Newly hired director up to challenge to leading foundation

June 21, 2019

Katrina Powell loves a challenge.

Whether it’s growing up on a farm, just across the Virginia line in Providence, North Carolina, serving in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm or working as a city manager for cities wavering between growth and despair, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Foundation’s (SVHEF) new executive director is in her element when the stakes are high.

“I thoroughly enjoy chasing the challenge of ‘making change happen,’ and I’m bored if I’m not pursuing some issue that needs to be addressed or changed,” she said.

A former city manager for diverse cities in Florida and Michigan, Powell is now turning her vast skills and experiences to growing the SVHEF.

Established in 1997, the foundation serves as the primary supporter of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. While the non-profit has succeeded on many projects, including taking on ownership of The Prizery’s facilities, consistent fundraising remains a challenge.

In December 2018, foundation board members placed their bets on Powell, believing she could face this challenge and succeed.

“We’re very excited to have a person of Katrina’s abilities on board,” said SVHEF chairman Ryan Garrett. “One of her primary duties will be fundraising. Katrina’s very good at managing finances and raising revenues, and she has a proven track record in both. We think she’s the right person to help us change our region’s narrative from survival to growth.”

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GO Virginia Region 3 experts speak on building a sustainable economy

GOVAJune 24, 2019

GO Virginia Region 3 Council members recently spoke to 60 Lead Virginia participants on strategies for economic success at The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. GO Virginia Region 3 chair Charley Majors gave a bird’s eye view of GO Virginia, the Region 3 Council and the region’s innovation strategies.

Council member James McClain, co-chair of the innovation committee, said, “Innovation is energizing. It creates the opportunities necessary for businesses to thrive. A challenge is that innovation itself can be a challenge to sustain over time.”

McClain’s remarks were followed by a panel called “Shaping the Way Forward Via Technology, Talent and Agriculture.”

Region 3 council member Tim Clark shared information on the current state of agriculture in Southern Virginia and how strategic partnerships are magnifying individual efforts.

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Process to build new Halifax County High School outlined

June 11, 2019

Halifax County School Board members learned more about the process for building a replacement facility for Halifax County High School when they met Monday night in Halifax, as they listened to school superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg outline procedures for school construction under a state law that permits general contractors and architects to partner in an effort to streamline the building process.

Lineburg reviewed procurement details of the Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act of 2002 that trustees adopted last December explaining the facility advisory and review committee received an “unsolicited” PPEA proposal for a new high school facility May 24 from Roanoke firm Branch Builds, the same firm that renovated the middle school here 12 years ago.

“It’s just a proposal. It doesn’t mean we’ve accepted anything,” the superintendent said Monday evening. “We’re not deciding anything tonight.”

He pointed out the PPEA process could speed up the school construction timeline by nine to 12 months.

Branch Builds, who paid a $10,000 fee to the school division to have its package considered, has joined forces with RRMM Architects, one of three architectural firms the facility committee is considering to design and construct the new school.

The other two Virginia architectural firms under consideration include Grimm and Parker and Moseley Architects, the firm that conducted the study of the current high school for the school board before estimating it would cost $88 million to renovate and upgrade the high school and $99 million to build a new facility.

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IDA provides dinner for HCHS leadership class

May 13, 2019

Leadership dinnerThe Halifax County Industrial Development Authority provided dinner at Berry Hill for this semester’s 2019 Halifax County High School leadership class, community cohorts and guest speakers. This would not be possible without the community’s support. Several students, cohorts and guest speakers are not pictured due to prior engagements.

From The Gazette Virginian

Sentara honored in patient satisfaction

June 19, 2019

Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice have been recognized by Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP) as a “Superior Performer” for achieving an overall patient satisfaction score that ranked in the top 20% of all eligible SHP clients for the 2018 calendar year.

The annual SHPBest™ award program was created to acknowledge home health agencies that consistently provide high quality service to their patients. The 2018 award recipients were determined by reviewing and ranking the overall satisfaction score for more than 2,500 home health providers.

