The first meeting of the Murray Community Advisory Committee will be held virtually on Tuesday, November 24, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. A total of 16 school and community members have been selected to serve on the committee, which will review the name of the school consistent with a School Board directive and the school division’s facility naming policy.
V.L. Murray Elementary School is the fourth school in the division to have its name reviewed following the School Board’s 2018 decision to have Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas evaluate all schools named for individuals. Of the division’s 25 schools, 14 are named for individuals.
At its organizational meeting on Tuesday evening, the committee will review and approve a community survey that will be sent to families in the school’s attendance zone to solicit their preferences for the name of their school. The committee also will decide on the dates of two public meetings. The first of those meetings will ask the community to offer their views of all of the names that are proposed in the community survey. The committee will narrow the list of names to 10 semi-finalists and a second public meeting will seek comment on those names.
Members of the community and the committee can recommend either a new name be chosen for the school or the retention of its current name.
If the advisory committee selects the current school name as one of its three finalists, the policy requires the committee to examine if Virginia Lee Murray made contributions to the community of state, national, or world-wide significance. It also requires committee members to determine if her personal and professional conduct exemplifies the School Board’s current values of excellence, young people, community, and respect.
Members of the advisory committee were chosen from among those who expressed interest in serving on the committee. Two committee members are the school’s principal, Alison Dwier-Selden, and the division’s lead coach for social studies, John Hobson. Teller Stalfort, the parent of a Murray student, will serve as the committee’s chair.
Three members are from the Murray faculty: Hollins Mills, Laura Richardson, and Shannon Mueller. Five are parents of Murray students: Miles Davis, Robert Brandt, Anita McGinty, Tolu Odumosu, and Kate Shooter. Two live in the school community, but do not have students attending Murray: Leslie Ratan and Linda Perriello. There are also four Murray alumni on the committee: Lorenzo Dickerson, Roosevelt Barbour, Davina Jackson, and Cindy Shepherd. Barbour was among the first class of students when the school opened in 1960.
“When you name a school, you are highlighting what is important or inspirational about its community. Our committee is a blend of parents, teachers, alumni, administration, and community members, and we will examine just that purpose. We'll ask ourselves what is meaningful about our school, our community, our area, our commitment to education, our values,” Stalfort explained.
An excellent starting point, the committee chair said, would be to examine why the school was named after Virginia Lee Murray. “It’s valuable to understand her contributions and her values about education,” Stalfort said, adding that, as provided for in the renaming policy, there should be an alignment between those values and the values of the school division today.
“I hope we can focus on what we cherish about our school and community and the power of a name to communicate what we think about the equity of educational opportunities, about diversity and the inclusion of all voices. These are critical conversations to have, particularly in our current political and social climate,” Stalfort said.
Richardson and Mills will lead a parallel student committee that will closely work with the advisory committee. The student committee will design activities to keep students informed of the advisory committee’s progress and elicit name suggestions.
Updates regarding the Murray Elementary School Naming Review are accessible on the school division’s School Naming Review website, along with current information on all school naming reviews. Community members with questions or suggestions about the Murray naming review can email the advisory committee at SchoolNamingReview@k12albemarle.org.
Virginia L. Murray was born in Albemarle County in 1897. She received her elementary education in Albemarle County, but graduated from high school in Gloucester High School in Capahosic, Virginia.
In 1927, she graduated from Howard University, and in 1953, at the age of 56, she received her master's degree from New York University. In 1928, Ms. Murray began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse in Cobham, Virginia, under the direction of Maggie Burley. She served as demonstration teacher until 1931 when she was appointed Jeannes Supervisor of Elementary Education. She was the first black supervisor ever appointed in Albemarle County.
Of the process, Stalfort explained, “I believe if our community comes along with us in this process—discussing amongst our groups, participating together in the virtual meetings—then we will be all the richer for it. Whether we keep the name of V.L. Murray Elementary or we choose another, our community will have communicated with each other about what's important to us.”
The committee’s recommendation on a school name will be provided to the superintendent, who, in turn, will make a recommendation to the School Board.
CONTACT: Helen Dunn, Legislative and Public Affairs Officer