To the Editor: On Paul Cale’s Record

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Paul H. Cale. Photo courtesy Paul H. Cale, Jr.

Ed. Note: Paul H. Cale served as Superintendent of Albemarle County Schools from 1947 to 1969. It has recently been suggested that the elementary school named for him be renamed because he was quoted in a 1956 education journal article observing that white parents did not respect the professional training of black teachers.

This letter is a brief summary of the first 6½ years of my father’s job as superintendent. Mr. R. Claude Graham was superintendent of Albemarle County Schools from 1937-1947. He worked hard for school improvement, but was quite discouraged when a bond issue was defeated in late 1946. The entire county school board resigned except for Joe Henley, Sr. and Robert Turner. Mr. Graham then resigned in April of 1947 to join the Virginia State Department of Education. He left largely because of the condition of the schools and the apathy of the citizens of Albemarle County towards education. Paul H. Cale, who had been the assistant superintendent for less than one year, was appointed Superintendent of Albemarle County Schools on June 1, 1947. His annual salary was under $5,000. Adjusted for inflation, this amount equals about $57,000, or what a teacher with a Master of Education degree would make today, after 13 years of experience in Albemarle County (from www.albemarle.org /payscales). 

Superintendent Cale inherited the following: 52 schools (9 of which were combination elementary and high school) with more than half of the schools having one teacher and some of these teachers having to teach 7 grades; 44 of the buildings were heated by pot belly stoves; 42 of the schools had outside toilets; no school had a cafeteria; there was one school with a science laboratory, one with a library, but without a full-time librarian; there were zero industrial arts, art, chorus, drama or band, classes; less than $250,000 of local tax money had been spent on the 52 buildings over the previous 60 years; the teacher salary schedule ranged from $900 to $1400 per year; Albemarle County was one of the 24 school divisions in the state (there were 100) with only 11 grades instead of 12. So what did the new superintendent do? 

1.Formed a Citizens Advisory Committee of 54 individuals from every part of the county, to work with the superintendent and school board for school improvement.

2. He had professional pictures taken of each school building to show the deplorable conditions of the entire system. I believe these pictures are still being kept at the school board office. 

3. He asked the State Board of Education to appoint a survey committee to make recommendations for improvement. This report was presented in 1948. In 1949, the State Board of Education informed Albemarle County that most of the county high schools could lose accreditation by 1952 due to limited curriculums in these small schools. 

With this information, the new superintendent convinced the School Board to build Burley High School, since black schools and programs were most deplorable. This decision was six years before the US Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unlawful.

Superintendent Cale, along with School Board Chairman Henley, covered the county over the next several months in numerous meetings with facts, figures, slides and a new plan beginning with the new black high school shared by Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville. I have over 20 articles from The Daily Progress reporting about these meetings from Crozet to Scottsville.

In spite of the defeat of the 1946 bond issue for school improvement for all the county, despite advice from many local leaders that another school bond issue would fail, especially if it involved only one school and a black one, a bond issue vote for Burley High School was passed in 1949 by a two to one margin.

In the fall of 1951, Burley High School opened for all of the black high school students in Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville. Many state educators described this new structure as one of the finest school buildings in the state.

Just weeks after the passage of the bond issue, it was announced that the county had received the deed to a 218-acre site for a new consolidated white high school located on Hydraulic Road, just outside the Charlottesville city limits. 

Albemarle High School was opened in September 1953, consolidating six small high schools that had struggled for years with enrollments of from 70 to 200, and very limited curriculums. 

In the August 19, 1953, News Leader (Staunton, VA), the headline read, “New Albemarle County High School called “One of the Best in the Nation for Rural Students.”

I have a copy of a letter written on November 17, 1975, by Frederick W. Scott, owner of Bundoran Farm in North Garden. Mr. Scott was the anonymous donor, over 25 years earlier, of the land for Albemarle High School. In this letter he is writing to the 1975 Albemarle County School Board requesting that the new high school in western Albemarle be named for my father. Parts of this letter are below. 

“We had great admiration for both Joe Henley, the chairman of the school board and for Paul Cale, the Superintendent of the County Schools who were being successful in improving greatly the quality of the County Schools. We bought all the Woodward property and gave it to the School Board, in honor of Joe Henley and Paul Cale. The School Board was very pleased to have this fine property and invited us to name the proposed school. We declined that generous offer and the School Board named it Albemarle High School. 

The foresight of Messrs. Henley and Cale shown in acquiring that large acreage in 1949 has enabled the County to build Jack Jouett Junior High School and Mary Carr Greer Elementary School on this same property. 

Mrs. Scott and I think it is high time to honor more permanently Mr. Cale by giving his name to the new west side high school. Mr. Henley has been honored by the naming of a school in his honor.” 

Yours truly, Frederick Scott

So the threat of accreditation loss was averted and plans began to be formed on upgrading the elementary schools in the county. Over the next 15 years of dad’s leadership of the Albemarle County School System, 8 new schools were built and at least 11 schools had major alterations/upgrades or additions completed. Remarkably, after the bond issue in 1948, there was never a need for another one to finance any future building programs, including Albemarle High School. The primary methods of financing used for these projects came from local funds and borrowing from state retirement funds. 

I will conclude with one final newspaper quote, this time from The Evening Star in Washington D. C.. On February 27, 1950 in an article titled, “Albemarle Plan Expected to Give County One of Best School Systems in Country,” the staff reporter wrote: 

“J. T. Henley, Crozet orchardist and chairman of the county school board, lays the credit at Mr. Cale’s door step.” 

“We have a superintendent with the brains to plan and the ability to carry out his program,” he said. “He knows how to work with people and get things done.” 

Paul H. Cale, Jr.
Hilton Head Island, SC 

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