A new installation outside Dorothy Hamm Middle School tells the story of the four students who integrated the building, formerly Stratford Junior High School, six decades ago.
Four free-standing panels and a wall-mounted panel, connected by a trail, depict Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman and Michael Jones — the four students who desegregated the building on Feb. 2, 1959 — as well as Dorothy Hamm, the new school’s namesake and prominent civil rights activist in Arlington, and Barbara Johns, who at 16 led a student strike for equal education at a high school in Farmville, Virginia.
During a dedication ceremony for the new Stratford Commemorative Trail on Friday, several speakers said the installation equally inspires children to achieve greatness and charges Arlington Public Schools to continue making history.
“Rest assured that every child will leave this school knowing the civil rights history that happened here, understanding that while four students did begin the desegregation process in 1959, many others were denied that opportunity, and it came later,” school Principal Ellen Smith said. “Our students must know that as citizens of our school, our county, our state and our nation, they have the responsibility to speak up, to say something and make good trouble, as [former Rep.] John Lewis so aptly stated.”
The panels challenge those who walk the trail to take action and remind middle schoolers can make a difference at their age, she added.
APS & @ArlingtonVA dedicate the Stratford Commemorative Trail @DHMiddleAPS (formerly Stratford Jr High). The trail’s interpretive panels discuss nat’l, state & local history of school desegregation & honor the 4 students who desegregated Stratford on Feb. 2, 1959, & Dorothy Hamm. pic.twitter.com/IZRntPiQ01
— Arlington Public Schools (@APSVirginia) June 11, 2021
In 2016, the school was designated a local historic district and APS convened a committee to find a way to honor its history. Soon after, APS embarked on a process to convert the school at 4100 Vacation Lane from a building housing the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs to a neighborhood middle school. It was renamed for Hamm and reopened to students in 2019. Final touches were finished during the 2020-21 school year.
Longtime Lee Highway business Mr. Moore’s Barber Shop is piloting a new program pairing kids coming in for haircuts with free books.
“We specifically chose Moore’s Barbershop because it is an Arlington institution,” said Jennifer Sauter-Price, who founded the nonprofit behind the program, Read Early And Daily. “Everyone knows about it, and he has customers for years and others who drive from far away for his services.”
The nonprofit began dropping off books at the barbershop earlier this month and lets kids pick out their favorite to take home. Sauter-Price says she handpicks books that showcase diversity and partners with organizations like First Book and Scholastic Literacy Partnerships, which buy copies for them.
“The goal is to give away as many books as possible,” said James Moore, who was interested in the idea of bringing books to barbershop to spark conversations and help teach kids communication skills.
He told ARLnow that for him it started with Dorothy Hamm, the civil rights activist who integrated Stratford Junior High School and for whom the School Board voted to re-name the school after last year. Moore says he was in the school band, which used to practice at Hamm’s house.
“When I go to practice she would always say, ‘What did you learn at school today?’ and I would say some generic answer, and she wouldn’t let me go until I told her what I learned at school,” Moore said. “So I do the same thing now.”
Moore asks kids to take the books home with them, and to give a kind of “oral book report” about what they read the next time they’re sitting in his chair.
Just another fine example of kids making the right book choices that appeals to there interest. Thanks @ReadEarlyDaily for the positive options! @ARLnowDOTcom @BrookeBCNN @nbcwashington @NicolleDWallace #barbershop #barbershopdmv pic.twitter.com/tG4U1dT0Mr
— James Moore (@Mooresbarber) May 11, 2019
Moore said that so far his favorite book was “Happy to be Nappy” by Bell Hooks.
“I was kind of offended at first,” said the barber. “And then I read the book and understood what it was about.”
Sauter-Price dropped off 21 books earlier this month at Mr. Moore’s. As of a week ago, kids had taken all but 11.
The shop has been a community fixture for good conversations since Moore’s father James Moore founded it in 1960 as the first integrated barber shop in Arlington.
