Henrico County has received 28 Achievement Awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo), more than any other Virginia locality this year.
Parcel Project and HOPS
County Manager’s Office
Multiple needs from various departments pertaining to county-owned properties became apparent in 2013. From fiscal analyses to recording environmental standards documents, accessing and maintaining information about our land was a countywide necessity. Thus, the Parcel Project was initiated to take a holistic evaluation of our properties and the associated data management techniques.
Numerous county departments researched and collaborated to develop an internal property management system that serves as the centralized location for all data associated with Henrico’s parcels. The outcome of the Parcel Project was the in-house developed Henrico County-Owned Property System, HOPS. By pulling data from existing systems and allowing for user-generated information, HOPS has integrated and streamlined every aspect of property management. Simple tasks like identifying a parcel’s responsible department now takes minutes when it previously took a week of never-ending email strings. HOPS has even led to the creation of a secondary internal property management system.
Homeowners’ Association Website and Lookup
Department of Community Revitalization
The Homeowner’s Association Website and Lookup is a one stop website providing information on Homeowner’s Associations located in Henrico County. The responsibilities of Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) may include protecting home values and the safety of the neighborhoods they govern and maintenance of common areas or other features of the community. Over the years, the Henrico County Department of Community Revitalization has seen an increase in nonfunctioning Homeowners Associations, and homeowners who are not aware of their rights and responsibilities in living in a HOA community. Although we do not provide legal, accounting, management or other professional advice, the department has dedicated staff to respond to citizens’ HOA questions. In addition, a website was created to empower citizens who live in one of the many HOA’s throughout the county. The website contains a set of tools and links that enables citizens to better understand and manage their responsibilities whether they are a homeowner or governing board member. Currently, we maintain contact information for individual HOA’s and a HOA lookup feature. The lookup feature is maintained in the Geographic Information System (GIS). This is a new service to residents that was designed to fill a recognized gap.
Home Maintenance Workshops *BEST OF CATEGORY*
Department of Community Revitalization
The Henrico County Department of Community Revitalization Home Maintenance Workshops are a series of free instructional workshops targeted to low-income homeowners designed to provide hands on instruction in basic home maintenance. Topics covered include regular home maintenance, weatherization, basic plumbing repairs, minor electrical repairs, patching holes in walls and ceilings, landscaping and yard maintenance, strategies to improve curb appeal, and advice for how to hire a contractor when necessary. The intent of the program is to provide practical instruction to enable homeowners to save money by undertaking small repairs themselves and understanding how the systems in their homes function so that when contractors are necessary they have a better ability to evaluate the work proposals that are being suggested.
Workshops were held on four Saturday mornings in 2015-16 and feedback based on written comments provided overwhelmingly positive responses. Respondents were appreciative of the information and were able to use the knowledge gained to save money and better maintain their homes. Such knowledge and establishing an increased level of comfort in home maintenance supports the ability to age-in-place, and decreases the demand on public and non-profit service providers.
Trash Time Capsule
Department of Public Utilities / Keep Henrico Beautiful
In the summer of 2013, the Keep Henrico Beautiful (KHB) program developed an environmental initiative to utilize in the Henrico County Public School system. It involved educating second through fifth graders on the impact of the waste that they generate. The students learned about time capsules, how to make their own, and then learn how a landfill acts as one on a larger scale. During the program, the students get to play “detective” and answer questions about the people that created trash bags in front of them. The lesson gleaned is that our trash tells a story about us, so make sure to leave a legacy that you are proud of by generating the least amount of waste possible. In the programs held to date, everyone has enjoyed themselves while using their creative thinking and learning to be environmental stewards. To date, the program has successfully been facilitated to a total of 1,071 students and continues to grow.
Social Media Video Education
Department of Public Utilities / Keep Henrico Beautiful
In 2015, the Executive Coordinator of Keep Henrico Beautiful (KHB) developed a social media initiative of creating short video segments to help educate a brand new audience about recycling and the KHB program in general. Clips are developed to be shared on several social media outlets in order to educate the residents of Henrico County on varying environmental topics. The purpose of the videos is to target a brand new audience through a way previously unused by KHB.
