People who knew former Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Paul H. Cale, the namesake of Cale Elementary School, lauded him during a public hearing Tuesday for his efforts in handling integration in the county. No one at Tuesday’s hearing spoke definitively in favor of renaming the school.
The hearing was part of four meetings scheduled by a 12-people advisory committee that was formed in response to a presentation by Lorenzo Dickerson, web and social media specialist for the county, that highlighted segregation in American schools and the challenges of the first black students who integrated the county’s public schools.
The video shown to the School Board last fall referenced a 1956 magazine article that, through lengthy passages of paraphrasing, implied that Cale argued against integrating. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of Brown v. Board of Education occurred in 1954. Cale operated Albemarle schools from 1947 to 1967.
Paul H. Cale Jr. told Charlottesville Tomorrow his father faced many challenges during integration, including board members’ efforts to allocate scholarship money for white parents to send their children to private segregated schools.
“There’s a lot that’s out there that people don’t realize he had to put up with,” Cale Jr. said. “He was not a person who would get angry. He was a gentleman. … People believed he was sincere.”
He added the school’s namesake is not important, but his father reputation is.
“Maybe some people are scared to vote one way or the other for whatever reason,” Cale Jr. said. “But if you go on the evidence and the facts, if they decide to change the name of the school, I just hate the county has to go through 14 or 15 of these things. I’m not sure what good that really does.”
Although no one called for the school’s renaming at Tuesday’s meeting, committee member Paul McArtor said in an interview he’s aware there’s a population that wants the change.
“I don’t think there’s an issue in the world that is supported 99%,” he noted. “Now, the sad thing about this [is] we have no idea who that percentage is. So, it’s a little discouraging that there weren’t more of viewpoints shared at the public hearing. But, us as the committee, we don’t have any control of who shows up to talk.”
He said he was expecting both sides of the controversy to come at the hearing, so it not happening was surprising.
McArtor said he has yet to decide whether he’d back keeping the name because there’s a third meeting scheduled for July 30 that would feature the Cale family addressing the public. The committee is expected to make a recommendation to Superintendent Matt Haas at its fourth meeting.
“I’m not [going] to leave here my decision on if my recommendation of the name should be changed,” he said. “That’s not me saying Paul Cale was a bad person, not an honorable man,” he said. “I don’t think it automatically means that just saying if the opinion is that the Cale name school should keep the name is not an admission to that Paul Cale was a perfect individual. I think there’s a danger in tying those two things together.”
He stressed there were some comments that were made at the hearing that were valuable to him.
“I’ve always been curious about … people who have been in the room with Paul Cale,” he said. “And some of the letters we’ve gotten … [were] from some of the African American students who were there during integration that got submitted to us to read. Those will be kind of interesting to read over.”
He said Lewis Johnson, an African American member of Albemarle High School’s Class of 1973, brought an important point at the hearing.
Johnson challenged the committee to consider whether Cale was somebody that was doing everything he could with the limitations he was given or a part of the limitations.
“… [O]ne of the big things to try to decide is where Paul Cale falls in the process,” he said.
Johnson noted he didn’t know Cale was superintendent at the time because he was a child.
“If Mr. Cale was blocking integration at the directions of someone else, then I can’t see how you can hold him accountable for his actions, and no, you should not change the name of the school,” he said. “… If he believed integration was not [going] to work or [said] ‘I’m [going to] do anything in my power to stop integration and make it difficult for black students,’ then yes, the school name needs to be changed.”
Billy Jean Louis joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its education reporter in April 2019 and is a graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jean Louis speaks English, Haitian Creole and French.