Ramblings: Roanoke Schools To Unveil New Career Center; Party Council Candidates Finalized; Legislators' Bills Become Laws

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another.

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another. We’re on the lookout for tidbits related to money in politics, data, business, civic engagement or interesting events. Think you know of something that could be a Rambling? Drop us a line at editor@roanokerambler.com and we may well write about it. Happy reading!

Superintendent Verletta White, right, welcomes students at the Charles W. Day Technical Education Center, which began holding classes in January. A ribbon-cutting is planned for Friday, April 12. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROANOKE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Roanoke schools mark career center's opening

Roanoke school leaders are preparing the grand opening Friday of the district’s new career and technical education center.

A ribbon-cutting for the Charles W. Day Technical Education Center is planned for 4 p.m. Friday at 3605 Ferncliff Ave. NW. beside William Fleming High School.

The $24.5 million addition includes 17 classrooms and 16 labs, offering students training in carpentry, culinary arts, cosmetology, sports medicine, welding, and barbering, among other areas.

While classes began at the new center in January, final construction remained. There are currently 1,348 students enrolled at the center, along with another 1,593 at the Roanoke Technical Education Center (ROTEC), which is next to Patrick Henry High School.

The new center is part of the district’s “Equity in Action” plan, which notes that career education enrollment in the 2020-2021 school year was made up of 63 percent of Patrick Henry students but only 37 percent of William Fleming students.

As part of that equity plan, the school division aims to complete initial renovations this fall at its new downtown headquarters, the William B. Robertson Administration Building in the former Roanoke Times office building. It won’t be fully ready to move in until the winter of 2025.

The current administration building will become the Booker T. Washington Community Empowerment & Education Center, which Chris Perkins, chief operations officer said will tentatively open in the summer of 2025.

“A lot of people think, ‘Gosh, they're just blowing money left and right at Roanoke City Public Schools,’” Perkins said at a school board meeting Tuesday. “A lot of people say, ‘Well you don't need that Taj Mahal downtown.’ Let me ask you this, ‘We have 168 employees that are going to be in that building. Where do you think they are now?’”

Perkins said some staff were in trailers while others were at the former William Ruffner Middle School that became part of DAYTEC.

Pandemic relief funds have helped the district reach goals that will increase graduation rates, help students be job-ready and overcome learning loss from the pandemic, Perkins said.

Some on Roanoke City Council have recently cited the district’s financial shape, and spending on capital needs, as a reason to rethink its policy of steering 40 percent of local tax dollars to the district. School board members oppose a Council proposal, which it may take up next month, to not automatically give the district 40 percent of surplus local tax revenue — which last year totaled more than $16 million.

Don't miss a story!

Get local journalism you won't find elsewhere with our FREE weekly newsletter

Great! Check your inbox and click the link.
Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.

Or become a member for full access

Party candidates finalized for Roanoke City Council

Roanoke Democratic and Republican candidates for City Council are official.

Qualifying for the June 18 Democratic ballot for three open seats include: Jamaal Jackson, Phazhon Nash, Terry McGuire and Benjamin Woods.

Since Vice Mayor Joe Cobb was the only Democrat filing to run for mayor, he will be the party’s nominee, according to Mark Lazar, chairman of the Roanoke City Democratic Committee.

Only two Republican candidates for City Council filed to run for three open seats, according to Charlie Nave, chairman of the Roanoke City Republican Committee: Nick Hagen and Jim Garrett will be the party’s nominee and will appear on the general election ballot in November.

David Bowers will be the Republican’s nominee for mayor, since no other candidate filed.

Republicans in Roanoke will still have a June primary, as eight candidates are vying to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

Council incumbents Luke Priddy and Trish White-Boyd, both Democrats, are not seeking reelection. Incumbent Stephanie Moon Reynolds, an independent whose Council seat is also up, is running for mayor instead.

Independents have until June 18 to declare their candidacy in order to appear on the Nov. general election ballot.

Area legislators bills that made it into law

With Monday’s deadline for Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign or veto bills, lawmakers are now turning their attention to fighting over the state budget.

The General Assembly passed, and Youngkin signed, 11 bills sponsored by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, eight from Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, and three from Del. Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke County, according to data from the Legislative Information System.

Here are highlights of a handful of bills from local legislators that made it into law:

  • HB626 from Rasoul establishes a program at Roanoke City Public Schools aimed at reducing behaviors that could lead to youth involvement in gun violence. The Community Builders Pilot Program, operational to 2027, would allow 8th grade students opportunities for community engagement, workforce development, postsecondary education exploration, and social-emotional education and development. The program will also run in Petersburg. The school board will be responsible for overseeing the program and collecting data that will be sent to the governor.
  • HB468 from McNamara creates a fund to make grant payments to Wells Fargo for its announced investment of at least $87 million at its Roanoke County customer support center and creation of at least 1,100 new full-time jobs. The bank, which is not mentioned by name in the bill, would be eligible for $15 million in grants paid out over a decade if it meets such performance targets. The bill was carried in the Senate by Sen. Chris Head, R-Botetourt.
  • SB109 from Suetterlein aims to solve a so-called disgruntled candidate problem. The bill says if a candidate doesn’t win a party primary, they won’t appear on the subsequent general election ballot. That prevents someone from losing a Democratic or Republican primary from running as an independent — which is what happened last year when Tom McCracken dropped out of a Republican primary against Roanoke County Supervisor Martha Hooker and ran as an independent. (He later dropped out of that bid.) 
  • HB1085 from Rasoul creates a PFAS Expert Advisory Committee to help the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Department of Health in monitoring that forever chemical in public waters. The hazardous chemical was found in 2020 to have contaminated the Roanoke River and Spring Hollow reservoir after a Montgomery County company had washed contaminated equipment from The Chemours Company, a spinoff of DuPont. The bill promotes information sharing among the agencies and requires DEQ to come up with a plan to prioritize and conduct PFAS assessments.

Support local, independent journalism!

Become a member

More Details