What Great and Good Looks Like in Charlottesville

Charlottesville neighborhoods. Courtesy Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition

by James C. Sherlock

In the relationship between Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, very bad things have happened to Charlottesville and continue to do so.

I have developed a working thesis on that relationship.

The city is at the mercy of the University by virtue of the latter’s wealth, influence, and power in Charlottesville elections.

Unfailingly progressive Charlottesville city council, school board and Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates are elected by the dominant votes of the University, its employees and its students. With those officials in place, the University gets its way.

Charlottesville Public Schools (CPS) are creatures of the University.

Many CPS teachers have their bachelors and/or advanced degrees from UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Every progressive educational policy and virtually every experiment the University’s ed school can dream up are visited on those students.

For the city’s Black children in those schools, that influence, well-meaning though it was, turns out to have been a disaster unparalleled in the Commonwealth.

Voting. Charlottesville’s elected city council and school board align philosophically and directly with the University. Joseph Platania, the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney, is a restorative justice icon.  

That makes sense, really, because a very large slice of the voters who elect them are academic and medical staff, faculty and students at UVa.  

The University has almost 10,000 employees at the Charlottesville campus. It has over 17,000 students there. All are of voting age.  

The total population of Charlottesville was estimated at 45,373 in 2022. A total of 38,250 of those, swelled by university students claiming residency, were of voting age. More UVa students than you can imagine vote in Charlottesville. The census bureau asks only where they live the majority of the year.  

The University uses everything but cattle prods to get them to the local polls.  

Influence. Charlottesville, were it to resist UVa’s interests, would be in a cage match with a much more powerful and wealthier competitor. The cage is the ten square miles of the city.

As the University has expanded and continues to do so, the city cannot. Irresistible force meets inelastic object.

With the University community’s demand for residential housing within walking/bicycle distance of the Lawn continually increasing faster than supply, and no undeveloped land in Charlottesville, the zoning decisions are tough.

Zoning changes generally bow to the University’s interests. As a recent editorial in The Cavalier Daily explained, the University is not a good neighbor.

Public Schools. But what drew me to this story is the fact that Black students in Charlottesville Public Schools (CPS) have suffered to a degree unequaled elsewhere in the commonwealth.  

It is a school system designed unusually with six schools for Pre-K-4, one for grades 5 and 6, another for 7 and 8, and a single high school with a couple of alternative programs.

Map of elementary school boundaries courtesy of Charlottesville Public Schools.  Author’s annotations in overlays reflect Virginia School Quality data

The map above shows that the Pre-K-4 school boundaries roughly follow the neighborhoods in the earlier map.

Now look at the elementary school performance and attendance annotations.

The biggest anomaly is that the gap between White and Black academic performance in CPS is an ocean. Worse than Richmond both in absolute performance by the Black students and relative to White students.

I can find nowhere in the commonwealth, including other college towns (and I looked), in which White and Black public-school students exist in academic disparity to the extent they do in Charlottesville.  

The Charlottesville High School riots reflect that gulf.

CPS has managed to fail those Black children in a relatively balanced student demographic of 42% White, 29% Black, 14% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 10% multiple races.

The teachers have far more advanced degrees, most from UVa’s ed school, than the average school division.

It just doesn’t work.

One reason: They do not enforce truancy laws. Possibly because they think inequitable outcomes would result. Instead they have well-meant but demonstrably failed multi-part strategies to encourage attendance.

There is no effective order and discipline in the schools. Same mind set.

So, a lot of Black kids have no chance to learn. And it is harder for teachers to teach.

Those are the inequitable outcomes of unworkable attendance and discipline strategies.

But that is not nearly all they are doing that does not work.

Next, we will look next at town and gown in more detail.

Someone once wrote that things that can’t go on forever will stop. Charlottesville as a city is untenable. I will recommend that Charlottesville strongly consider reversion to town status within Albemarle County. Such a move is all upside for the city.