The initial social media video education series was Recycling RoundUp and reached over 96,000 social media subscribers during a 28-week period. With the overwhelming response and popularity that this initiative brought to life, more social media series have been planned for 2016 for our public schools, volunteers, and arts and crafts activities at summer camps.
Expanding Payment Options for Cash Paying Constituents
The Treasury Division of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Utilities bill and collect taxes and utilities payments. Henrico County continues to explore expanding payment option methods that constituents can use to pay their taxes and utilities. The County currently offers several ways to pay in-person using checks and credit/debit cards, drop boxes at the government centers, lockbox, ebox, credit and debit cards and electronic checks over the phone and online. The only payment option available to those individuals that want to pay with cash is to pay in-person during office hours.
The County worked with a third party provider to fill this gap in services by providing the ability to pay for taxes and utilities at any 7-Eleven convenience store nationwide. This service not only is beneficial to the County by reducing the number of customers in line at the teller windows, but also allows customers to pay at their convenience. As of March 2016, the Treasury Division saw 179 transactions totaling $22,356.76 by customers who were able to pay at their convenience and receive immediate credit to their account.
Entry-Level Firefighter Hiring Process
Division of Fire
One of the primary challenges for modern public safety agencies is to have a workforce reflecting the diversity of its community. When a public safety agency does not mirror the diversity of its community, it could stand to reason that the level of trust and confidence the residents of the community have in their public safety agency could be jeopardized. In an effort to make sure the Division of Fire’s compliment reflects the community we serve, a joint project including subject matter expertise from the Henrico County Division of Fire (DOF), the Henrico County Department of Human Resources (HR), and the Henrico County Attorney’s Office was implemented to revise the 2014-2015 Entry-Level Firefighter Hiring Process. The project’s goal is to hire the highest quality candidate representative of our community and is the best fit for Henrico Division of Fire.
To date, 48 highly qualified Entry-Level Firefighters have joined the ranks of the DOF. Of these hired, 34 members have Bachelor’s degrees, seven members have military service, 13 have participated in college athletics, and 25 are Henrico County residents.
Virtual Operations Support Team Program
Division of Fire
Situational awareness during incidents and events is one of the most important factors to support response and recovery efforts before, during, and after a disaster. Integrating volunteers to support career public safety personnel in times of crisis empowers citizens by allowing them to be a part of the preparation, response, and recovery to an event or incident in Henrico County.
Formally established in August 2015, the Henrico County Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) pairs the knowledge of trained volunteers with the career public information and intelligence agencies to assist in monitoring social media and provide information and resources to support response and recovery efforts during any incident or event in the region.
Energy Saving Projects Initiative
The need for energy improvements exists throughout a built infrastructure. Unfortunately, these improvements are not made due to lack of funds. Henrico’s Departments of General Services and Finance realized that budget restrictions curtail funding for energy infrastructure improvements. To find an on-going and renewable means to pay for energy related facilities improvements, Finance and General Services looked inward for funding sources. Their ultimate goal was to establish a fund for the Energy and Sustainability Program that would re-fund itself through savings generated. The major roadblock to success was the initial funding. It was here that teaming allowed the discovery of a solution. By capturing funds allocated, but not spent on assigned projects, Finance aggregated $271,763.19 and made it available to Energy and Sustainability on October 1, 2014. These funds were designated for energy improvement projects that had a better than four year “Return on Investment”. By doing so, the savings would be used for additional energy projects.
Creating a Living Culture of High Performance
Henrico County embarked on an initiative to enhance its culture so that all employees become “leaders at all levels”, customer service is refocused to emphasize the customer experience, departments develop teams of thought leaders to tackle issues, and leaders become “employee engagement managers”. This was accomplished by delivering a series of training sessions for all levels of management, followed by discussion groups exploring concepts of high performing organizations (HPOs).
