Greetings, College Family. 🙂

Thank you! Thank you for your hard work, creative adaptations, and compassionate care for each other and our students.  We continue to deliver high-quality teaching and support services in a chaotic environment fraught with uncertainty.  The increased demands affect every single member of our college family in unique ways.  Most of you have made major adjustments to adapt to remote work in an online environment while providing for constantly changing situations in your own homes.  Despite our isolation, we share this journey.

We are learning to work together in a time when the health and safety of our communities depend on our separation from each other.  Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, provided the following counsel, “Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” There are two components to these words of wisdom that are relevant to us in our current situation.

First, we know this pandemic will cause us all to experience a variety of emotions including grief, anger, loneliness, despair, and frustration.  In these moments, please reach out for help and support.  There is professional assistance through licensed counselors who can nurture your mental and emotional health.  Simply contact Life Matters, (Employee Assistance Program info and password attached) for confidential support sessions.  If you need someone to help you with work-related concerns, please speak with your supervisor or someone in Human Resources.  We are intently focused on caring for your needs.

Second, we empathize with your struggles while also embracing the opportunities for growth.  We choose to be optimistically focused on courageously creating solutions.  Please know that our ability to endure and prosper despite this ordeal, individually and collectively, will be directly commensurate with your personal well-being.  One of the best ways I know to be strengthened personally is to reach out and serve others.  We have seen an amazing outpouring of compassion, generosity, patience, and humility leading to innovative programs and services being developed and implemented to help each other feel loved and be successful in our goals.  I also know the value of rest.  With a shortened week next week, we have an opportunity to step away from work for three full days.  If we all do so, unless an emergency occurs, it will help.  A lot.  There is no need to discontinue reaching out to check in on each other, please just take a break from the work-related tasks.  I will join you in doing my best to take a break too. 🙂

Here are a few updates on our response efforts and plans:

