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Season of flu and hurricanes

Submitted by on September 4, 2009 – 4:57 pmNo Comment

Dr.-Norman-Stephens-wide

Dear Colleagues,

September is the historically optimal month for tropical inconveniences in these parts, but so far the demons of the doldrums, Ana through Erika, have been skittish at best, heading toward colder northern Atlantic waters and out of our concern. These storms do remind us that we need to pay attention and prepare for the possibility that Fred, Grace, Henri, and Ida will spin our way.

Speaking of concerns, a number of employees and students have asked about the H1N1 influenza virus that has been inaccurately described as “swine flu” and is receiving considerable attention from local and national media. Since last spring when it was first reported, we have followed the advice of the experts at the Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, and the Highlands County Health Department. The future course of this disease is difficult to predict, and that is why it is getting so much attention. Worry about what might occur this fall and winter is causing us to pay close attention. We are communicating prevention measures through a number of mechanisms including www.southflorida.edu; providing information to employees at Welcome Back; posting hand-washing information in restrooms throughout our campuses; distributing flyers in high volume student areas; training our custodial staff in the proper methods for cleaning potentially infected areas; and sharing updated information through our college emails. As soon as a vaccine is available, we will work with the Health Department to organize a vaccination program for our employees, students, and others. The risk groups for H1N1 are different than for seasonal flu. This virus seems to affect pregnant women and young children as well as individuals from 25 to 64 who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications such as asthma and diabetes. Older adults who would be susceptible to seasonal flu seem to have some immunity to H1N1. According to the Health Department in a press release on September 3, there have been no deaths related to this virus in Highlands County and most people who have become ill have recovered without requiring medical treatment. The release stated “ . . . for the majority of the population it will be like any other flu.”

We continue to grow with our fall enrollment running about 11 percent of last year on this same date. When the final numbers are in, we’re not expecting to be that far ahead. Probably an increase of 7 or 8 percent is more likely what we will experience this fall. It is obvious to me, and to many of you that I’ve talked to as I’ve walked around the campus, that the economy is having a significant impact on many of our students. Unemployment in our three counties remains high and jobs are scarce as many businesses are experiencing painful challenges. Of course, that is why many people are coming to us for assistance. And that is why we’ve worked so hard to keep our doors open wide to everyone in spite of the budgetary pressures we face.

The response to our appeal for support of the United Way Campaign has been amazing. We are far ahead of last year in numbers of employees giving and in total dollars contributed. The campaign continues through September. Don’t forget that you can designate your gift to a specific agency and to your home county of DeSoto, Hardee, or Highlands. It’s your choice. Community Relations and Human Resources have the forms you need to make your pledge. As I said in my email to employees after Welcome Back, whenever I hear good news, it’s fun to share it, and your generosity is fantastic news — but not surprising. This year, we’ve set three goals for our college United Way campaign: exceed $12,000 in contributions; be a top-10 contributing organization; and receive recognition as one of the organizations experiencing the greatest percentage increase over last year. Thanks to you, we’re well on our way to achieving these goals.

We’ve placed the order for the very special Panther Spirit pins for those of you belong to FACC, and contribute to United Way and to the SFCC Foundation. It doesn’t matter the amount, you have to decide what you can afford. Remember, our goal is 100 percent participation by our employees!

Mark your calendars for Friday, October 16th for SFCC Assessment Day. This is a very important occasion for all employees to allow us an opportunity to ascertain how we are doing as a community college enriching our communities through education, . . . one life at a time. More information is forthcoming.

Today is my wife’s birthday and she’s celebrating a new front number. It is also my seventh anniversary at South Florida Community College. We’ve got lots of great reasons to celebrate.

I’ll be seeing you around the campuses,

Norm Stephens

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