Paul McArtor, one of 12 people on the advisory committee in charge of renaming Albemarle County’s Cale Elementary School, said he’s been reading historic documentation, newspaper articles and personal letters that came before and after the naming of the school.
“The way that I approach problems in general is I’ll cut the facts first and then come up with an opinion,” McArtor said. “I have been trying to stay away from some of the stuff that’s been currently written because I am trying to get myself embedded in factual stuff.
“… What’s the best decision from this point forward? That’s what I’m looking for,” McArtor said. “From this point forward, is the name staying the same the best decision for the community or is changing the name the best decision for the community? That’s the way I’m personally going to look at it.”
The committee was formed in response of a presentation by Lorenzo Dickerson, web and social media specialist for the county, that highlighted segregation in American schools that led to the Brown vs. the Board of Education case, as well as the challenges the first black students who integrated public schools in Albemarle. The video shown to the School Board referenced a 1956 magazine article that, through lengthy passages of paraphrasing, implied that Superintendent Paul H. Cale, the school’s namesake, argued against integrating schools.
Tuesday night was the committee’s first meeting, and public hearing on the school’s name is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 18 at Lane Auditorium in the County Office Building.
Committee Chairman and former county Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said studying the 1954 Brown case will help committee members better understand what happened while Cale operated the schools from 1947 to 1967.
“Cale was superintendent of the schools most before and after the Brown case,” he said.
Rooker said he’s been in touch with the Cale family since being appointed to the committee in February. He added the committee will host a third meeting devoted to receiving information from the family and a fourth one to make a recommendation to Superintendent Matt Haas.
“The Cale family asked to see all the information that went out to the committee, and I sent that information,” Rooker said.
McArtor, who has two daughters at Cale Elementary, said the documents have been helpful, noting they gave him an understanding of what happened at the time.
“One thing I think is important is to make sure that we’re giving a realistic judgment of Cale as an individual,” he said.
McArtor said he knew the renaming of the school was going to be a “difficult” situation.
“To be honest, at the end of the day, it’s impossible to have everybody happy,” he said. “If the recommendation is for the name to be changed, that’s obviously going to upset the Cale family. If we decide to make the recommendation the Cale name should stay, there’s [going to] be another group of people who won’t be happy.”
Speaking of the upcoming public hearing, he stressed the namesake should be something that people are proud of, so hearing the opinions of others either for or against is important.
“I don’t think this is going to be a tough decision,” he said. “I think most of the time, coming up with what you think is the right answer is usually pretty easy.”
Committee members include Cale Principal Lisa Jones and Assistant Principal Ben Allen; Bernard Hairston, assistant superintendent for school community empowerment; parents; teachers; and community members without a child at the school.