When asked what his 86-year-old father thought of the new book program, James Moore, Jr. said his dad though it was “great.”
As for the future? Sauter-Price is planning to add more community bookshelves around town at a laundromat, the Arlington Clothesline, Mount Olivet Methodist Church, and the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
“One thought is to include a postcard with future books so families can let us know what they think by mailing back the postcard, but we are still working out those details,” said Sauter-Price.
“What will have to happen is the program will have to mature,” said Moore, who hopes to expand to books for teenagers and adults. As an avid history reader, he says he’d like to introduce more adults to books by Malcolm X and the Green Book.
A copy of the Green Book was perched on an empty chair when this reporter visited, and it sparked a conversation with several of the men waiting for haircuts who hadn’t heard of it before.
“In order to be a successful barber you have to be able to communicate with people, learn about people,” said Moore afterward.
Moore also serves as a captain at Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway and says he plans to retire next year. But when that happens, he says he’ll keep the barbershop going, and hopefully will continue the communications flowing.
“If everyone does one little thing, it makes a big impact,” he said.
It’s been sixty years since four black students integrated Stratford Junior High School, marking the beginning of the end of school segregation in Virginia, and Arlington leaders are planning a special event to commemorate the momentous anniversary.
The school system and Arlington County’s Historic Preservation Program scheduled a celebration tonight (Monday) at the H-B Woodlawn auditorium, near the original Stratford building at 4100 Vacation Lane.
The event will mark nearly 60 years to the day from when the students first attended the school back on Feb. 2, 1959, as Stratford became the first school to defy the state’s policy of “massive resistance” in the face of the Brown v. Board of Education decision banning school segregation.
The program will include remarks from School Board Chair Reid Goldstein and County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, as well as three of the four students who first integrated the school: Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones and Gloria Thompson. The fourth, Lance Newman, passed away last fall.
The program also includes a performance by the H-B Woodlawn Choir and participants from the Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Visual Arts contest reading essays they prepared. Arlington Public Art will also be distributing free 60th anniversary commemorative letterpress prints created by visiting artist Amos Kennedy.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for anyone hoping to examine artifacts and art from the civil rights era, with the formal program beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The gathering comes at a time of great change for the Stratford property. With H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs set to move to a new building in Rosslyn for the new school year, the site will soon become home to a new middle school.
The School Board decided late last year to name the building for Dorothy Hamm, an Arlington-based civil rights activist who fought for the integration of Stratford. However, the Board attracted some backlash by stripping any reference to Stratford from the building’s name, given the term’s connection to Robert E. Lee and his family home of Stratford Hall.
Photo via Arlington County
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) Arlington’s School Board will name a new Cherrydale middle school after civil rights activist Dorothy Hamm, opting against including any reference to the historic Stratford School on the new building’s site.
Following the Board’s unanimous vote yesterday (Thursday), the school will open next year as “Dorothy Hamm Middle School.” It’s set to be located at 4100 Vacation Lane, the former home of the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, and should hold about 1,000 students.
Though the process of naming the building hasn’t drawn quite as much controversy as the renaming of Washington-Lee High School, the debate has nonetheless raised familiar questions about how the county grapples with its history. The “Stratford” name presented a particularly thorny option for the Board to consider, as it has a bit of a complex legacy.
Many people around the community hoped to see the Stratford name stay attached to the new school, considering its significance in the civil rights movement in Virginia. The original Stratford Junior High School (which remains on the site) was the first school in the state to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision, marking the beginning of the end of Virginia’s policy of “massive resistance” to desegregation.
Yet the original school was named after Stratford Hall, the childhood plantation home of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, making some uncomfortable with the name’s connection to Lee’s legacy of defending slavery. After all, the Board voted just a few months ago to strip Lee’s name from W-L over similar concerns.
Accordingly, Hamm emerged as an alternative choice, given her role in fighting to integrate Stratford. Her children attended the school soon after its desegregation, and Hamm also supported a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington.
