Cosmetology is one of many programs offered at CATEC

The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center has named Bruce Bosselman as its interim director.  He succeeds Adam Hastings who is now dean of business, mathematics and technologies at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The change comes on the heels of a new strategic plan that has been approved by the CATEC Board and is ready for implementation. At its meeting Tuesday, the CATEC Board reflected on recent turnover in the top staff position and governance of the high school operated jointly by the Charlottesville and Albemarle school divisions.

“With an interim director, it gives us an opportunity to think about our governance, to think about the job description of the director and how it all relates to the strategic plan,” said Willa Neale, Charlottesville School Board member and chair of the CATEC Board.

“I think it’s a natural question when you have your really great, dynamic leader take on a different role,” Neale added.

Albemarle School Board member Steve Koleszar said CATEC is having trouble keeping directors long-term.

“We’re so director-dependent,” Koleszar said. “We turn over a director and we’re kind of dead in the water.”

“We’ve really got to address our governance issue, because we can’t be in a situation where we have a strategic plan and almost everything is dependent on one person,” Koleszar added.

Pam Moran, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools, agreed.

“No school division, no school should ever be so dependent on one person who is at the top of the food chain that if that person leaves, that a program should stop or totally change gears.”

In March, the CATEC Board adopted a new strategic plan that will modernize the technical school both programmatically and by aligning the center more closely with Piedmont Virginia Community College.

The plan’s end goal is to better-prepare CATEC students for middle-skill jobs, or jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree.

The five-year plan was developed by Charlottesville-based consultants the Bridge, Ltd. The Bridge’s work came at a cost of $60,000 to CATEC, which is jointly funded by Charlottesville and Albemarle.

According to the plan, CATEC will transform into five institutes, which will serve both high school and adult students, and will include: Skilled Trades, Customer Service, Early Childhood Education, Healthcare Services, and Manufacturing and Information Technology.

Albemarle School Board member Pam Moynihan, who has served on the CATEC Board for 13 years, expressed frustration on a larger scale.

“I’ve been through several directors, I’ve been through several strategic plans and we’re talking the same things,” Moynihan said. “How to increase enrollment, how to increase relevance.”

“It’s always the same thing, so I’m not sure if the issue is the director, if the issue is the plans we’re making, if the issue is the community, and I just see us kind of rehashing the same things all over again.”

Koleszar said one problem is that each of the center’s last few directors have tried to take the school in different directions.

“Change and improvement in education takes years, and you have to have that continual same vision and focus and keep moving in the same direction,” Koleszar said. “For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to do that.”

Charlottesville School Board member Leah Puryear suggested that the CATEC Board and members of the CATEC Foundation—a non-profit that supports the center—could play a larger role in building relationships that will aid the Plan’s process.

“Yes, you had someone who was in the driver’s seat,” Puryear said. “But that doesn’t mean that as passengers we sit idly by and say nothing.”

Despite the setback, Board members remain optimistic about the strategic plan’s future.

“This might be a little bit of a detour, but I think we’ll get ourselves back on and navigate towards where we need to go, but it is going to take us really working as a team to get there,” Moran said.

In May, PVCC president Frank Friedman offered to donate community college land for a new CATEC, but Neale said the Board needs confirmation of that before taking any next steps.

“We just want to make sure that Dr. Friedman has that officially from his Board…before we go forward and spend and time or money getting together a comprehensive list of pros and cons,” Neale said.

Before the Board’s next meeting, Neale said, Bosselman will be working with Chad Ratliff, Albemarle’s assistant director of instruction, and Stephanie Carter, Charlottesville’s coordinator of virtual education, to guide the planning process.

Moving forward, Bosselman said he anticipates the Board’s guidance.

“I’m looking for direction from you,” Bosselman said to the Board. “I see your role as saying ‘Here’s where we want CATEC to go, and here’s what we want you to do to get us there.’”

The CATEC Board will meet again on September 16.