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Dr. Bob Couch to Pass Career and Technical Torch on to New Center for Advanced Technical Studies Dir

Chapin, SC – Career and technology education is in Dr. Bob Couch’s DNA. It is what drives him each day. Growing up in the upstate area of South Carolina, Couch saw the value his parents placed on working with their hands and their minds. From there, the wheels began to turn for a future career himself.

“I grew up in a culture where regardless of whatever job you did, there was equal respect for those jobs,” Couch said. “Seeing how my parents approached their means of living gave me an appreciation of work and for the careers they were in. I embraced the fact that people have different talents and skills.”

Couch has seen hundreds of talents and skills over the years. He served as South Carolina’s director for career technical education for 14 years before taking on the role of director of career and technical education in Lexington-Richland School District Five. Since helping to open the Center for Advanced Technical Studies’ doors in 2012, Couch has also served as the director there.

“I remember back in 2011 I was downtown for a meeting for my job at the time, and I saw (Superintendent) Dr. Hefner,” Couch said. “As he was getting into his car, I walked over and tapped on his window to congratulate him on becoming Superintendent of District Five and gave him my card.”

Couch said he gave Hefner his information as a resource, in the event the state level of career and technology could ever be of assistance. What happened next was unexpected.

“Three months later, Dr. Hefner gave me a call and said the district was looking for someone to lead their career and technology education program and asked if I knew anyone who would be interested,” Couch exclaimed. “It just so happened I was ready to move on. And that was that.”

Couch came on board and brought a vision to District Five that his father instilled in him. “There is no obstacle in life that a person cannot overcome,” Couch said. “Learning is not just from a textbook.”

Under the leadership of Couch, the Center for Advanced Technical Studies has been regarded nationally for its offerings. The Center features 19 technical programs ranging from aerospace engineering to veterinary science. Students who enroll at The Center have chosen career paths that can either lead directly to the workforce or further education in post-secondary institutions. The vision of The Center states, “To prepare every graduate to be college and career ready, enter the global workforce, and be a successful and contributing citizen.”

On June 30, Couch will leave District Five in hopes of creating a similar technical school in Anderson County. The move will also allow Couch to be closer to his family. He hands the reigns over to Dr. Al Gates, who has served alongside Couch as assistant director at The Center.

“It is bittersweet for me to leave this place, but I know The Center will continue to thrive under the leadership of Dr. Gates,” Couch said. “I am going to miss our students because of their enthusiasm and how they share with others the vision of this place. They have embraced it.”

Gates said he is ready for the challenge because of the leadership qualities Couch has instilled in him.

“I told our staff just the other day that he (Couch) has been like a father figure in more than one way,” Gates said. “He has been a guide and a mentor in showing me how to handle things, but he also reminds me of my dad in how he approaches solutions to problems and tidbits of wisdom he has shared over the years.”

Couch says Dr. Gates’ experience enabled him to take on more responsibility than someone in his role normally would at a school like The Center.

“My role was enormous in getting the concept in place with getting the community to buy in, working with the state to have an impact on funding here and statewide with technical programs,” Couch said. “When I was away, it gave Dr. Gates the opportunity to gain an in-depth growth experience.”

The challenge Gates will face according to Couch will be to continue to uphold the community’s expectations that have been built around the school. Each year, Couch has implemented an innovative project at The Center. This year, local businesses dedicated solar array panels to enhance The Center’s Clean Energy Technology program.

“The enthusiasm each year that drives us is that the community wants to know what is going to be the next innovative project at The Center,” Couch said. “This expectation of an idea with a cutting-edge mentality for the district, the state and even as an international model has grown each year and that will be the challenge. Dr. Gates is more than capable of continuing this. It’s not about filling my shoes; it’s about filling his.”

When asked his thoughts on the challenge, Gates smiled and replied, “I’ve got his (Couch’s) number on speed dial.”

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