“What I really love is that this was a story of the moms of Arlington, who heard from their children,” said School Board member Barbara Kanninen. “They wanted to know why they couldn’t attend this school. That’s why they stood up and fought. By naming this building after Dorothy Hamm, we’re honoring the fight, rather than the place. I think it’s going to be a terrific message that we’re sending to the students of that school, and I think that’s something to be excited about.”
But in ditching the Stratford name entirely, the Board cast aside the recommendation of an advisory committee convened to offer recommendations for the school’s moniker. The group suggested either naming the building simply “Stratford Middle School” or the lengthier “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” to ensure a reference to the “Stratford” remained.
Board Vice Chair Tannia Talento proposed that the Board accept the latter option, but Kanninen made a motion to remove the “Historic Stratford Building” section of the name. That passed, but only on a narrow, 3-2 margin, with Talento and Board Chair Reid Golstein dissenting.
“I find it a bit incongruous that we all like the Dorothy Hamm name because we’re lauding the significant, dynamic and historic actions of Dorothy Hamm in the desegregation activity and, at the same time, setting aside the Stratford name, which is equally a part of the significant desegregation history here,” Goldstein said.
Dean Fleming, a friend of the Hamm family who has also been active in organizing opposition to the W-L name change, also told the Board that Hamm’s daughter, Carmela, is “not interested in having her mom’s name on school.” Dorothy Hamm herself passed away in 2004.
Instead, Fleming said her daughter suggested creating a “hall of honors” at Stratford to honor the family’s legacy, while preserving the original name of the building.
Yet Board member Nancy Van Doren argued that the school system has already sketched out an extensive plan for creating an “interpretative trail” and other memorials on the new school’s grounds to ensure that the full history of the Stratford building is available to students.
Though some historic preservation groups around the county have protested any removal of the Stratford name, Van Doren believes the new building will not lack for commemorations of its integration history.
“Those will all be up at the time the building opens,” Van Doren said. “And because it will all be physically there, on the site, I don’t think we need the ‘at the Historic Stratford School’ section of the name.”
Arlington school officials will soon decide on a name for the new middle school to be built on the site of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale — but the complex history of the building, and its original name, has divided the community over which option is best.
A naming committee settled on three options for the 1,000-seat school in October, ahead of the building’s planned opening next fall. But that collection of parents and community members hasn’t been able to settle on a definitive recommendation as the School Board gears up for a vote on the matter.
The 28-member committee was instead split down the middle on two options for the building: naming it simply “Stratford Middle School,” or dubbing it “Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building.”
The group initially considered “Legacy Middle School at the Historic Stratford Building” as an option, but that choice fell out of favor as the process advanced. The committee even floated the compromise possibility of naming the building “Stratford-Hamm Middle School,” but stopped short of recommending such an option.
The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, currently houses the H-B Woodlawn program, but was once the site of Stratford Junior High School. That’s believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, lending plenty of historic significance to the site and its name.
But the “Stratford” name itself comes from a considerably darker part of the nation’s past. The name is derived from Stratford Hall, the plantation home of Robert E. Lee and his family in Westmoreland County.
Considering that the school system is in the midst of a contentious process to strip Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School, any association with the Confederate general has the potential to kick off a new firestorm of controversy in the county. Accordingly, some members of the naming committee championed naming the building after Dorothy Hamm, a civil rights activist who helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford.
“The event signified the end of massive resistance in the commonwealth of Virginia and dealt a powerful blow to the opponents of racial equality nationwide,” Ellen Smith, the incoming principal of the new middle school, wrote in a letter to the Board. “While Hamm was the community activist at the forefront of the campaign to integrate Arlington Public Schools, she was not the only community activist that was determined to integrate Arlington schools so that all students would have the opportunity to receive an equal education.”
Smith noted in her letter that the committee was determined to see “Stratford” remain part of the name somehow, in order to maintain “the clear connection between the name of the school” and its historic integration. But by including it only as addendum beyond Hamm’s name, Smith wrote that some on the committee fear it will be “dropped from regular use.”