  1. Budget Update:  These are unprecedented times.  Every single one of our revenue streams is at risk and the ability to predict worse case/best case scenarios is severely compromised.  We will provide more detailed information at in-service on Thursday, April 9.  As a reminder, we have guaranteed all compensation previously planned through June 30, 2020.  For the 2020-2021 fiscal year beginning July, 1, we are focusing on maintaining base salaries as a top priority, at least through the end of the calendar year.  Please know we have increased our investments to help each of you care for your families as we move through this crisis.  We are closely examining all non-base salary options for submitting a budget that maintains our core operations for the next year.  It is likely we will tap into our “rainy-day” reserves.  We will also consider options that are one-time commitments rather than ongoing obligations.  Please know there are difficult decisions ahead and we will do our best to give you more specific answers soon and provide you an opportunity for input and feedback.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.
  2. Cyber Security: We are aware of the issues with Zoom and you should have received a communication from IT regarding the measures you can take to be safer in an online environment – also attached to this email.  Please read and review.  We will continually update you on expectations and instructions.  If you do experience any problems, please report those to IT immediately.  Similarly, we are aware of the issues with Schoology and we are doing our best to work through solutions.  Thank you for your patience.
  3. Information regarding COVID-19: There is a plethora of information available, some from reputable sources and others that are inaccurate or misleading.  Here is what we are basing our decisions on at this time, and the related sources:
    1. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates the COVID-19 virus is mainly spread through person-to-person:
      1. “Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).”
      2. “Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.  These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
    2. The CDC also states, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
    3. We request you follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization and CDC to avoid the virus or to seek treatment if you get sick.
    4. Consequently, we have made our decisions to protect faculty, staff, and students as much as possible.  Please know each of you is encouraged to take the precautions you feel necessary to stay healthy and safe.  We support you using your paid leave to remain at home.  In fact, we have guaranteed your compensation through June 30, including additional paid leave if you so choose.  We are totally supportive of your decision to be at home.  We are grateful you are each considering your personal situation when making the decisions that are your responsibility.
    5. We acknowledge there will always be a certain level of risk associated with the work we do.  Because each of you is important to us, the precautions we have implemented go above and beyond the requirements we are aware of and our efforts are designed to keep you healthy or receive treatments when not well.  Most importantly, you have each been given a choice to stay home and protect yourselves and your families.  We support you in your decisions.  Simply inform your supervisor and HR.
  4. Plan to Return to Campus:  The Operations group is planning for our eventual return to campus by developing best case/worse case options.  We are working closely with our insurance company, college attorneys, and industry experts to understand the ways we can help you be safe and remain healthy.  A small sample of what is currently being considered includes:
    1. Health officials recommendations that it is safe to return
    2. Audit of health needs and investments in remediation efforts
    3. Comprehensive campus cleaning
    4. Increased personal hygiene options
    5. Investments in visible social distancing expectations and investments in physical modifications
    6. Staggered dates for departments to return and possible alternative schedules
    7. Communication plan for sharing important information and receiving feedback or identifying concerns
    8. Public education and/or de-briefing seminars for faculty, staff, students, and the community
    9. Mental and emotional wellness support measures increased
    10. Contingency plans, including being prepared for extended remote work, if potential virus reoccurrences happen in the fall or next spring
    11. Compassion and empathy training to reduce bias and stigmas and help us emphasize our individual worth in helping our students be successful
  5. Summer Course Offerings and Internships:  Almost all of the summer course offerings are online. Marketing, promoting, and registering students for summer term will continue.  The Academic Deans are working through the expectations for student internships or other required work experiences.  There may also be make-up work or an extension of our current semester.  Stay tuned for more information.
  6. Student Hardware and Software Needs:   As students settle into working from home, new software and hardware needs may become essential for them to complete their studies. Students have been instructed to notify their instructors of their needs.  IT helps by answering questions.  If students need financial support, please help them contact Gina Trollop.  We are exploring ways to strengthen our students now, and into the future, through investments in technology.
  7. Communication with Students:  I sent the attached email to students earlier today.  We are planning a Virtual Town Hall Meeting for students on Wednesday, April 8 at 11:30 am.  Similar to our all-college virtual meetings, we have offered students an opportunity to submit questions for us to answer.  Please know I have heard so many positive comments from students because they are grateful for your efforts to help them.  Well done!
  8. In-Service: We will hold a college-wide in-service by video conference on April 9 at 8:30 am and concluded prior to 10:30 am.  An agenda will be shared early next week by Connie Haberkorn.  Please stay tuned for special instructions from me for preparing for our time together.
  9. Community Crisis Solutions:  We are working to contribute most of our limited Personal Protective Equipment, normally used for teaching and learning in the classroom, to local first responders.  Any donations of college-owned materials or supplies go through a process to ensure we get it to the people who need it the most.  We will consider other innovative ways to be part of local solutions, should the need arise.  Stay tuned for the solutions coming from our planning currently underway regarding facilities, personnel, and other resources.
  10. Home Sweet Home Preschool:  For those children who are in our child care program, we are pleased to let their parents know about a new resource for your kiddos to stay connected too.  Amber Adney, one of our childcare instructors, has developed a Facebook page to share with the children in our program.  If you have preschool-age children, please tune in and join the fun!

As always, please send any additional questions or comments to covid19response@swtc.edu.

In conclusion, please know you are in our thoughts and we hope for your continued health and well-being.  It is important to us that you can care for your families.  We can support each other in our efforts to serve students and meet their needs.  Over many years of time, and by being good fiscal stewards of public funds, we have built a modest financial reserve for these very types of emergencies.  More important than our monetary savings are the personal and collective reservoirs of trust and kindness.  As we compassionately care for our families, each other, and our students we will create currency in the form of gritty resilience.  Our passion for serving will help us persevere despite adversity.  We will get through this.  I know we will be better on the other side.  I choose to appreciate the journey because of the quality and character of you, my colleagues and friends.


Jason S. Wood, Ph.D.
President, Southwest Tech

Posted in COVID-19