The first strategy began with three days of training with top county leaders facilitated by an external vendor followed by training for other levels of managers by internal staff. The second strategy involved the same group of top leaders meeting on a regular basis to discuss ways to become a higher performing organization. Some sessions were facilitated by the county manager himself, and others by community leaders as guest speakers. The final strategy involved discussion groups of middle managers strategizing on ways to implement selected HPO concepts in their areas of influence.
Results show clear evidence of employee engagement strategies throughout the county, increased use of thought leader groups in several agencies, and employees at all levels taking on key decision making roles and providing suggestions on ways to improve services.
Summer Camp Staff Orientation: Creating a Culture of Leadership
In 2015, Henrico County’s Division of Recreation and Parks collaborated with the Department of Human Resources to revise the orientation for 196 seasonal summer camp employees, with tremendous results. In past years, camp staff was not handling issues at their sites but instead deferred leadership to full time Recreation employees. To combat this pattern, we transformed the former 14-hour lecture-style orientation into a four-day immersion experience, involving staff with core content, leadership expectations, and each other so they could engage over 1,500 children a day in summer camp.
Content focused on camper safety, conflict resolution, leadership, and parent engagement, and reinforced the expectation that summer camp staff needed to take accountability to resolve issues themselves. Employees left the training with a deeper understanding of both content and leadership concepts, and independently applied what they learned throughout the summer. They handled 95% of complaints on-site instead of deferring them to full time staff, and there was an astounding 90% reduction in parent complaints to the Director of Recreation and Parks. Camp employees resolved all internal team conflicts independently, and 94% plan to return to work for the County next summer as a result of their experience.
Fire Fit: An Intensive Focus on Firefighter Wellness *Best of Category*
The physical demands on firefighters are intense and non-negotiable. At a moment’s notice, these first responders need to be able to exert significant physical strength and display substantial cardiorespiratory stamina in order to do their jobs effectively. In October 2013, the Division of Fire (DOF) implemented a Work Performance Evaluation (WPE) to evaluate sworn personnel’s ability to physically perform firefighter duties, and to clearly define a standard for firefighter fitness. Sworn personnel were told that passing the WPE was crucial to their ability to perform their jobs safely and effectively, and that doing so would be an annual expectation. In October 2014, while the majority of sworn personnel passed the WPE, there were still some who were unable to meet this expectation. The DOF collaborated with the Department of Human Resources (HR) to create and implement an intensive initiative to support and train these employees, providing them with the resources they needed to meet this benchmark the following year. After attending this program, the 2015 WPE results showed a 15% increase in completion, an 81% reduction in those who completed the Over the Benchmark (OBM) and a 75% reduction in the number of firefighters who Did Not Finish (DNF).
3 Books 4 Me
Henrico County Public Library’s (HCPL) 3 Books 4 Me reader’s advisory service was developed in an effort to expand public service interactions with teen patrons. Teen services librarians began providing form-based and online readers’ advisory in February 2014. This service was so successful that in 2015 Henrico County Public Schools provided a link to the online form on their Summer Reading assignment sheets. Providing reading recommendations using this service allows library staff more time to provide thoughtful recommendations since there is not the immediacy of in-person interactions. Teens are provided at least three recommendations with links to the title in the HCPL online catalog. There they can read more about the title and place a request to have the item put on hold for them at their choice of pick-up location.
Literacy & Math Nights at the Library
Since the spring of 2013, the children’s department of the Tuckahoe Area Library partnered with a nearby Title I elementary school, Ridge Elementary, to host Literacy Nights and Math Nights each year for students and their parents. Since many of the families live within walking distance of the library, attendance at these events has consistently been high. On average, 150 students and family members have attended each program. Before the programs, Children’s Librarians Sue Van Tassel and Kathleen Harris, attend meetings with the teachers at the school to plan activities for the night. On the night of the program, teachers volunteer to assist with the program, along with library staff. Literacy Night is held in the fall of each year and Math Night in the spring. The popularity of these programs has helped the school to meet its goal of getting more parent participation and the library to meet its goal of reaching out to members of its community.