That’s why many would much rather simply name the school “Stratford.” The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board endorsed such an option, castigating the school system in a letter for even considering the possibility of a name other than Stratford “without any apparent prior consideration of the uniqueness and the historical and cultural significance” of the site.
A special committee convened by Superintendent Patrick Murphy to debate “Historic Interpretation at the Former Stratford Junior High School” reached a similar conclusion, noting that the school has earned inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
“That the Stratford name comes from the birthplace of Robert E. Lee is an uncomfortable part of the history, but not the most important part,” Susan Cunningham, the co-chair of that committee, wrote in an email to ARLnow. “As community historian Dr. Arnold Taylor reminds us, ‘We have to understand where we are coming from so we can appreciate where we are going’… Names matter. History matters. At Stratford, the civil rights history matters most.”
Smith urged the Board to consider the opinions of both the commission and the review board, but otherwise would not take a firm position beyond suggesting one of the two names.
The Board will discuss naming options for the first time on Thursday (Dec. 6), with a final vote set for Dec. 20.
A naming committee is narrowing down its options for a moniker for the new middle school taking the place of the Stratford School building in Cherrydale.
The 1,000-seat middle school is set to open next fall, and a committee of parents and community members charged with picking a name for the building has settled on three finalists, according to an anonymous tipster and confirmed by school system spokesman Frank Bellavia. Those include:
- Stratford Middle School
- Dorothy Hamm Middle School at the historic Stratford building
- Legacy Middle School at the historic Stratford building
The building, located at 4100 Vacation Lane, was once the site of Stratford Junior High School, and has long been recognized as one of the valuable historic sites in the county. The old Stratford school is believed to be the first school in Virginia to admit black students following the momentous Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Even still, there’s been some hesitancy to simply name the school “Stratford,” given the name’s association with Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Located in Westmoreland County, Stratford Hall was the plantation home of the Lee family, and any association with Lee is quite fraught in Arlington Public Schools circles at the moment. The school system is also in the process of changing the name of Washington-Lee High School to remove Lee’s name from the building, a move that’s prompted a lawsuit and fierce community debate.
“Many (including the committee responsible for commemorating these events in the new school and the director of the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington) expressed strong interest in keeping the Stratford name given the significance of the events on the site,” naming committee member Caroline Holt wrote in a letter to the community, which was provided to ARLnow. “Others expressed interest in finding a name that commemorates what the school will represent or that honors the events there without calling it Stratford (e.g., similar to Discovery Elementary which could not be named after John Glenn as he is still living).”
Hamm also has a connection to Stratford’s history with integration. As a civil rights activist, she helped lead a court challenge to Arlington’s school segregation policies, leading to the eventual integration of Stratford. Her daughter, Carmela, became one of the first African American students to attend Stratford.
Hamm also participated in a series of other court challenges to Jim Crow-era laws in Arlington, including efforts to end the segregation of county theaters and the poll tax. Bellavia says the school system is currently in the process of contacting Hamm’s family to make them aware of her inclusion as a possible honoree at Stratford.
The naming committee is set to deliver a recommendation on a name to the School Board in time for its Dec. 6 meeting, with a final vote set for Dec. 20.
With Arlington Public Schools’ Stratford Program getting ready for a big move, school leaders are giving students (and their parents) a choice about where they’ll spend the next year learning.
The program, which serves secondary-level special education students, is set to relocate into a new building in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year. But its current space on Vacation Lane, which it shares with the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, will soon be renovated to become a new middle school, forcing Stratford students to temporarily find a new home.
APS officials initially planned to send Stratford over to the Reed School building in Westover for a year, but a few weeks ago they began seeking feedback from parents on a plan to move the program to Yorktown High School instead.
In a letter to Stratford parents Monday (June 4), Stratford principal Karen Gerry revealed that APS settled on a compromise solution between those two proposals. Families will now have the option of sending students to Yorktown or Reed for the 2018-19 school year; summer sessions in both 2018 and 2019 will be held at Reed, regardless of which option families choose, however.
