Letter from Western’s Principal

This is an important conversation for us to have in schools, at homes, in coffee shops, and pubs. Posting with permission.

via email 

Dear Western Families:

It has been almost two weeks since I issued a statement in response to a controversy over a student project related to the study of To Kill a Mockingbird in one of our English classes. This incident elicited many emotions, from anger among our visiting girls’ basketball team to surprise and then concern among our own students who were unaware of the situation. It is important for us to understand how our visitors felt about what was displayed on the student project as well as our own students’ feelings.

While the conversation began because of the historic images used in a student project, this situation has sparked a larger dialogue around issues of racial equality, respect, tolerance and inclusiveness in our relationships with one another in our community. We see this as an important opportunity which should be seized.

We are now at a point in time when, collectively, we can address, head-on, many of the issues that concern us. This is an opportunity to listen, learn and work together for the benefit of our community. We already have many mechanisms in place to support this discussion. We must use these structures and others to increase dialogue and build understanding.

Last year we created the Western Feeder Pattern Diversity Focus Group comprised of elementary, middle and high school teachers, parents and administrators. This group was formed to address issues within our own community around diversity and to help all of our schools provide a more supportive atmosphere for all kids.

We have an Equity and Diversity team of teachers and staff at Western who are focused on understanding biases in our school and in our practices and is working with staff and students for equality, equity and success for all of our kids.

Our school improvement climate goal this year is focused on empowering all kids to have voice and agency and to be comfortable in stepping up when they see things that are harmful to others. We want our students to develop and actively use bystander awareness strategies to support each other and a healthier school community.

As principal, I see our students achieving in many areas as part of our school and division. Academically, students regularly challenge themselves to take many of the most rigorous classes offered. On the stage and athletic fields, our students compete at the highest level and challenge themselves and their teams in competition.

We must remind ourselves that achieving these goals should never be in the absence of qualities that best exemplify us as learners and leaders: sportsmanship, character, and integrity.

I care deeply about each one of my students, as does every member of our staff. We have and will continue to accomplish great things. If we are to continue to move forward as a caring, supportive, high-performing community, we must work together to better understand the contributions each of us will make. We need more honest conversations about school culture and student experiences.

Such conversations often are not easy, but they are necessary if we are to ensure that racism, bigotry and all forms of harassment will have no place in our schools. I know we can create the most respectful and best learning environment for every one of our kids. In the near future, I will be reaching out with information on opportunities for parents, students, and community members to join us in this work. I hope that you will partner with us as we move forward.

We will continue to find ways to improve. For your child. For every child.


Darah Bonham


Background from the Daily Progress

A homework assignment depicting racist themes in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” sparked controversy Monday when the English classroom at Western Albemarle High School was used that evening as a changing room for the Fluvanna County High School girls’ basketball team.

“So after our game we found a poster in the locker room we [were] in and it said ‘negros sit in the back of the bus,’” one player wrote on social media after the game. “That is very disrespectful and racist.”

The post angered others, including one parent who said that Western Albemarle should voluntarily forfeit the game it won, 45-34, to “voluntarily stand up to racism.”

Western Albemarle Principal Darah Bonham said the poster was part of a project on Harper Lee’s novel set in 1930s Alabama that asked students to analyze themes such as racial tension, injustice and poverty, and then draft written and visual depictions of them.



Planning for School Growth

Read the whole thing at Charlottesville Tomorrow.


An architectural consulting firm told the Albemarle County School Board on Thursday that the county would soon need new high school facilities to accommodate growing enrollment and implement innovative educational programs.

“We have to look at what the competition is doing around the world and around the country, and do what makes sense for the benefit of our kids and their education,” said Board member Jonno Alcaro.

The division forecasts much more rapid growth at Western Albemarle High School  in Crozet. Enrollment at WAHS is expected to increase by more than 21 percent, reaching a high of 1,335 in 2024.

A planned 10,000 square-foot addition of science classroom space at WAHS, scheduled for completion in 2019, was not factored into the study’s capacity calculations.

WAHS Crew Win Virginia State Regatta Championships



Western Albemarle Crew had a fantastic showing at the Virginia State Regatta Championships this weekend in Occoquan.

From The Beaver Creek Sculling blog: (read the whole thing)

Western Albemarle’s Crew team entered ten boats in the Virginia State Rowing Championships hosted this past Saturday by the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association and brought home eight medals: four gold, two silver and two bronze.

Both the women’s and the men’s senior quads dominated their races; a particularly satisfying accomplishment for the WAHS men’s quad as they had never won that event. Peter Dister, Noah Davis, both juniors, and seniors Spencer Hale and Wiley Martin rowed the quad to the win, automatically qualifying to compete at the Scholastic National Championships later this month.