SuperHero Science Stations
During the summer of 2015, Children’s Librarians Rachel Sharpe and Kathleen Harris offered several interactive, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based activities for children to explore while visiting the library. Superhero Science was created whereby each activity focused on a certain superhero trait, such as sight, speed, or balance, and incorporated scientific concepts, such as friction, measurement and magnetism. A small table near the children’s desk was designated as the Superhero Science station where the eight activities were displayed on a rotating basis. The activity station was on display for a total of eleven weeks during the summer and quickly became a favorite spot in the children’s section of the library. Each activity station included easy-to-follow directions and a scientific fact sheet. Some of the activity stations allowed children to use new technology such as a digital microscope, while others used everyday materials such as cut-up cardboard squares. All activities encouraged children to use their scientific reasoning skills and promoted informal learning opportunities in the library. By the end of the summer, parents reported feeling more comfortable talking about science with their children and children discovered that learning about STEM concepts could be fun.
The Danray Home: A Creative Approach to Residential Services
Mental Health & Developmental Services
In November 2013, Henrico Area Mental Health & Developmental Services (HAMHDS) created a new level of residential programming for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. The Danray Home provides housing and support to five adult male clients who have expressed an interest in living independently, but who currently lack the skills and abilities to manage without the support of staff. The unique component of this program is that rather than having staff present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, staff is present at critical points throughout the day to provide support and education. These critical points typically occur early in the morning when residents are waking and again in the evening when residents are settling in for the night. Staff focus on teaching skills related to medication management, cooking, budgeting and housework. During other parts of the day residents live independently giving them an opportunity to practice the skills they are learning. The primary objectives of this program are to increase residents’ independent living skills and to encourage integration into the larger community. This new level of residential support has resulted in decreased operating costs, and more importantly, improved outcomes for residents of The Danray Home.
Moral Reconation Therapy Group
Mental Health & Developmental Services
Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) is an evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment modality utilized with individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder or antisocial traits. The Henrico Area Mental Health team in the jail identified the need for this type of service for inmates housed at Henrico Jail West as it is a common diagnosis for incarcerated individuals. While the team is typically tasked with crisis intervention, assessments, and triage of inmates; it was clear that the need existed to have additional therapeutic interventions available to the inmates. The group is voluntary and inmates do not receive any incentives for participation. The goal of the group is to assist individuals to identify negative ways of thinking, to learn new more appropriate ways and ultimately to reduce recidivism. Research demonstrates Moral Reconation Therapy significantly reduces recidivism, increases moral reasoning and life purpose, reduces antisocial thinking and behaviors, and improves rule compliance. This therapy has already had an impact in our jails as evidenced by the increase in pro-social behaviors including fewer institutional offenses committed by those participating.
Faith Community Coalition
In May of 2015, the Henrico County Police Division, created the Henrico Police Faith Community Coalition. This partnership between Patrol Operations and Community Services was created to foster the relationship between our faith leaders, the community, and police. The mission of the Henrico Police Faith Community Collation is to have open and honest dialogue with our faith-based communities regardless of worship affiliations. The Coalition enhances cooperation, trust, and transparency through our police and faith leaders in Henrico County. Our vision includes; engaging with our faith-based communities, sharing information, building lasting partnerships, and continuing to develop relationships with faith community leaders. After several learning sessions, the Henrico Police Faith Community Coalition has established itself as an information driven, networking opportunity for faith leaders and Division Members.
Focus and Function Group Initiative-Breaking Down Barriers
Recreation and Parks
Henrico County’s Division of Recreation and Parks transformed its workforce in 2013, employing a Focus and Function Group initiative. Recreation Coordinators, 28 in all, began programming using a team approach termed Focus Groups, while the Function Groups simultaneously worked to improve and streamline facility operations and procedures. Focus Groups replaced stagnant and unsuccessful programs with innovative classes and events that better met community needs and interests. Similarly, Function Groups have worked successfully to fine-tune policies and procedures. As part of the team approach, Recreation Coordinators began the process of cross-training at the 23 different types of facilities operated by the division. This allowed each employee to be immersed in the community, and to broaden their range of career and creative possibilities. Since its inception, this initiative has evolved to include seven focus groups and three function groups. This initiative has provided not only significant monetary savings, but staff is more engaged and excited about what they are doing for Henrico County.