“While we understand that this may mean some students within the Stratford program are educated in different locations for the 2018-19 school year, we also know that the needs of our students are different,” Gerry wrote. “We will provide the staffing and supports expected in the program at either location and will work with families on specific needs.”
Families have until June 15 to complete a survey on where they’d prefer to send their students.
Gerry added that “we want to reassure you that the Stratford Program will continue and our plan to move to the new building on Wilson in the fall of 2019 is moving ahead.” Some rumors circulated a few weeks back that APS would seek to eliminate the Stratford program instead, but officials have insisted there are no such plans in the works.
The full letter from Gerry to Stratford parents is after the jump.
Arlington Public Schools is shooting down rumors that the Stratford Program is going to be “dismantled” while also announcing that a new, temporary location is under consideration.
Stratford serves secondary-level special education students and is currently co-located with the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program on Vacation Lane. Both programs are set to move to a new facility in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year, but Stratford will be moving to a temporary home during the next school year to facilitate the renovation of its current building into a neighborhood middle school.
In a letter to parents today, Stratford principal Karen Gerry said that APS is now reconsidering a plan to house Stratford in the Reed School building in Westover for a year. For various reasons, APS says Yorktown High School may be a better temporary location, and the school system is kicking off a hurried outreach effort with parents to discuss the new option.
Gerry, in her letter, also acknowledges a false rumor that had been spreading via email that APS was planning to eliminate the Stratford Program.
“It seems that Arlington County has made a decision to dismantle the Stratford Program and that we will not be joining HB Woodlawn at the new site in Rosslyn, as planned,” said the email, which was sent by a parent and later obtained by ARLnow.com. “Several Stratford parents are concerned that this decision has been made without consultation with the wider Stratford community.”
“Over the last few days, there have been many community conversations, emails and statements posted about our plans for next year, and unfortunately, much of it has included misleading or incorrect information,” Gerry wrote. “We want to reassure you that regardless of the one-year location for Stratford students in the 2018-19 school year, the Stratford Program is not being dismantled and our plan to move to the new building on Wilson in the fall of 2019 has not changed.”
The full letter from Gerry to Stratford parents is after the jump.
Photo via Google Maps
The Arlington School Board reviewed the design and proposed construction contract for the Stratford School building renovation at its meeting last night (March 22).
In a presentation, Arlington Public Schools staff said that the guaranteed maximum price of the renovation and three-story addition — which will prepare the building to host a new neighborhood middle school as the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program moves to Rosslyn — “exceeded previous estimates by several million dollars.” A vote to approve the revised price ceiling is slated for next month.
“Much of the overage was because market escalation has outpaced the rate included in design estimates – consequences of unexpected increases in material costs and subcontractor labor shortages,” the presentation said.
The price ceiling submission was $4.68 million over the target value, according to the presentation, or about 17 percent over. The new project total is approximately $39.15 million.
To keep costs down, APS refined estimated soft costs, underwent selective rebidding, and undertook value engineering and scope reductions. The interior design and suggested roofing materials were modified to find low-to-no-impact ways to cut costs, the document stated.
Over 160 separate items were evaluated to find ways to cut costs for the project while making the smallest impact on teaching, learning, and “community improvements discussed during the public process.”
Other potential savings were found but would require undesirable revisions, including the elimination of an arts and technology suite and new gymnasium bleachers, among other educational amenities deemed necessary.
Most of the funding for the $39 million project will come from school bonds, but $2.3 million will come from the county government under a joint funding agreement.
The project may also be eligible for a Virginia Historic Tax Credit of between $1.5-2 million, which would be used to replenish APS’ capital reserve, according to the presentation. The Stratford School was the first Virginia public school to integrate.
Construction at the site, which is expected to add 310 seats for a total of 1,000 seats, is set to begin in April. Officials are expecting to welcome students for the first day of school in September 2019.
