By Debbie Adams
The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and the Roanoke County School Board have named 10 citizens to the BCAT Citizen Advisory Committee, officially known as the Career and Technical Education Citizen Advisory Committee.
“Roanoke County’s Burton Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) is a vital asset for the students and citizens of Roanoke County as a centralized educational space providing skilled workers to meet the needs of the region’s businesses and industry as well as specialty centers for Roanoke County’s five high schools in the areas of engineering, mechatronics and robotics, cybersecurity, mass communications, performing arts, and visual arts,” said School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely.
“Students in BCAT’s motorsports and engine building program have received national recognition. BCAT is home to one of the first Governor’s STEM Academies in Virginia and also houses adult education programs, VWCC classes, English Learner programs, and special education transition programs.”
“BCAT’s award-winning programs are currently housed in an aging facility that is in need of replacement as identified in the RCPS Capital Improvement Plan,” Nicely said. “The Roanoke County School Board and Roanoke County Board of Supervisors are working collaboratively to further define future programming for this community asset, determine possible sites, and identify capital funding mechanisms to accelerate the construction of a new, modern facility.”
Many in the community consider the building of a new BCAT to be an urgent need. The current facilities were built piecemeal beginning in the early 1960’s.
At a joint meeting of the Roanoke County School Board and the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors on August 10, a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors established the BCAT Citizen Advisory Committee with five members appointed by the Board of Supervisors and five to be appointed by the School Board.
“We asked each member on the Board of Supervisors and School Board to pick one person to represent their district on the citizens committee,” said Jason Peters, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and Vinton’s representative to the Board. “My desire was to have someone familiar with BCAT, in the business community, or just with the overall desire to create a better technical center for our school system. We did not set qualifications, rather we allowed the board member to vet their own appointment. It was my desire to have a good mix, and I believe we have achieved that.”
The citizens named to the committee by the Board of Supervisors include Mike Altizer, Max Beyer, Lynn Carroll, Jean Hopstetter, and Gene Rose.
Altizer (Peters’ pick for the Vinton District) has previously served on the Board of Supervisors and the School Board and is employed by the Western Virginia Water Authority (WVWA). He was instrumental in establishing and growing the county schools’ apprenticeship program which started out with the WVWA as a stakeholder.
Beyer (Hollins) serves on the Roanoke County Economic Development Authority. Lynn Carroll (Catawba) is a retired school employee. Jean Hopstetter (Cave Spring) works with Member One. Gene Rose (Windsor Hills) is a retired businessman.
The five members to the committee appointed by the School Board include: Craig Balzer, Wayne Bower, Todd Foutz, Troy Henderson, and Steve Spangler.
School Board Chair Jason Moretz who represents the Windsor Hills District selected Balzer of Balzer & Associates.
“I selected him for his longtime commitment to the Roanoke Valley, his service on the CTE General Advisory Committee, and his years of experience as an architect/business owner,” Moretz said. “Craig cares deeply about RCPS and I consider him a friend that will put the best interests of our students first.”
Tim Greenway, who represents Vinton on the School Board, invited Todd Foutz of Siddall Communications to join the committee.
“I wanted someone in the Vinton district I thought knew a good deal about BCAT or at one time was a part of BCAT,” Greenway said. “Todd was my choice because we had spoken many times before and he understands the importance BCAT can be to our community. Also, with his marketing background, I think he brings a unique skill set to help us move this project forward.”
School Board member Mike Wray, who represents the Cave Spring District, selected former Cave Spring principal Steve Spangler to serve on the committee, “based on his knowledge of BCAT. He knows the curriculums offered at BCAT and serves on the General Advisory Committee for BCAT. Steve retired as Principal of Cave Spring High School for 13 years on June 30th this year. He has the time to devote to the Committee.”
David Linden, who represents the Hollins District, asked Wayne Bower of Bower Heating and Air to serve the community on the committee.
“Wayne Bower was selected as a small business owner and community-minded citizen who I believe has a keen understanding of the need for CTE training and getting students workforce ready,” Linden said. “Having known Wayne for many years, he is always thoughtful and deliberate in his approach, and also fantastic at analyzing options for making improvements. Wayne’s knowledge of the current programs we offer at BCAT along with his understanding of what the businesses in our area need will certainly help us better understand what our new BCAT should look like.”
Troy Henderson of G & H Contracting was also named to the committee.
“Troy Henderson has a variety of experience with county government with his work on the Zoning Board and his participation in the apprenticeship program in the construction programs at Burton Center,” said David Wymer, who is the interim representative for the Catawba District. “While he was selected by Don Butzer before he left the School Board, I highly agree and would have selected him given the opportunity. He will provide excellent advice regarding the size of the facility and the scope of programs for the new center.”
“It is important that this project be well researched and designed, and that the public is provided information as the process unfolds,” Wymer said.
“We have had good discussions with the Board of Supervisors over the last several months including two joint meetings and two meetings between Jason Peters, Dr. Nicely, [Roanoke County Administrator] Dan O’Donnell, and myself,” said Moretz. “Good communication is the cornerstone to advancing any agenda and I’m proud to say that both boards understand the pressing need to deliver a new BCAT to the students and citizens of Roanoke County.
“BCAT is not only an educational tool but can be a catalyst for economic growth and job activity in our entire region,” said Greenway. “Jason Suhr and his group are second to none in Virginia in getting our kids ready for a career. Awards are dished out regularly to the students and teachers of BCAT.” Suhr is the Director of Career & Technical Education for RCPS, and a former BCAT principal.
A history of BCAT and a vision for its future are articulated in the “Burton Center for Arts for Arts and Technology: Moving Forward” document which may be viewed on the RCPS website at https://www.rcps.us/Page/4528.