Murray High School graduation emphasizes lifelong learning

Murray High School graduated 26 seniors Thursday night in an intimate ceremony that celebrated their individuality.

Murray, a public charter school within the Albemarle County school division, enrolls 100 students and fosters a supportive environment by modeling instruction after Dr. William Glasser’s “Choice Theory,” and  employing a mastery learning model that allows students to redo assignments and retake classes until they achieve a B grade or higher.

Murray was established in 1987 to serve students at risk of dropping out. However, the school is currently revising its charter to target “…any student interested in more experimental, student-centered learning in arts and design,” principal Chad Ratliff said.

Albemarle County School Board  member Jonno Alcaro and Superintendent Pam Moran spoke at Thursday’s graduation ceremony, which was held at Burley Middle School. Both speakers emphasized Murray’s reputation of creativity and tight-knit community.

“Tonight is the night to remove the boundaries around your dreams and be lifelong learners,” Alcaro said.

Associate principal Michael Craddock invited each graduate to the stage to receive their diploma. He also invited a person of the graduate’s choice — a family member, favorite faculty member or friend — to hand the graduate their diploma.

Faculty members read a list of attributes they noticed in each student, a handful of special talents they possessed and what they were going to miss most about the graduate.

As each graduate then walked across the stage, they were met with a hug, a diploma and a copy of Glasser’s“Choice Theory,” a book central to their time at Murray.

Jennifer Hogg, a world language and history teacher, said she has known graduate Jack Hedman for five years and has enjoyed watching him grow during his time at Murray.

“He has had a wonderful and interesting career,” Hogg said. “He’s transformed during the process, but he’s still ‘Jack’ in his essence.”

Hedman said he was grateful for Murray and its non-traditional model for education. “Mastery learning is the best way for me to learn,” he said.

Ratliff promised the graduates that they would have the school’s full support in whatever they plan to do after graduation.

Ratliff said most Murray graduates will attend college, with some taking gap years. A few will immediately enter the workforce, and potentially obtain a higher degree in the future.