Charter School Advisory Committee in Albemarle County begins naming process for new school

Charter School Advisory Committee in Albemarle County begins naming process for new school
Sign for Community Public Charter School and Murray High School. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - For the first time in nearly two decades, a new school in Albemarle County will be named.

Murray High School and the Community Public Charter Middle School will get the new name in time for the 2020-21 school year.

The school board approved the merger of the two schools in February.

The first step in the renaming should come in the next week, when a community-wide survey goes out to solicit suggestions.

05/13 Albemarle County Public Schools Press Release:

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – It hasn’t happened in nearly a generation, but a community advisory group has begun meeting to decide on the name for a new school in Albemarle County.

The most recent new school in the division was Baker-Butler, which opened in 2002. Now, the building that houses the school division’s two public charter schools, Murray High School and the Community Public Charter Middle School, will gain a new name in time for the 2020-21 school year.

The process was set in place this past February when the School Board approved the merger of the two schools to create a unified school. In a message to his school community at that time, Chad Ratliff, the principal for both schools, said, “More closely sharing resources, teaching strategies, and ideas from our students as one school, from grades 6-12, not only will build upon the strong foundation for success now in place, but it will open up new opportunities for leadership, for the professional development of our teachers, and for the ambitions of our students.”

These are benefits, Ratliff added, that can be shared across the division. “We function in part as an educational laboratory in our division,” he said. “Our relatively small size and our exploratory curriculum allows us to design and pilot nontraditional learning approaches that are consistent with our division’s mission and goals for all students,” he said.

In March, Ratliff sent out a call for volunteers to serve on the community advisory committee that will recommend a name for the new school. This week, the committee held their organizational meeting.

The head teacher for the high school and middle school, Stephanie Passman, is the committee facilitator. Other staff members on the committee include Ratliff, Lucy Akers Allen, Josh Flaherty, and Julie Stavitski. Also, three parents of current students, Alhena Cleveland, Daphne Latham, and Brian Veerhoff, and two parents from feeder schools, Shelley Blakely and Megan Kopley, are on the committee. Since any student in Albemarle County is eligible to attend the charter school, all schools in the division are considered to be feeder schools.

Committee members also include three students, Gwen Cox, Seth Raffinan, and Chloe Root, and two residents who do not have children attending the school, Freddy Jackson and Shereen el Mallah.

“We are housed in a building that originally was Rose Hill Elementary School,” said Passman, explaining that Albemarle County students at that school transferred to what is now Cale Elementary School in 1990 when that new school opened. “This enabled the school division to move its charter school students from V.L. Murray Elementary School where they were located at that time to our current location. The name Murray was kept (without the initials) because the students first moved from V.L. Murray Elementary,” she said.

The committee’s next order of business is to design and distribute a community-wide survey to solicit suggestions for the new school’s name. Passman said that should happen within the next week. The committee will publish a list of names gained from the survey and conduct a public meeting to receive opinions from the community on those names.

Based upon what they hear at the community meeting and their own deliberations, the committee will narrow the list of names under consideration to no more than 10. This shorter list will be the subject of a second community meeting. Eventually, the committee will send a finalist list of three names to Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas for his review. He in turn will recommend a name for the new school to the School Board.

Consistent with School Board policy, if one of the committee’s list of three names is that of a person, the committee will research that person’s role in the community to ensure it is consistent with the school division’s four values of excellence, young people, community, and respect.

In addition to selecting a name for the new charter school, the school division is reviewing 13 of its schools that are named for individuals. One of those reviews, of Cale Elementary School, has been completed and beginning on July 1, the name of the school will be Mountain View. Information on the policy and process for the naming or the renaming of schools and the progress of those reviews can be found on the school division’s School Naming Review website at

In addition to this website, members of the community also can contact the charter school advisory committee with questions or to offer comments by emailing

“As our Superintendent has said, the opportunity for a school community, including its students, to participate in choosing a name for their school is unique,” Ratliff said. “It encourages all of us to think deeply about what we value in our school, what we want to celebrate in our relationships with one another, our mission, and how we will define success for our graduates. This is the perfect way to take the next step in offering students and families collaborative educational experiences that are on the cutting edge of innovation and excellence,” he said.

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