Albemarle County, with a population last year estimated at 114,534, half again the median household income of Charlottesville, and huge swaths of undeveloped land, is in an excellent position to make it work far better than the revisions Virginia has seen up to this point.

We will also look a lot closer at Charlottesville Public Schools and the relationship between those schools and the University’s School of Education and Human Development (UVaEd).

It has produced unmatched failure for the very Black children whom both claim, and intend, to champion.

This column has been republished with permission from Bacon’s Rebellion.

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Lona gladstone
Lona gladstone
6 months ago

I was shocked appalled by this article. Had no idea it was this bad. Extremely informative but really sad. Proximity to success is not a a guaranteed road to success. It has to be worked at and quite obviously not one person is doing the work. Ot the student, not the teachers and definitely not the adminstrators.

Anne Carson Foard
Anne Carson Foard
6 months ago

Amazing statistics. Since these students are in the same classrooms, there must be underlying issues that aren’t being recognized and addressed. Disparities in childhood/family resources seen to be a candidate. The Cville/Albemarle area is a uniquely difficult situation, but this complete failure is seen as well in, e.g., Baltimore and Richmond, each of which is very different from Cville and from each other in every way, except for being administered by seriously blue administrators. Is pressure to compete against uneven backgrounds creating a student backlash, as in “quiet quitting”, although not so quiet in some instances.

6 months ago

While resources may contribute to this, the decline of black families and the decline of religion both are major contributors. In the 50s and 60s it was the parents that enforced good behavior and academic success. The black families were very strong then and black children had a much better learning environment.

James B Newman
James B Newman
6 months ago

Jim, thank you for posting the work of James Sherlock. It is revelatory. Yesterday the progressive deceivers stood in the doorway of CHS welcoming the high school students to the “new high school” with assertions that school dysfunction is a local community problem. I cringed. The progressives seek to solve the problems of their making by simply applying the same failed techniques and solutions. They know that it is the students of color that are most harmed. They do not care as long as they call the shots. It is the progressives who are the racists, not the conservatives.

6 months ago

Thank you TJC for this IMO most spot on article providing full clarity based on irrefutable facts. The leftist progressive democrat administered educational system in the People’s Republic of C’ville can in no way deny, deflect or lie(as always they do) as to the utter failure and incompetence of the Charlottesville Public School system. They are in full control of every aspect of this disservice to the African American community, and can in no way blame conservatives, Christian nationalists, Republicans, right wingers, conspiracy theorists or even Donald Trump! The guilt in which they mistreat Black children is fully on their heads.
As to UVA and we alumni I applaud the TJC for publishing both these articles on Giving Tuesday. My email inbox of course awash with UVA generated donation emails. Just when are we alumni going to wake up and stop financing this utter incompetence on the part of the current UVA administration and faculty?
Thank you again TJC for bringing the truth Jefferson so cherished to light! His vision for our University will never be fulfilled with the current leftist mess in power. It is time for change and for we alumni who actually care to stand up against this current failed educational model in C’ville. The only Giving Tuesday donation I am making is to the TJC. I hope other alumni will join with me.

6 months ago
Reply to  Clarity77

Eloquent comment and spot on. Thank you for supporting TJC👍🏻

6 months ago

As a follow up to my earlier comment, given the historical fact that just prior to the Civil War every slave owner was in fact either a member of, or affiliated with, the Democrat Party. No Republican slave owners whatsoever. So when it comes to actual concern over the plight of African Americans from then to present day is it not in fact based more in using them as a reliable voting block to thereby achieve the power they so crave? Or stated another way, when it comes to Progressive Democrats and their actual intent, are current day Democrats any different than pre-Civil War Democrats?
I have always enjoyed discussions with Democrats, especially as friends, and it has been my experience that when they drop their guard they will consistently come out with very racist anti-black comments. If you doubt me just look at their party leaders from Biden to Hillary and the numerous racist Freudian slips.
So given the amazing revelations in this article as to a blatant atmosphere of no real and actual concern over the education of African Americans by UVA-C’ville progressive Democrats does this article not in fact prove the answer to my original question?