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An Albemarle County advisory committee plans to meet again Tuesday after the name it suggested for the combined Murray High and Community Public Charter schools caused an uproar.

The proposed name, Rose Hill Community School, was selected as a homage to “the building that was the original use of the building that we’re now housed in,” said committee Chair Stephanie Passman, also is the head teacher of Murray and Community Charter. The school and the Charlottesville neighborhood in which it sits are on land that was the Rose Hill Plantation.

Virginia L. Murray, for whom the high school is named, was a Black educator.

“It’s just really disappointing and very much not in line with anti-racism if you’re going to erase the … Black legacy of educational leadership in this county,” said Amanda Moxham, organizer of the Hate-Free Schools Coalition of Albemarle County.

Albemarle schools parent Shawn Gewirtz said his initial reaction to the advisory committee’s recommendation was that it was almost laughable because of how tone-deaf it was, given what’s going on right now in the country.

He stressed that it doesn’t take more than than a Google search to determine whether a name is embedded in the history of racism or slavery.

“On the school naming, to not evaluate a name for its possible ties to a racist past is absolutely absurd and is contrary to any anti-racism policy,” Gewirtz said.   

The renaming process involved multiple public surveys and opportunities for public comment. After receiving 100 suggested names, the committee, which includes two Black people, one Latino and one parent who was born outside of the country narrowed it down to 10 and then three.

The committee will meet again to consider the full context of Rose Hill, said Passman, adding that  Tuesday’s  meeting will involve guest speakers knowledgeable about the history of the area to help the committee better understand. 

“I want to share that we are really focused on choosing a name that makes our community proud and that incorporates the voices of our stakeholders,” Passman said. “We are eager to hear from the people on what they think. We had the two surveys and the two public comment sessions. We encourage people to continue to give us feedback, so that we can come up with a school that is representative of the community and exciting for the future of our school.” 

Rose Hill was owned by Thomas Jefferson and eventually was sold to John Craven in 1800.

“Craven died in 1847, and portions of the land subsequently were sold to emancipated former slaves who built private homes on the land,” the division said. “The location eventually became part of the historic Rose Hill Community, home to generations of Black families and businesses.” 

Moxham said she understands that Rose Hill is a historic district, and she’s not asking for the neighborhood name to be changed. This is an opportunity for the division to step up and be anti-racist and intentional about the name change choice, she said. 

“They need to hold Superintendent Matt Haas and the entire central office administration accountable for actually doing anti-racist work,” Mohxam said. “This falls under that. This falls under anti-racism, which impacts equity. … 

“We’re challenging them to go deeper; we’re challenging them to not be just not racist. They need to be anti-racist, which requires work.” 

The decision to rename Murray and Community Public Charter stemmed from the division agreeing to merge the schools officially. Additionally, there are two county schools named for Virginia Murray, which caused confusion, and they are among those named for people that are a part of its county’s anti-racism initiative work to investigate their namesakes.

The goal is to have a new name by Sept. 8.  

“I want to share that we are really focused on choosing a name that makes our community proud and that incorporates the voices of our stakeholders,” Passman said. “We are eager to hear from the people on what they think. We had the two surveys and the two public comment sessions. We encourage people to continue to give us feedback, so that we can come up with a school that is representative of the community and exciting for the future of our school.” 

Asked whether the county will be more careful moving forward, Bernard Hairston, assistant superintendent for school community empowerment, said that because the county is being forced to consider issues with anti-racism in mind, the conversations show positive growth. Even as mistakes are being made, they are being recognized. These issues would not have been called to the same attention before to be challenged. 

“That’s why we have an anti-racism policy,” he said. “Because of our anti-racism policy, we can expect more of these challenges to continue to surface.”