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Friday, Feb. 3, 2023

Charlottesville City Schools had a busy night. 

At yesterday’s school board meeting, the board made a formal offer to buy out Albemarle County’s share of CATEC, Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center. It also announced that it will allow its unionized teachers and staff to participate in collective bargaining.

An intersection is pictured with a stoplight and a street leading toward a brick building that is obscured by trees. Near the road is a sign that reads "CATEC."

City Schools’ move to buy CATEC is the latest in a back-and-forth between the two school divisions, which have jointly owned the facility since it opened in 1973. CATEC is a regional technical education center. It provides career training for fields like fire fighting, automotive repair and cosmetology to high school students and young adults.

Back in October, Albemarle County Public Schools surprised Charlottesville with an offer to buy them out and become the center’s sole owner. Their reasoning was that the majority of the high school students who attend CATEC are from the county — 295 versus 67 from Charlottesville — and they wanted to upgrade the facility.

“For years, while CATEC has added programs, the facility really has not been upgraded or modernized in any way,” Phil Giaramita, a spokesperson for ACPS, told the Daily Progress in October. “We’re prepared to make substantial investments to modernize the facility, to improve the equipment, to increase program offerings.”

The moment Albemarle made the offer, City Schools officials said that the partnership between the two districts was legally dissolved. That means one of the two districts must now take sole ownership of CATEC. And Charlottesville was not keen on Albemarle’s offer.

City Schools leaders expressed immediate concern that their students would be blocked from accessing CATEC’s classes should Albemarle take control.

“Charlottesville City Schools leaders chose to take ownership of the school because selling it to Albemarle Schools would jeopardize Charlottesville students’ ability to continue learning at CATEC,” a district spokesperson said in a prepared statement after Thursday’s vote. “ACPS has previously made it clear that under its ownership, accommodating city students would not be a priority; a change as simple as a bell schedule adjustment could effectively block Charlottesville students from enrolling at CATEC. CCS intends to continue to operate the facility as a regional resource.”

Albemarle’s Giaramita did not immediately return Charlottesville Tomorrow’s request for comment Friday morning.

Charlottesville School Board Vice-Chair Dom Morse told the Daily Progress that the city’s purchase offer has not gone through, but he believes it will. City School officials have expressed no plans to upgrade or modernize the facility.

Credit: Mike Kropf/Charlottesville Tomorrow

Charlottesville is about to become just the third school division in Virginia to allow its union to collective bargain

The other move Charlottesville School Board made last night was to declare its intention to grant City Schools’ union collective bargaining rights. When they approve the contract, Charlottesville teachers and staff will become only the third school division workers in the state that can bargain together, since the Virginia General Assembly passed a law in 2020 allowing it.

The union is happy with the proposed contract. It’s one of the strongest in the state, union leaders said. Under it, the union may negotiate two issues during the next three years. Among them are wages, benefits, discipline procedures and health and safety conditions.

Four men and one woman sit at a dais with microphones in front of them talking.
Credit: Screenshot of Jan. 3, 2023 Charlottesville City Council meeting

One of these six people will be Charlottesville’s next City Councilor

In other news, we’re getting very close to having a new city councilor. Charlottesville Council members have chosen six finalists for the appointed position from the 20 who applied in January. Council will hold a public hearing on the appointment at its Monday meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. The shortlisted candidates will have the opportunity to speak at the hearing, and Council will take comments from members of the public.

Here’s more about the process and how you can register to comment.

Council will privately conduct interviews with the candidates after Monday’s meeting, and make a final selection by Feb. 21. The appointee will serve until the end of the year. 

If you’re new to this story, this appointed position replaces former Councilor Sena Magill, who resigned Jan. 11. A new Council member will be elected in November to begin their term in 2024.

Why a crossing guard will suggest Charlottesville’s City Council install speed cameras near schools

A Charlottesville City School substitute crossing guard, Adrienne Dent, is also going to be at Monday’s City Council meeting. She hopes to convince the city to begin a pilot program to enforce speed limits by cameras near public schools.

“See it from our perspective,” Dent writes in her First Person Charlottesville essay. “At Buford on Cherry Avenue, vehicles tear up the hill from Roosevelt Brown Boulevard. From the crossing post just over the crest of the hill, you hear the engines engaging hard before you see the hood. Does the digital sign facing those oncoming cars, the one that flashes ‘Your Speed Is __,’ encourage folks to accelerate faster? From the other direction toward Fry’s Spring, cars often cruise past the flashing school zone sign without slowing down.”

Have a story you want to tell? Here’s more about First Person Charlottesville, which we run with our partners in Charlottesville Inclusive Media.

It’s going to be cold this weekend, so bundle up and we’ll see you Monday!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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I'm Charlottesville Tomorrow's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a jhiggins@cvilletomorrow.org.