- Mary Munford Elementary School
Planning and Construction Phase
In 1946, a master plan was developed to include a new elementary school in the city’s west end. Phenomenal growth in population had placed a terrible burden on Westhampton, the only school in the far west end. Westhampton was a combination junior high and elementary school. In March 1950, a decision was made to build a new school on the old Beattie lot between Westmoreland, Commonwealth, Cary and Grove. This property, owned by the city for a quarter century, consisted of a little more than ten acres. The land was originally the proposed sight for a new high school in 1927. At one time, the Shriners wanted the city to sell them the land so they could build a hospital. The decision to build the school was made, but construction was very costly in 1950. City council finally allocated the funds for the school, and the school board decided on a name, Mary Munford. Construction took place during the 1950 and 1951 school year. Thoringon Construction Company was the builder, and the architects were J. Binford Alford and O. Pendlent Wright. In September 1951 Dr. Pat Ely was appointed the new principal and children began attending.
Overcrowding continued to be a problem in the west end schools. Mary Munford operated on a double shift and served as many as 1,500 students. In 1953, an eight-room addition was added to the twenty-room school. Mary Munford enjoyed broad community support and families moved to the city to attend because of things like full day kindergarten and foreign languages. The school was considered one of the best in the city. However, Richmond Public Schools continued to be a segregate school system, and efforts to promote desegregation were resisted by the school board and city administration. After the Brown Supreme court decision, there were some changes made that allowed a few African American students to attend what were then all white schools, but Virginia took several decades to desegregate. The Brown decision was preceded by years of protest and litigation followed by a long process of further resistance and slow change. In September 1960, just 170 out of 204,000 black students in Virginia were enrolled in white schools. By 1963, the situation, as reflected in the Richmond was not much better. Of the 26,000 black students in Richmond, only 312 were enrolled in 12 formerly all-white schools.
Court Order School Busing for Desegregation
In 1971, Richmond began court ordered busing of elementary students. Judge Merhige ordered the consolidation of Richmond Schools with Henrico and Chesterfield, but in 1973, without the input of a justice who spent nine years as chairman of the Richmond School Board, the court ended the proposed court- ordered merger of the school systems. Busing was limited to the city schools. Munford was paired with Highland Park Elementary. Munford served K – 2 school and students in grades 3 – 5 attended Highland Park. White and middle-class families largely abandoned public schools in the wake of desegregation and busing. By 1974 most of the neighborhood families left Munford and moved into private schools or to the county. The diversification that U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. sought in 1971 never happened. The efforts to desegregate the schools in the city had the opposite effect. By 1975, Munford and Highland Park were almost 100% African American. In the spring of 1979, after 9 years of busing, the school board decided to make Mary Munford a neighborhood K – 5 school again. In August of the same year, a group of parents in the area began to hold meetings to see what could be done to encourage neighborhood enrollment at the school. In 1980 the number of neighborhood children at Munford increased from 16 to 43. The school had a total enrollment of 593 with most of the students coming from Highland Park in the northside. Through the early 1980’s a trickle of neighborhood students began attending Munford. In the early 80s, Governor Chuck Rob enrolled his daughter at Munford, and there was a jump in the neighborhood enrollment, but this declined each year following her initial enrollment. The principal and parents held meetings at homes and churches to encourage residents to enroll their children at Munford. While the percentage of neighborhood students in Munford increased during the 1980s, this was in part due to the fact that fewer children were coming to Munford from Highland Park.
By September of 1993, the enrollment had declined to 300 students and the school board was considering closing Munford. In August of 1993, the principal of Munford resigned to accept a job in Boston. A new principal was appointed, but he left the school after one month. Barbara Grey, a retired principal was asked to assume the principalship for the remainder of the year. During the same period, a group of parents at Munford began planning for a new volunteer-built playground. The planning began in the fall of 1993 with construction in April of 1994. Over 2000 volunteers built the Out-of-Hands playground, which has become one of the most popular in the region.
In the summer of 1994, Mr. Greg Muzik was appointed principal of Mary Munford. A group of parents asked the Superintendent to appoint a principal who would engage the community and help bring neighborhood students back to the school system. Mr. Muzik had recently moved into the Munford neighborhood from the West of the Boulevard area. He was active in the community having served on the Board of the West of the Boulevard Civic Association (now the Museum District) and also served on the Board of St. Gertrude High school which was located in the WOBCA neighborhood. He continued the efforts of the parents to attract more neighborhood children to the school, and worked closely with parents, teachers and the PTA. School programs were enhanced, thanks to brilliant PTA leadership and Muzik's flair for recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Since 1994, neighborhood enrollment has grown by over 200%. Most of the students at the school today live in the Munford neighborhood. While the school population does not mirror the economic or racial make of the city, the school is both economically and racially diverse. The changes at Munford has also created more diversity at Albert Hill as most of the students at Munford now attend Hill, the feeder middle school for the area.
Munford students set very high performance standards that go beyond basic academics. The SOL Pass rate ranges from 90 -95%. Individuals and groups have won awards and been recognized for outstanding performance in been many areas including dance, music, theater. Our Lego Robotics, Mind Games and Stock Market Team games have won top place awards in competitions over the years. There is extensive parent involvement, and PTA activities have become an important part of the school culture. The PTA sponsors many extended day activities, community events, educational programs, and has made significant improvement to the school facility. The PTA also has outreach programs to support children in need at Munford and other Richmond schools.
1951-1975 Clarence Patrick Ely
1975-1977 Jean F. Barnes
1977-1978 Jean T. Edwards
1978-1988 Russell Grant Harris, Jr.
1988 - 1992 Dale C. Kalkofen
1993-1994 Barbara Grey
1994- Present Greg Muzik