Dear Charlottesville Schools Staff, Families, and Students–
As you know, CHS was closed today due to an unusual number of staff absences. In some cases, these staff absences were precipitated by two related fights yesterday as well as a number of other fights this school year among a small subset of students. These same students have often been tardy or absent from classes or otherwise disruptive. While these students have received both supportive and strong disciplinary actions, the situation remains. In addition, as many of you may know, last week CHS Principal Mr. Pitt announced his resignation. All of us – staff, students, families, and the Board – are feeling the cumulative impact.
What Are We Doing?
We have been working on safety, discipline, and school culture for some time, and we will step up our efforts to assure that Charlottesville High School is a physically and emotionally safe place for our students and staff. Specific recent efforts include:
Meeting with CHS staff for debriefs, listening to concerns, and creating action plans accordingly. We know that the path forward to a positive school culture rests on their expertise, ideas, and passion. We have outlined some immediate changes for Monday and Tuesday about staffing and other matters. From a student perspective, one change is that Monday and Tuesday will be singleton days.
Finalizing interim leadership for the school (to be announced Monday) following last week’s resignation of CHS Principal, Mr. Pitt.
Crafting plans for community conversations with area leaders to address community issues that impact our schools.
Elevating the voices and perspectives of the overwhelming number of CHS students who are making good choices each day.
Clarifying our expectations and procedures for student and family behavior.
Disciplining all students according to the state’s guidelines, to include suspension and expulsion.
Connecting students with the social and emotional support they need.
Building a network of alternative community and school programming available to those students for whom CHS is not fully meeting their needs.
What Are These Alternative Community and School Programs?
Current and future alternatives include:
Lugo-McGinness Academy, Charlottesville City Schools’ current alternative high school.
Knight School, a new program Charlottesville City Schools is presently developing to build off the success of Lugo-McGinness and increase the number of high school students served in alternative settings. This will be an evening program with a wide array of day-time work and service-learning opportunities and academic programming in the evening. We will slowly and deliberately be rolling out Knight School following Thanksgiving Break.
A network of community programs that we are building through ongoing conversations with groups such as Charlottesville’s Community Attention Youth Internship Program (CAYIP), Region 10, the Teens GIVE service learning program, the Uhuru Foundation, the UVA Equity Center, Virginia Career Works, and more.
On Monday and Tuesday, CHS will meet on our regular schedule (two singleton days). We will have additional supports in place at the school, including central office staff as well as the Charlottesville Police Department making exterior patrols on campus. Following staff feedback, we have also made some improvements to how employees will offer coverage at the front door and throughout the building.
We will clarify both our behavioral expectations for students and our processes for when those expectations are not met.
If any students or staff would benefit from extra support, we encourage you to reach out to your school counselor or social emotional support worker. We also partner with Care Solace to provide free support to connect students and their families with mental health and substance abuse services. Contact Care Solace by calling 888-515-0595 or visit caresolace.com/charlottesville.
We have heard from many alumni, community members, and parents who want to be part of the solution, and we appreciate that constructive approach. We are actively considering ways that volunteers can support our work, but we absolutely know that we need substitutes at the high school. If you want to support the school, please consider signing up as a substitute. After your training, you would select the days you are available.
These behavioral issues that we have been seeing at Charlottesville High School reflect issues that schools faced before the pandemic, and which have grown far more challenging since the pandemic. We will not “fix” this problem overnight, but together, we can meet the needs of this moment to make our schools better than ever. This includes supporting:
our staff, who are driven by their commitment to young people,
the students who are struggling. We all want to bring our best to the world, and these are young people who need guidance and support so that they can be their best.
the overwhelming majority of students who are doing well at CHS. They – like all young people – deserve a place of safety where they can grow relationally and academically into the adults who will change our world.
Thank you for your support.
Dr. Royal A. Gurley, Jr and Mr. James Bryant (on behalf of the School Board)