her second home.

"It’s been a difficult experience, I knew that it was a very sensitive issue and I wanted to make sure that the kids in my classroom would be able to handle it in a positive way,” she stated.

Ballard says she spent time this year in her fourth grade class reviewing the history of the school and the area surrounding it in order to get her students more involved in the process.

“We talked about civics, we talked about decision making, how we have lots of layers of our government and we also talked about places, values, and themes and just kind of generated ideas."

Ballard says whatever the new name is, the school and its community will move forward together as it always has over the last two decades.

"It’s hard to all of a sudden rename your family, but we will move forward, and we'll embrace whatever comes,” she said.

The public will have chance to weigh in one final time on what Cale’s new name will be at a meeting on December 10 at 6:30 at the elementary school.

11/21/2019 Release from Albemarle County Public Schools:

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – The Cale Community Advisory Committee, in its first meeting since the School Board voted to change the name of Cale Elementary School, has narrowed the list of potential new names for the school to six. Last evening, based on nearly 550 suggestions, committee members agreed that the school’s new name should be selected from the following community suggestions: Avon, Avon Ridge, Biscuit Run, Mill Creek, Mountain View, and Southside.

The committee will meet again on Tuesday, December 10, in the cafeteria at Cale to hear public comment on which of the six names should be selected. A final meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 8, when the committee is expected to agree on a final recommendation to the School Board.

“I want to express the appreciation of our entire committee for the robust responses we received over the past several weeks to our call for suggested names,” said Dennis Rooker, chair of the advisory committee and past chair and member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Rooker said that suggestions were received through a community online survey, email, a suggestion box at the school, and last evening’s meeting. Nearly two out of every three respondents to the survey said they were well-informed about the renaming process as it unfolded over the past six months.

Asked in the survey whether the school’s new name should reflect its location, its values, or general themes, almost six in ten respondents opted for location, which was reflected in the names that were proposed.

Last month, the committee said they would not consider any suggestions that the school be named for a person, given the length of time needed to research a person’s history and role in the community. In accordance with the School Board’s policy, the committee is required to make their recommendation within 90 days of the Board’s decision to change the school’s name, or by January 10.

One of the names on the finalist list, Southside Elementary, actually was the original name proposed for the school, and early architectural drawings included that name. The school was renamed for Paul Cale in time for its opening in 1990. Cale served as superintendent of schools from 1947 until 1969. A plaque to be displayed in the school will note this fact.

Rooker said the committee especially was impressed with the thought that went into the names that were offered. “A perfect example,“ Rooker said, “was what he heard from a fourth-grade teacher at the school. She talked about how she used the renaming opportunity in her class as a history lesson about the school’s location and the surrounding neighborhood communities.”

He also noted that the committee is taking several steps to broaden the accessibility of the December 10 meeting to as many people in the school community as possible. At that meeting, the committee will hear from parents, school staff, and members of the larger community about their preferences concerning the six names under consideration.

The meeting, which will be held in the school’s cafeteria beginning at 6:30 p.m., will include real-time Spanish language interpretation and will be available via live video stream at http://streaming.k12albemarle.org/ACPS/player.htm?xml/mohsevents.xml.

The community advisory committee includes three parents of current Cale students and two members of the Cale community who do not have children now attending the school. Also serving on the committee are two teachers from the school, the school’s associate principal, and its principal. The committee is chaired by former Albemarle County Supervisor, Dennis Rooker, and also includes the school division’s Assistant Superintendent for School Community Empowerment, Dr. Bernard Hairston.

Two members of the advisory committee made their debut last evening. The school principal, Cyndi Wells, replaced former principal Lisa Jones, and the school’s library media specialist, Anna Balazs, replaced Sue Harris, a teacher at the school.

The committee began meeting in May and reviewed records, documents, and interviews with members of the Cale family and with educators and students who worked in or attended Albemarle County Public Schools during the years when Paul Cale was Superintendent. The committee held three public meetings leading up to the decision of the School Board last month to change the name of the school.

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