Community college president talks leadership during pandemic

SALISBURY — Janet Spriggs offered four key ways to lead during the “brave new normal” of the ongoing pandemic: be calm, be confident, be courageous and be compassionate.

Hosted by the Rowan Chamber of Commerce, Spriggs spoke Thursday during the organization’s Power in Partnership breakfast event held via Zoom. Spriggs is former chief operating officer of the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and president of Forsyth Technical Community College. In addition to digital attendees, she spoke to the graduating class of Leadership Rowan on “Learning to Make a Difference: Living Your Purpose in a Brave New Normal.”

Janet N. Spriggs: In the eye of the storm, focusing on students

Like most colleges, spring usually arrives at Forsyth Tech, filled with excitement and anticipation. Students are eager for spring break, faculty and staff are wrapping up another school year, and our graduates shine, walking proudly across the stage to the cheers of everyone who supported them on their journey. Normally, spring is the most wonderful time of our academic year, but that’s not how spring arrived this year.

In my second year as president of Forsyth Technical Community College, I was looking forward to the promise a new year would bring. Our economy was strong, enrollment was up and the 2020 Forsyth County high school graduating class would be the first students eligible for the free college Hope and Opportunity Scholarships. Our vision 2025 strategic plan was in place and we were moving toward our vision of being a catalyst for equitable economic mobility, empowering lives and transforming communities. We could not have envisioned a global pandemic.

Looking back, I will always remember Friday, March 13, 2020, as a pivotal moment for our college, the day our world shifted from “normal” to something new, and uncertain.

J. “Manny” Gomez promoted to captain of WSPD

Lieutenant J. “Manny” Gomez has been promoted to the rank of captain with the Winston-Salem Police Department. Gomez is the first Hispanic captain in the history of the WSPD.

“As the Chief of Police, it makes me very proud to promote Captain J. “Manny” Gomez as the first Hispanic male command staff member in the history of the Winston-Salem Police Department,” said Chief Catrina Thompson.

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How are community colleges distributing CARES Act funding to students?

North Carolina’s 58 community colleges will collectively receive $60 million to provide emergency financial aid to students thanks to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. But the Department of Education’s interpretation of Congress’s intent in deciding who is eligible for help is bringing criticism from some campus leaders.

Signed on March 27, the CARES Act provides almost $14 billion to postsecondary education students and institutions across the country. Of that $14 billion, a little less than half ($6.28 billion) must go to students “for expenses related to disruptions to their educations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including things like course materials and technology as well as food, housing, health care, and childcare.” The other half of the funding is for institutional costs.

To receive the student aid funding, colleges first have to submit an application and receive approval from the Department of Education. Many North Carolina community colleges have submitted that application and have been approved or are waiting to be approved. The table below shows how much each North Carolina community college will receive, including how much must go to students as financial aid grants.

Perspective | Forsyth Technical Community College alumna shares her story of the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

When you walk into the employee entrance of Novant Health Medical Center right now, there are several chalk messages on the sidewalk. One reads, “Heroes work here.” Never in our lifetime have we seen the need for health care providers as we have now. They are truly heroes as they serve on the front lines in hospitals helping fight the coronavirus.

Courtney HaldemanCourtney Haldeman, a nursing graduate from Forsyth Technical Community College, is now a resource nurse in the Intensive Care COVID-19 Unit at Novant Health in Winston-Salem. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of North Carolina Greensboro and is back in school at UNCG to be a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. In March, like all schools, colleges, and universities, all face-to-face classes were moved online.

Haldeman says she was always proud to be a nurse, but now her pride runs much deeper.

“I’ve seen some wonderful things happening in spite of this very stressful time,” Haldeman said. “Nurses have been pulled from other units to fill in on the COVID-19 unit and the teamwork is amazing. Managers who worked in different units are coming together to manage this COVID-19 unit to be sure it is staffed appropriately and that the unit has what it needs to care for the patients and help fight this virus.”

Haldeman explains that since some surgeries have been cancelled due to the pandemic, nurses from other units can serve on the COVID-19 unit. In addition, there are usually fewer hospitalizations during the spring. Overall, the hospital has more beds available that can be used for COVID-19 patients. Haldeman said it was a total shock with how quickly the pandemic set in.

Treating patients is hard enough but magnify the job with the limitation on visitors.