Homegrown Diesel Tech: A Partnership of Schools and Central Automotive Maintenance
Because of the high demand for diesel technicians certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, many experienced technicians in this field now have their choice of jobs. With the demand for these technicians and the aging of the current workforce, local governments that employ technicians can find it difficult to fill positions and retain qualified technicians. Henrico County Public Schools has decided to take a unique approach to this problem by developing a partnership between the school system and the general government’s central automotive maintenance – or CAM – to train our own homegrown diesel technicians. While other school divisions may offer classes in diesel technology, what makes this program so remarkable is that it is taught at the CAM facility, providing the students with real-world opportunities and experiences that would not be possible in the regular school setting. Imagine being able to look out of the classroom window and see the practical application of what is being taught. While Henrico County’s CAM facility may be able to hire two to three graduating seniors each year, the remaining students will be able to help fill the regional need for qualified diesel technicians.
Instructional Technology Website
Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) prides itself on its innovative approach to instruction. We believe in the power of designing high-quality learning environments and providing tools that support the development of key 21st century skills and providing information and training to all stakeholders in our digital environment.
The Instructional Technology website was designed from 2013-15 to meet the needs of these stakeholders. The website is a place for students to access student laptop training and learn to use digital resources and computer applications. It is a resource for parents to access laptop training and get the information they need to help their children. Teachers use it as a one-stop shop to access resources for instruction, digital resources; and training materials.
K-12 users access materials and training modules on digital citizenship and the many other digital resources HCPS provides. There is information about our technology conferences, Student 21, a site where students can proudly share their work, and Henrico 21, our annual celebration of technology and learning and a site where teachers access over 1,300 high-quality lessons. This newly redesigned website has become the one place for our users to have easy access to instructional technology resources.
Instructional Technology website: http://blogs.henrico.k12.va.us/it
ZippSlipping into Libraries
In Henrico County, our school and public libraries work together to provide resources for our youngest citizens. In an effort to increase our students’ access to materials, we embarked on a project to provide those students without public library cards a seamless way to obtain them so they could use all library resources available to them. Through the assistance of the Henrico County Public Schools’ Technology Department, we took a manual “paper only” process and added an online option for our parents and students.
Henrico County Public Schools uses online software for K-12 that automates paper forms and transactions that go between parents and their students’ schools. The product, ZippSlip, allows us to create electronic library applications that only require a few clicks. This year we included a public library card application in our beginning-of-the-year package of online forms, providing an easy way for parents to apply for a public library card for their children. In its first year, this program issued 4,322 public library cards through ZippSlip and 548 more cards issued through paper applications for a total of 4,870 students receiving public library cards.
Parchment: The eTranscript and Credential-management Solution
In fall 2015, Henrico County Public Schools launched a pilot program at J.R. Tucker High School for a product called Parchment, a software program that helps schools manage student transcripts and credentials. Parchment is a digital exchange system for transcripts, diplomas, certifications and verifications.
It is an innovative tool that links students and school counseling offices with educational/work institutions in one online program. It aims to replace the manual process of processing student transcript and credential requests with an online solution. The goal is to eliminate the need for paper and time-intensive tracking while expediting the delivery of documents. It also contains reporting tools.
The benefits include the ability to request, process, send and receive vital documents through one portal. Henrico Schools formed a project partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, which is funding the project through a grant. The new system provides a cost savings of $1.31 per transaction and a time savings of 15 minutes for each request. With a documented 907 requests so far this year, the cost savings is $1,188.17 and a time savings of 226.75 hours.
PowerSchool: An Elementary School Parent-Portal Pilot Program
Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) selected three elementary schools to pilot PowerSchool’s parent portal. The purpose was two-fold:
- Teachers: Identify processes and challenges for teacher use of the product, and to set guidelines and expectations so that the parent experience would be consistent.