The women’s senior quad had quite a legacy to uphold; it had not only won the State Championships, but had gone on to row to gold in the 2016 Scholastic National Championships. Two of the members of the 2016 quad graduated, but team captain Carrie Smith and Maggie Vidal, both seniors returned and the team added senior Grace von Elten and junior Hannah Carter to continue the quad’s winning tradition.


Results –

5 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze, 2 Fourth!!

The men’s team won in the men’s quad, scored a 3rd in the men’s double, a second in the men’s junior double, won in the men’s lightweight single and men’s junior single.
The women’s team won in the women’s quad, were also 3rd by .1 seconds with women’s junior quad, 2nd and 4th in the women’s lightweight double, 4th in the women’s junior double and won in the women’s junior single.

Continue reading “WAHS Crew Win Virginia State Regatta Championships”

Chalk Kindness at Brownsville Elementary

Sent by email:

Here are a couple of photos from Kindness In Chalk at Brownsville this morning.
Holly Grimm brought it to our school last year and we fell in love with it. This year, she and Kim Nicoletti chaired the event. It’s such minimal effort for maximum benefits to the students. It was started in 2014 by a mom in Minnesota. You can find more info here.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of the kids light up as they get off the bus. I watched a 4th grade boy walk slowly down the sidewalk, reading aloud each positive message. That boy walked into the doors this morning with a smile on his face. Letting these kids know how loved they are and surrounding them with messages of encouragement was what this was all about. 🙂

Albemarle County School Bond Referendum – 2016

There’s a bond referendum coming up in this year’s election (November 8, for those of you paying attention). Best to get educated on it now.

If interested, make plans to attend the bond referendum open house on 4 October at Western Albemarle High School.

Importantly – what questions do you have about the referendum?

Explanation of the County of Albemarle Public School Bond Referendum

Continue reading “Albemarle County School Bond Referendum – 2016”

1st Day of School – 23 August 2016

via Henley Matters –

Dear Members of our School Community:

Our School Board recently adopted the calendar for the 2016-17 school year. The first day of school will be Tuesday, August 23.


Perhaps the most significant change is the adding of five minutes at the end of the school day for all schools, with the exception of Yancey Elementary School. Yancey has an academic enrichment program after school. Other schools in the division may vary on how the five minutes is added to their day based upon previous changes they have made or due to bus schedule requirements.

Our addition of these five minutes will prevent the need to add any weather-related make-up days after June 9, 2017. You may be assured this date will not change as the end of the school year.

The calendar does designate Monday, February 20, and Friday, March 31, as potential make-up days, if needed. No other make-up days will be necessary, since the addition of five minutes to the school day will be the equivalent of two additional days of instructional time over the course of the year.

We are grateful for the input of many of you as we developed the calendar, especially your views that we not add make-up days that would impact spring break or extend the school year in June.

School start times will not change. As planning for next year is completed, each school will report their opening and closing times to their families, as they have done in the past. For a look at the 2016-17 calendar, please visit:


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Henley’s New Schedule and Traffic

It seems (to me) that morning traffic in front of Henley has been worse than usual. Maybe their new pilot schedule is the reason (see after the jump for that). Maybe not; at least they’re aware of the challenges and are trying to make things better.

The schedule may or may not be the cause (or contributor) but this much is true – with more growth brings more kids. There is currently limited capacity to deal with current population; what’s the solution?

My one comment on the following: why not address/encourage those who ride bikes or walk? Words matter.

Update: Good conversation at the corresponding facebook post.


Before School

Car riders report to cafeteria
Bus riders who arrive before 8:40 report to gym


After School

Car Riders dismissed at 3:43
Bus Riders at 3:45 to lockers
Staging areas 3:50 until busses

Continue reading “Henley’s New Schedule and Traffic”

Brownsville has a new Principal – Jason Crutchfield

Brownsville’s last principal abruptly left in November.  Now they have a new principal.

Jason Crutchfield just sent this email to the Brownsville community:

Dear Members of our Brownsville Community:

This evening, the School Board announced my appointment as Brownsville’s principal, effective May 1.

I am grateful for the Board’s confidence in me, for the opportunity I had to interview for this position, but above all, for the chance to have been a part of your team these past two years.


As principal, I would like to build upon our strong foundation for learning. I especially am excited about our technological leadership. Such initiatives as our 1:1 program, our 3D printing and design capabilities, and our Innovation Lounge have enormous potential to deepen the learning of students and extend their learning environment further beyond the classroom.

Our students are champions when it comes to creativity as demonstrated, for instance, by our Destination Imagination teams. So, too, are our parents and other members of our school community who are so engaged with our school. Brownsville always has been gifted in that regard.
Continue reading “Brownsville has a new Principal – Jason Crutchfield”