“As nurses, we care about the patients’ families too, so it’s difficult now that COVID-19 patients cannot have any visitors,” Haldeman said. “In the last moments of life, only one family member may be with the patient. For us, it is a moral conflict, not having the whole family there. I have tremendous respect for what the patients and families are going through.”

Nurses are also limited on visits with their own families. “I have telephone calls and video chats with my mom, but I haven’t seen her since the stay-at-home orders began,” Haldeman said. “I miss seeing her, but I want to be extremely careful.”

Throughout this time, Haldeman said the nurses have been amazed at the community outreach and support. “I guess it was eye-opening for the community to see what we do each day,” she said. “Not only are the sidewalks filled with chalk messages, we get snacks and meals from churches and families and we appreciate it so much.”

In her own words, Haldeman shared what happened at Novant Health last month:

Police Cars lined up to cheer on health care workers“On April 3, the police department performed an event called the ‘Circle of Hope’ where they drove in front of the hospital with their sirens on to salute the health care team for the upcoming battle. On April 20, all of the local fire departments performed the ‘Circle of Fire’ where they drove through the front of the hospital with their sirens on, honking their horns in admiration, while waving and saluting the health care team while we are fighting the battle. They then lined up the vehicles, stepped out of the trucks, and cheered for the hospital. Watching these moments were breathtaking and uplifting. For such admirable and respected professions to support and cheer on health care professionals is a moment I will never forget. This is such a difficult time for nurses and to receive support from the community and professionals like the police department and fire department is indescribable. They risk their lives every day, and they made it a priority to show their respect and support for our profession. I have never been prouder to be a nurse!”.
Fire Trucks and Fire Men Cheering on Novant's health care workers

“Forsyth Tech is proud of all our health technology graduates now serving on the front lines to protect us during COVID-19,” Linda Latham, dean of health technologies at Forsyth Tech, said. “Courtney is one of many of our nurse alumni who are employed by Novant Health and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centers and who give selflessly to our community every day.”

Both the Forsyth Tech Community College Associate Degree Nursing and Practical Nursing diploma programs are accredited by the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA).

Forsyth Tech also partners with Winston-Salem State University in the dual enrollment Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) Program to encourage beginning students and Licensed Practical Nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Judi Saint Sing
Judi Saint Sing is public relations manager for Forsyth Technical Community College.

New Nurses Graduate Triad Schools in Middle of Pandemic

Chelsea Carmon was in the middle of performing a nursing preceptorship, a period of hands-on learning under a seasoned professional, when it was called off in mid-March.

It was supposed to be the capstone to her nursing studies at UNCG, “the closest thing to being an RN without having a license.” But with the COVID-19 crisis sweeping through the country, she had to finish coursework virtually.

Forsyth Tech prepares for virtual graduation

This is a big week for some graduates here in the Triad. More than 1,700 students are graduating from Forsyth Tech.
That is one of the largest groups in the school’s history. Over half are receiving degrees or certificates in the medical field. Forsyth Tech President Dr. Janet Spriggs says the students are excited about getting on the front lines to help patients impacted by the coronavirus.
The graduation this week won’t be like the ones students have experienced in the past. This time it will be a virtual live stream. The community can watch it on Forsyth Tech’s YouTube channel at 5 p.m., May 7.

Free mask deadline approaching for Forsyth Tech employees

Friday is the last day for employees at a local community college to get their free face masks. This is part of Winston-Salem’s Mask the City campaign.
Forsyth Tech purchased 11 cases with a thousand masks to protect its faculty and staff. The school started handing then out on Monday.
Employees are encouraged to drive up to the Allman Center, stay in their cars and roll down their windows. A mask will be handed to them. The distribution time is 10 a.m. to noon until the masks are all gone.

Perspective | Leadership in a brave new normal: Forsyth Tech takes up the challenge

In January, when I began my second year as president of Forsyth Technical Community College, I never imagined how the coming months would unfold. Obviously, we were all watching the evolving situation with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, but I don’t think any of us anticipated how quickly and dramatically all our lives would change.

I am reminded of poet Robert Burns’ famous line, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” No matter how much we plan, things we don’t expect and don’t anticipate often change those plans. This was certainly not what we envisioned for our spring semester, but it was, so to speak, the hand we had been dealt, and therefore the hand we would have to play.