- Parents and students: Identify best practices for use, establish communication, and develop protocols to assist with registration and parent training. Lastly, the need to identify the program’s technological shortcomings and how that might affect parents.
We chose pilot schools to represent our varied demographics and in so doing, we were able to monitor varied trends, product use, identify best practices in targeted audiences and communities, and address strategies for maximum use among all stakeholders. While the pilot year is still ongoing, feedback from the three pilot school principals has been valuable. Parent feedback has been positive as they are now able to access information with relative ease. This has enabled a larger audience to access the program since not all parents have laptop or desktop computers. Similarly, teacher responses have been mostly positive. Most notably, the portal’s ease of use, increased communication, with decreased demand on teacher time by not having to print interim reports.
Teacher Scholars’ Program
Can you imagine how great it would be to enter college knowing you had a guaranteed job upon graduation? Henrico County Public Schools has created that opportunity. We already know we have students graduating from high school who want to go to college to focus on teaching. This program provides them an incentive to come back home to teach in Henrico.
HCPS’ Teacher Scholars’ program, now in its second year, supports our mission by encouraging our own students to become the division’s teachers of tomorrow. The Teacher Scholars’ program is a homegrown way to address the need for teachers in content areas where there aren’t enough qualified applicants. HCPS is experiencing critical teacher shortages in math, Spanish, exceptional education, science, technology education, and family and consumer sciences.
A committee will select up to 15 participants from current high school seniors who apply for the program. The application includes an essay describing why the student wants to be a teacher; finalists will also teach a short lesson. The scholars agree to earn a teaching degree in one of the content shortage areas and HCPS guarantees them a teaching position, along with a $5,000 one-time supplement, after they graduate from college.
The Locker: Developing a School Intranet
Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) did not have an intranet to meet the needs of its over 6,000 employees. There was plenty of online information available, but it was all housed at separate websites and not easily accessible by employees. The information was also inadequate and could only be accessed at work and not remotely. An outdated staff-development page was available for teachers through a public portal, but was outdated and no longer a usable resource to find information. Additionally, since all information was accessible by the public, nothing secure could be uploaded to that site.
The time had arrived to build a staff-only intranet located on a secure server that could be used as a vehicle to connect the many resources needed by HCPS employees. We needed to pull all of our resources together, save paper, and work with a library of digital forms that could be downloaded and filled out electronically, as well as a location to place future staff resources. “The Locker,” our new HCPS intranet, was born.
Using Zippslip to Improve Pupil Transportation and Parent Communication
Henrico County Public Schools’ Pupil Transportation Department needed a way to deliver bus information to parents without having to print bus-stop lists and individual student labels; and to receive process and report transportation changes based on parent requests.
Since 2013, Henrico Schools has been using online software, called ZippSlip, for K-12 schools that automate paper forms and transactions that go between parents and their students’ schools. By adapting this tool for transportation needs, we aimed to save money on paper; reduce the workload of transportation and school staff members; and provide more efficient delivery of information.
Initially, we created a Bus Stop Form and a Transportation Change Form in ZippSlip. We worked with our application development team to establish feeds from the student information system to ZippSlip so that the latest bus information was display all school year. We trained the staff to extract any change requests daily directly from the ZippSlip system for processing as opposed to waiting for the manual forms to be delivered through inter office mail. The solution we created streamlined efforts; created data that can be exported and reported; and made parent and staff efforts more efficient.
Instructional Design Website: Making instruction easy for Teachers
The teachers of Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) had many resources available to them but the resources were scattered in many different places. Teachers were not able to access many of these resources from home – only while they were in a school building. In addition, the server that housed these resources was deprecated and the risk of server failure (losing the content) was high. None of the content was linked to the pacing guides that teachers used to plan instructions. Teachers needed everything in one convenient location and needed all materials aligned to Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests they were teaching. In response to this need, the HCPS Department of Instructional Technology, along with HCPS specialists, developed the HCPS Instructional Design website. This site brings all the resources that teachers need in a structured, common format that is easy to use and available 24/7. It has become the go-to site for instructional planning within Henrico Schools.