Paul H. Cale Jr. wanted Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Haas to shake his hand.
After a nearly seven-minute meeting at the Albemarle County Office Building on Wednesday ended, Cale Jr. walked across Lane Auditorium and called to Haas as he was exiting the auditorium.
Cale Jr. is the son of former Superintendent Paul H. Cale, who led county schools from 1947 to 1967 and was the namesake of Cale Elementary School. Wednesday was the fourth meeting of an advisory committee charged with recommending whether the school system should rename the building after a presentation last year included an article that implied that Cale Sr. argued against integration.
Cale Jr. told Charlottesville Tomorrow that Haas never offered to meet with him. Wednesday, after the 12-person committee recommended that the school be renamed, was the first time the pair shook hands. “I would like to think in 30 or 40 years, what if someone came up and question what he did when he was superintendent? He had to [know] how much he hurt the family,” Cale Jr. said. “I would just think that the common decency, you go up and shake my hand and say, ‘It’s nothing personal to you.’” Haas will be taking the committee’s input under advisement, according to the county schools’ spokesperson Phil Giaramita, and will be making his own recommendation to the School Board on the Sept. 26 School Board meeting.
The process was set in motion in October when Lorenzo Dickerson, web and social media specialist for county schools, showed the School Board a video he created that highlighted segregation in American schools and the challenges of the first Black students who integrated the county’s public schools.
The presentation, which was not created specifically for the board, referenced a 1956 article in Commentary magazine that, through extensive paraphrasing, stated that Cale Sr. argued against integration in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Afterward, some School Board members called for a review of building names.
Cale Jr. said he doesn’t see how “an open-minded person could read” all the information about Cale and still vote to rename the school.
“That’s the shocking part of it,” he said. “The make-up [of the] committee, to me, was not representative of that school. … Shouldn’t you have somebody who has lived in the county when he was superintendent? I know there are not many of us still alive, but there are some.”
Thursday afternoon, Haas wrote in a statement to Charlottesville Tomorrow that he “was surprised by Mr. Cale’s comments about my interest level in his views, and I certainly understand his disappointment. I am well-acquainted with his views, having read all of the extensive emails he has sent to me and to the School Board dating back to last October. … I also was in the audience to hear from him and his family when they spoke to the community advisory committee for more than an hour in July, as well.” Although the recommendation to rename the school disappointed supporters of Cale Sr., others said they were pleased with the committee’s work. “His name will no longer be associated with education,” said M. Rich Turner, chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of the Albemarle-Charlottesville NAACP chapter. “They made the decision based on the fact that he has made statements that had a [racial] overtone. I’m glad they made the statement that they will no longer have his name associated with the school.”
Berdell McCoy Fleming, who serves on the executive board of the local NAACP, also said renaming the school is the right decision. “In listening to Superintendent Haas in line of what the Albemarle County Schools feels is appropriate as far as the vision for naming schools for where we are now in this era, it was important that we really reconsidered changing,” McCoy said.
McCoy, a 1964 graduate of the Black-only Burley High School, said from her experience knowing Cale Sr. while attending county schools, the committee’s recommendation is the “best” decision. “[Haas] has a vision for making sure that all children are looked at in their cultural connection, [and] that we have to be careful of how we make decisions naming schools. … I think he really made a good statement as far as what has to be thought of instead,” she said. In a news release, Haas thanked the committee for taking “what is, for many, an emotional and difficult issue. Their work was thoughtful and valuable.”
Haas added that the committee “has done outstanding work in compiling their valuable research,” and that included many “contributions from Mr. Cale and his family.”
Haas also said he will be reviewing and considering all of the material before preparing his own recommendation to the School Board. The committee’s findings, according to a news release, argued that Cale Sr. didn’t speak publicly against segregation or tried to integrate schools faster. The committee also found that the School Board at the time was against integration.
The committee also said Cale Sr. aimed to improve education during his tenure, but the article and the continued “segregation of county schools long after the Supreme Court decision and after Charlottesville city’s integration of schools made the continued use of the name of Cale Elementary School controversial,” according to the news release. Dennis S. Rooker, a former member of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, chaired the 12-person advisory committee and said in a release that the decision was not about Cale Sr. personally. “This is about present and future students, teachers and other members of the community,” Rooker said. “It is on that basis that our committee reached a consensus that the name of the school be changed.”