Aug. 11, 2022
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA — This week the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) named Chesterfield County as the recipient of five 2022 Achievement Awards, including the program’s highest recognition, the “Best Achievement Award.” Including this year’s awards, Chesterfield leads the VACo all-time achievement list with 44 awards, earning at least one award annually since the program’s inception in 1982.
The VACo Achievement Awards highlight innovative programs focused on addressing high-priority issues presently challenging counties. This year, the county was recognized with the Best Achievement Award for “Connecting All Community Residents to Public Schools.” The award gives Chesterfield one of VACo’s top honors for the sixth year in a row.
The county also took home five other Achievement Awards recognizing:
“We are very proud of the work we do and humbled by the recognition we received,” said County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey. “I have always been impressed by our innovative workforce serving our citizens. Being recognized again for the best overall program award and the all-time award winner with 44, speaks to our workforce, the incredible initiatives it puts forward, and the community it serves.”
“The Board of Supervisors is extremely proud of every department that received one of this year’s distinguished VACo Achievement Awards,” said Chair Chris Winslow (Clover Hill). “What each of these award-winning programs have in common is putting the citizens, especially the children, of Chesterfield County first. These accolades recognize the innovative, collaborative, and empathic approaches utilized by our workforce that result in an improved consumer experience. We congratulate the staff responsible for these honors and appreciate their commitment to growing a safe and successful community.”
Links and summaries of each award recipient is below:
Connecting All Community Residents to Public Schools
Public schools don’t exist in a vacuum. In the best situation, they are a solid foundation for a thriving community. In less-than-ideal situations, public schools become adrift on a sea of community indifference or neglect. Chesterfield County Public Schools is working to build strong support in a community where a majority of residents are not connected on a daily basis to K-12 education. This is seen as an ongoing process where the tools utilized incorporate both informing a population about the school division’s work while also building active involvement from the community-at-large as partners with the schools.
Chesterfield County’s Juvenile Detention Home Reimagines Behavior Management
Behavior management programs are the cornerstone of a secure detention home’s efforts to provide a safe environment by maintaining order and compliance, while at the same time offering incentives to residents that can ease their stay in a secure residential setting and encourage pro-social decision making. Chesterfield Detention had already made programmatic changes in 2013 to reduce the number of physical restraints but the use of room restriction remained high. After much research, surveying, and benchmarking, it was determined we could address this issue by 1) providing more, as well as better, incentives for residents and 2) shift the focus from residents “buying” these incentives with points to being automatically eligible for them based on positive, pro-social behavior. By developing and implementing a new behavior management program that centered around incentives chosen by residents and adopting this change in perspective, we saw the use of room restriction decrease 77% and the use of physical restraints decrease 88% from 2017 to 2021.
‘Mental Health Is A Puzzle, But We Have The Missing Piece’ Youth-Centric Social Media Campaign
Chesterfield County Communications and Media, in partnership with the county’s Mental Health Support Services and Citizen Information and Resources, worked with the Youth Services Board (YCB), a group of high schoolers appointed by the county’s Board of Supervisors, to craft a highly successful mental health social media campaign – “Mental Health Is A Puzzle, But We Have The Missing Piece” – targeting teens and parents. The purpose of the YCB is to advise the Board on issues relating to youth and provide opportunities for community input on youth issues in Chesterfield. After more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the YCB members noticed many of their classmates were struggling with their mental health and wanted to find a way to gain more awareness around the topic. The goal of the campaign was to engage with more Chesterfield residents and talk about the importance of addressing their mental health. The campaign achieved much success and was the first of its kind in the region. It had a profound impact on Chesterfield because it put into perspective the pulse of mental health for local children and parents and allowed YCB members to become mental health advocates for their fellow peers and give the county and region a platform to talk about it.
StratIS Population Forecasting
The Community Forecasting project blends census demographics with real estate housing trends to predict future service needs for our residents, businesses and visitors. Aligned with the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the team evaluated forecasts that influence Parks and Recreation (P&R) and Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) decision making. The cross functional team included Deputy County Administrators; directors from Budget and Management, Parks and Recreation, and CCPL; subject matter experts; technology leaders and staff; data engineers and data scientists; and help from Catapult Systems, a Microsoft Gold Partner. Previously, the Comprehensive Planning unit had forecasted population at a county-at-large basis. We began with P&R and CCPL data sources. The team quickly realized that the quality and completeness of existing departmental data was not sufficient for machine learning algorithms to predict future outcomes. In addition, the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service Demographics Research Group published quality concerns regarding 2020 census data for census blocks. Since service delivery for both organizations depend on population trends, the team shifted to predicting population by leveraging Chesterfield real estate data assets combined with census demographic data. Our approach employs scientific models that consume custom generated geographical clusters, grounded in number of bedrooms by housing type. This approach was reviewed with the UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service Demographics Research Group for validation.
Providing an Opportunity to the Youngest in the Community to Become Future Scholars
The Chester Early Childhood Learning Academy (CECLA) is a pre-kindergarten site created within a retired elementary school building. Established to support families who meet certain household financial need levels or who have students with disabilities in need of assistance, it provides access and opportunities for their pre-k child to transition into a traditional K-5 elementary school setting upon program completion ready for academic rigor. This new format was developed to build efficiencies within the operational delivery of pre-K programs and facilities while helping foster a community outreach avenue that was in danger of being reduced due to enrollment capacity levels in existing elementary school buildings. Within the first year of opening (8/21), this school is successfully serving approximately 350 pre-k students within a Title I setting where the majority are from households at or below the poverty level or where they are students with disabilities. The programming is unique as it is entirely focused on meeting the needs of pre-k students and has drawn upon community partnerships (like local dentists with student dental visits), mental wellness resources (with the County Mental Health Department) and other charitable partners who assist families to help their children get a great start in school.
VACo will present the awards to the county during the Aug. 24 Board of Supervisors meeting.