The Roanoke County School Board held its September 14 meeting at William Byrd High School. The WBHS Air Force JROTC presented the colors, followed by the William Byrd choir, directed by Matt Bartley, singing the national anthem.
Coach Jeff Highfill was introduced by Principal Tammy Newcomb and recognized by the School Board for his record 1,000 games as a head coach at William Byrd in football and soccer (as of the game on Sept.15). Of those games, 622 were as the soccer coach and 378 coaching the William Byrd Terriers football team. He began coaching football at William Byrd in 1981 and started the soccer program in 1982.
According to Newcomb, Highfill’s record stands at 644 wins, 227 losses, and 28 ties through 999 games. Soccer accounted for 446 wins while his teams have had 198 football wins.
In soccer alone, his teams have won 17 district titles, 16 district tournament titles, 10 regional championships, and have been state runners-up twice. He has coached 44 all-state soccer players and received 19 Coach of the Year awards with similar accomplishments in football– continues to add more.
“We would like to thank Coach Highfill for his dedication to William Byrd High School, our student athletes, and our community,” said Newcomb. “The longevity of your coaching career has helped many students grow into successful adults. We are grateful that you are a Terrier and that our students have had the opportunity to have you as a mentor. Thank you for your hard work and countless number of hours to make us a better place.”
Highfill received a standing ovation from the large crowd in attendance.
He said he feels “blessed to work with and coach for outstanding individuals,” and thanked his wife for her support.
School Board Chairman Tim Greenway, who represents Vinton on the board, thanked Highfill for being a wonderful role model for his athletes.
Highfill’s recognition was followed by a surprise presentation to Greenway of an aerial view photograph of the William Byrd stadium, campus, and practice fields. He has been instrumental in several significant improvements to William Byrd in his time on the board, including major locker room renovations, replacement of the football field with synthetic turf and a new state-of-the-art rubberized track, as well as upgraded practice fields.
“Because of these projects, our school is able to keep old traditions and make them better than before and we are able to start new traditions that will last forever,” said Top Terrier Abby Spotswood in making the presentation along with SCA President Caleb Divers. “Our community is so close, it’s like a family. William Byrd brings in many alumni as students and for our wonderful faculty. I know that we are super grateful for everything we have and everything that we are getting. I can’t wait to see and hear about all of the things that Byrd will be able to achieve in the next couple of years.”
In further business, the board recognized three Virginia School Boards Association Media Honor Roll Program recipients: Jenna Zipton of WSLS Channel 10, Sara Gregory of The Roanoke Times, and Debbie Adams of The Vinton Messenger.
Dr. Rhonda Stegall, Director of Secondary Instruction, a William Byrd graduate, was recognized for completing the requirements for her doctoral degree.
The board approved funding for several miscellaneous projects, including $90,000 to correct ongoing water infiltration issues at William Byrd Middle School, $16,000 to procure civil engineering design services for an emergency access road at William Byrd High School, $7,500 for providing a weed control solution between the home-side grandstands and new track and to purchase two additional track crossover mats for the WBHS stadium project, and $6,000 for providing a paved walk extension from the Swan Drive entrance to the visitors-side grandstand at the WBHS stadium.
Ben Williams, Director of Testing and Remediation, informed the board that information from the state indicates that all Roanoke County Public Schools are fully accredited. He then presented information on the new state accreditation system and federal accountability system that are currently under revision and in the public comment stage. They will replace the systems currently in use. The hope was that the systems would be simplified, but that does not seem to be the case.
Board member Don Butzer expressed his concern that in the Catawba District, which he represents, there is an imbalance in enrollment at different schools which needs to be addressed to reduce crowding at some schools and underutilization of facilities at others. Board members Mike Wray (Cave Spring), Jason Moretz (Windsor Hills), Jerry Canada (Hollins), and Tim Greenway (Vinton) expressed the same concerns involving their own districts.
Greenway also commended WBHS teacher Andrew Thacker for encouraging many of his students to attend the School Board meeting.