Screenshots via Arlington School Board
The Stratford School building in Cherrydale will expand as it transitions to a middle school.
The County Board unanimously approved a plan Saturday to add 40,000 square feet to the school, which currently houses the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The addition will include a new library, an auxiliary gym, classrooms, science labs and other teaching spaces and a new student common area.
A design for the 1,000-seat middle school was first approved last year by the County Board.
Also in 2016, the County Board designated the school as a local historic district. In 1959, when Stratford was previously a middle school, it was the first Virginia public school to be integrated.
“This plan ensures that Stratford School building, perhaps Arlington’s most significant local historic designation so far, will be preserved — and will be adapted to serve the changing needs of our growing student population,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said. “We have to meet our county’s current needs while remembering and honoring the important role Stratford played in 1959, when it became the first public school in the commonwealth to be integrated.”
Ben Bergen, assistant director of design and construction for schools, said Superintendent Patrick Murphy has formed a group to discuss an “interpretive experience” to recognize the school’s history.
The school’s athletic field will be re-graded and rebuilt. Arlington Public Schools staff agreed to try redesigning the field to meet Ultimate Frisbee requirements, as in current plans it is too short for that sport. H-B Woodlawn currently offers an Ultimate Frisbee program for its students.
Bergen said construction should begin early next year, with the major work being done in the summers of 2018 and 2019. H-B Woodlawn students will stay in the building during construction, while the Stratford program will move into temporary buildings.
School Board chairwoman Nancy Van Doren said once finished, the new Stratford School will be a facility everyone can be proud of.
“We broke so many new boundaries with this, and I think we’re going to end up with a fabulous, fabulous project,” she said.
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with construction plans for Stratford Park.
The current park has picnic tables, a youth baseball/softball field (which has also been used by adult team sports), two lighted tennis courts, a rectangular field and a lighted basketball court.
The new park, which is in the final design stages and is expected to go out to bid in the first quarter of 2017, will include upgraded fields, courts, landscaping and site furnishings.
Among the planned changes: the new diamond field will be fenced in, with dugouts, batting cages and bleachers added.
While the fence around a soon-to-be-upgraded diamond field in Bluemont Park prompted a neighborhood outcry this fall, since largely resolved by removing portions of the fence, thus far there has been little public protest about the Stratford Park fence.
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the field’s primary purpose will be to host organized baseball and softball activities, though other uses will be allowed when the field is not otherwise being used.
“The approved plan does include fence around the diamond field, as the field will primarily be used for diamond sports (permit takes priority),” she told ARLnow.com, via email. “The fence entrances will always be open to allow people access to the area when the field is not in use.”
The parks department sent an email to residents who live near the park last month, updating them on the project’s progress. An excerpt of that email, detailing some of the changes, is below.
Construction of the park upgrades is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017 and wrap up within the first three months of 2018. The overall design, management and construction budget is $1.7 million.
In early 2015, the County worked with the community to develop a concept plan for the site. The concept plan is a tool to inform the County, APS and the community on how new school access routes and other changes to the school site within the park boundary could impact the plan for park improvements. DPR worked closely with APS in order to coordinate pedestrian accessibility from the park to the school. In addition, a restroom facility will be provided at the school for park users. DPR may make some minor changes to the concept as final costs for the improvements are determined in order to ensure the project remains within budget.
The approved project scope includes replacing and bringing existing features to current standards and adding new amenities to the park. Below is a breakdown of each one.
Existing to be Replaced:
- Tennis Courts
- Basketball Court
- Court Lighting
- Diamond Field
- Players Benches
- Fencing (split rail)
- Stairs and Walkways
- Trash Receptacles
- Trees and Shrubs
New to the Park:
- Drinking Fountain
- Pedestrian Lighting
- Batting Cages
- Outfield Fence
- Retaining Walls
- 50/70 Intermediate (50/70) Diamond Field Layout with Irrigation
- Additional Trash Receptacles and Seating
- Picnic Area
- Storm Water Management Facility
- Additional Landscaping