Daphne Keiser boosted enrollment, added programs and established new partnerships in her three years with the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center.
Keiser, who will leave at the end of this school year for a job in the Albemarle County school division, said she’s most proud of CATEC’s instructional staff and how they prepare students for the workforce, as well as the expansion of dual-enrollment credits.
“We have made strides in that area,” she said. “Dual-enrollment has quadrupled since I’ve been here … I think students and parents are starting to see the value in programs that are offered here.”
As of October, 171 students were earning 140 college credits through dual-enrollment programs, according to CATEC board documents.
Keiser also cited grants received by CATEC staff, a food truck partnership and new programs among her other accomplishments. She became director in 2017 after her previous position as strategic planning officer at CATEC was eliminated.
CATEC is jointly operated by the Albemarle County and Charlottesville school divisions, and a board composed of School Board members and the superintendents from both systems oversees the center.
In the fiscal year that begins July 1, the school systems will contribute $2.3 million total to operate the center, according to CATEC’s funding request.
Division leaders from two school systems will meet soon to discuss the process to appoint Keiser’s successor, said Phil Giaramita, spokesman for Albemarle schools.
Keiser is CATEC’s sixth director in 10 years. A 2018 program evaluation conducted by Albemarle County staff said the turnover in CATEC leadership contributes to “a lack of continuity in vision and in the timely execution of planned strategies.”
CATEC opened in 1973 and had four directors from 1973 to 2005, according to the evaluation. Since 2005, the center has had several directors, many of whom stayed for a few years. The evaluation did point out that Keiser’s vision for the center aligned with the ACPS strategic goals for high school changes.
Giaramita said the selection process for Keiser’s replacement will have opportunities for stakeholder input and will take about four to six weeks. A new director should be in place before July 1, when Keiser is to change jobs.
She’ll be the Albemarle division’s director of educator quality. In that role, she’ll oversee faculty and administrator recruitment; orientation for new teachers and administrators; and succession planning for leadership positions at the school and central office levels.
“I’ve always been interested in working with teachers and helping them in their career development,” she said.
Keiser, who spent more than a decade in Charlottesville schools before her time at CATEC, said she’s looking forward to building relationships with faculty and staff in Albemarle.
Steve Koleszar, a county School Board member, served on the CATEC board for many years before stepping down this year. He said Keiser’s strength was hiring “really good educators” and supporting other teachers.
“She’s good at finding people,” he said.
He credited Keiser with moving CATEC forward and improving the quality of instruction, which he said helped to increase enrollment.
In October, Keiser told CATEC board members that 337 students were enrolled, 100 more than the last school year and the highest mark in seven years.
“She’s gotten enrollment back to where it was,” Koleszar said.
He said Keiser could have stayed longer at CATEC because of her success. However, the new job is a good opportunity for her and the Albemarle school system, he said.
Students attending CATEC also have more options now, including a veterinary science program that started this year. The program was added in response to student interest, and the class is full.
“We’ve done a lot in the three years here,” Keiser said.
In 2017, CATEC students transformed an old school bus into a food truck for a program called Technical Eats. Students in the school’s culinary arts program cook food on the bus, which regularly stops at Whole Foods Market. Technical Eats also involves students from different programs at CATEC.
“It was a dream, and then we made it a reality,” Keiser said.
Koleszar said CATEC has a core of “really good programs” that need to be nurtured to grow.
Keiser has said CATEC is all about choices. Her team has worked to make students and their parents aware of educational options and benefits.
Students who earn industry certificates through CATEC can walk out of the school and into a job, Keiser said; however, it’s not an either/or choice between the workforce and college, she said.
“I have enjoyed my time here,” Keiser said of CATEC. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount … [We need to keep] making sure students are aware of programs at CATEC and the benefits they offer.”
The CATEC board will meet at 5 p.m. May 14, followed by a joint meeting of the city and county school boards at 6:45 p.m.