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City offers incentives that allow employees to further their education

Some city employees, when they are not working, are spending time studying as they work toward obtaining degrees and/or furthering their education in other ways.

Many of those employees work for the city’s police and fire-rescue-EMS departments. During the March 12 City Council meeting, three fire-rescue-EMS employees were recognized for furthering their education. Battalion Chief Johnathan Hardin completed the Fire Rescue Management Institute Program offered by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Firefighter/EMTs Ben Stalls and Matt Prienter earned associate degrees in fire-protection technology.

At the council’s Feb. 12 meeting, Kimberly Grimes, criminal justice program administrator with the police department, was recognized for earning a master’s degree in public administration. Officer Chad Spinner was honored for earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“Because the responsibilities of Public Safety is constantly changing with new laws, procedures, and protocols, today’s police and firemen must be trained, educated, and equipped to address those challenges they will face on a daily basis,” wrote Stacy Drakeford, the city’s director of police and fire services, in an email.

“Training and education increases the ability to make better decisions and to utilize critical thinking skills in the performance of their duties. It affects the future of their families, the community, and the profession in which they serve.

“Over the past six years, we have stressed the importance of education and training to create a better workforce, who will then provide a better service to the citizens we serve.”

Currently, the city’s police and fire services personnel includes 11 employees with bachelor’s degrees, three with master’s degrees, 12 with associate degrees, five enrolled in bachelor’s-degree programs and four enrolled in associate-degree programs, in addition other employees in professional-development courses.

Employees in other city departments also further their educations. Linemen with the city’s electric utility often take advantage of educational and training courses related to their jobs, as do employees in the city’s water-resources division.

The city helps its employees further their education in several ways, said City Manager Bobby Roberson.

“The program, which every program that they’re in, has to be approved internally, through the employee, through their supervisor, the department head and then it comes to me. If they on a program, seeking a two-year associate degree, then we put the money into the program,” Roberson said. “It depends on the position — once they complete it, we do have incentives for them to do that. In addition, there is bonus money, and that depends on the certification. … There are incentives in our program to seek higher education, including four-year degrees. We’ve had several employees in the past three and a half years complete their degrees, and we encourage them to do that.”

Should a city employee who’s received city money to further their education quit working for the city soon after earning a degree, the employee likely faces having to repay some of the money spend on furthering his or her education, Roberson said. “If they decide to leave the first year, then they have to pay a pro-rata share of that back. It depends on how long they work after they receive their degree,” he said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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