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CATEC to get new name as Charlottesville pursues takeover

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center, widely known as CATEC, will be getting a new name after the Charlottesville school division completes its takeover of the school.

The school will be renamed the Charlottesville Area Technical Education Center once the transition is complete next year, Charlottesville City Schools said in an announcement on Friday that emphasized the city is working together with Albemarle County to ensure a “smooth transition” for the 50-year-old institution.

CATEC was founded in 1973 as a jointly owned and operated facility between Charlottesville and Albemarle, providing technical education to adults 16 years and older in such subjects as automobile technology, cosmetology and masonry, among others.

The city school division announced last month that it would be taking ownership of CATEC by July 1, 2024, completing a takeover that Albemarle County Public Schools tried and failed to accomplish late last year.

Charlottesville school officials said the $5.3 million decision to buy Albemarle’s stake in CATEC was the result of Albemarle first attempting to purchase the city’s stake in the school in October 2022.

In making that offer, the county “dissolved” the agreement between the two school divisions, which in turn allowed the city school division to launch a takeover bid of its own. Charlottesville City Schools had 60 days to decide whether to accept Albemarle’s offer or purchase the county’s stake in CATEC, according to an offer letter obtained by The Daily Progress.

Charlottesville Superintendent Royal Gurley and Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Haas have been meeting regularly as they work through the details of the CATEC deal, according to Charlottesville City Schools. And Charlottesville and Albemarle school officials have both said the transition process is going smoothly so far.

“Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools are proactively working together to ensure that the Charlottesville-Albemarle Career and Technical Education Center (CATEC) continues to thrive once it transitions to the sole ownership of the city school division in July 2024,” the city school division said in its Friday announcement.

As part of that announcement, Charlottesville City Schools also highlighted the efforts of six working groups helping the school divisions with the transition:

1. Accounting and finances, which includes the financial structure and systems as well as student slots and tuition models.

2. Human resources and personnel, which includes transitioning to new systems for staff time-keeping and attendance systems, as well as bringing employees into Charlottesville City Schools’ benefits systems.

3. Programming and partnerships, which includes the continuity of current programming and maintaining relationships with community partners.

4. Infrastructure and facilities, which includes aligning the CATEC facilities’ protocols and building systems with Charlottesville’s practices around security and maintenance.

5. Technology, which is working on the incorporation of the CATEC information technology network into current Charlottesville systems and building out email and other staff accounts for CATEC employees.

6. Miscellaneous tasks, such as liaising with the Virginia Department of Education about the transition.

Some early outcomes of the groups’ work have been the name change as well as a decision to have any new employees hired by CATEC in the 2023-24 school year be immediately made Charlottesville City Schools employees “to avoid a back-to-back transition for these new staff members,” the city school division said.

Questions remain, however, regarding CATEC’s budget and student body.

Today, the two school divisions split the costs of maintaining the facility.

Albemarle County, which has more students at CATEC, pays a proportionately larger amount to fund the school. Charlottesville City Schools contributed $613,638 to CATEC’s operating budget for the 2021-22 school year. Albemarle gave CATEC roughly $1.98 million for the same period.

Whether the county school division makes further contributions to fund CATEC depends on if it has students at the technical school, and county school officials told The Daily Progress that they don’t have an answer for that just yet.

City school officials said they are also still discussing just how county students might be involved in CATEC in the future.

The offer the county presented to the city in December allowed city students to attend CATEC for free for three years. For seven years after that, city students who wanted to attend CATEC would have paid discounted tuition, according to county officials.

According to admissions information on CATEC’s website today, out-of-district students will pay $2,000 in tuition next school year.

CATEC Director Stephanie Carter plans to maintain ongoing conversations with staff at both school divisions and will be making reports to both school boards, according to Charlottesville City Schools.

In addition, Gurley is expected to offer an update on the transition to Charlottesville City Council at its April 17 meeting.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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