With the largest HHCAHPS benchmark in the nation, SHP is in a unique position to identify and recognize organizations that have made patient satisfaction a priority and have been rewarded for their efforts with high marks on the HHCAHPS survey.

“SHP is proud to present the SHPBest awards to our top-performing customers. We commend these organizations for their continuous focus on delivering the highest quality of care to their patients”, said Rob Paulsson, president of SHP.

Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice serve a large swath of the southern Virginia region, providing the highest-quality home health care and end-of-life services to members of the community

“I couldn’t be more proud of our staff for the dedication and excellence that they bring to our organization every day,” said Wendy Fisher, RN, BSN, administrator of Sentara Halifax Home Health and Sentara Halifax Hospice. “By winning this award, we reaffirm our devotion to providing the highest-quality care in both home health and hospice settings.”

Read more about the SHPBest awards program, including methodology and award recipient lists at https://www.shpdata.com/home-health/shpbest-hhcahps.

From The Gazette Virginian

South Boston offers training template for Microsoft

Microsoft has been quietly expanding its presence in Southside Virginia since opening its cloud computing datacenter in Boydton a decade ago. Aside from numerous site expansions — Microsoft’s regional campus has now grown to 1.1 million square feet — the tech giant has stepped up its philanthropy in Southside, such as by contributing $200,000 to the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center IT Academy and donating 10 Surface Pro 3 tablet computers to the Mentor Role Model program.

But Microsoft has taken some lessons from the local community, too.

“It can be said that the model for the DCA (Data Center Academy) program began with the partnership between SVHEC and Microsoft and we now are scaling this program to our global portfolio of datacenter communities,” explained Anthony Putorek, Senior Lead Workforce Development Program Manager at Microsoft.

The Datacenter Academy program is a Microsoft-specific training program modeled after the IT Academy in South Boston. Microsoft has taken advantage of the most successful parts of the IT Academy and used it to design a training program that the company has implemented worldwide.

“As a result of this partnership, Microsoft has incorporated these features into ... the Microsoft Datacenter Academy (DCA),” Putorek said.

Because datacenters require large amounts of land and access to electricity and water, all at low cost, Microsoft builds these massive facilities in rural areas. At the same time, however, rural communities pose a unique challenge to Microsoft’s recruitment staff by making it harder to recruit skilled labor. The IT Academy provides a model of how to train those workers locally.

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Donation from Microsoft aims to aid coding students

MicrosoftPetrina Carter noticed a gap between the haves and have nots in Halifax County in terms of access to technology when she came aboard as president and CEO of Tri-County Community Action Agency.

Microsoft’s donation of 10 SurfacePro 3 laptops to the Halifax County Mentor-Role Program on Monday should help address that learning gap, Carter noted.

She noticed a technology gap in youth ages 5-18 in the county, an area where more than 30 percent of those youths live below the poverty level.

The donation of the 10 laptops will allow the Mentor-Role Model Program, now underneath the umbrella of Tri-County Community Action Agency, to help girls in the organization’s girls’ coding program to get a leg up on computer skills, according to Carter.

The coding program as it currently exists is for girls ages 6-18, but one of Carter’s goals is to bring it to girls at the pre-school level.

“It’s a national program running in conjunction with the middle school,” said Carter.

“I’m hoping it will spark the interest of young people who want to go further in technology, whether gaming or coding.”

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Next step for community strategic plan

Picture of Community Strategic Plan Kick OffThe next stage of the Community Strategic Plan — the implementation — kicked off Wednesday night at The Prizery with a call to action by community leaders who say Halifax County must do more to reverse its recent declines.

Working off that theme, a series of speakers talked about specific areas they hope to address: everything from educational and career training opportunities to expanding the local motorsports economy to organizing more community litter clean-up campaigns. But hovering above it all was a plea for citizens to get involved, and buy into the idea that Halifax County can captain its own ship.

“Change is disturbing when done to us, exhilarating when done by us,” said Board of Supervisors chairman Dennis Witt, one of three co-chairs of an ad hoc steering committee organized to draw up and carry out the strategic plan. “We have an opportunity to change Halifax County for the positive — to move forward, to provide all the quality of life issues we’ve talked about tonight.”

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