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Former Director for Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University will join Northam Administration in newly-created role

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Dr. Janice Underwood, former Director of Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University, will serve as Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Governor Northam announced the creation of this senior-level position in May, kicking off an extensive candidate selection process that involved numerous state agencies, stakeholders, and highly-qualified applicants.

“I am committed to making Virginia more equitable and inclusive, and that starts with my administration and our state government,” said Governor Northam. “Dr. Underwood’s background as an educator, leader and collaborator, as well as her experience promoting inclusive policies and directing a variety of diversity initiatives, make her the perfect person to fill this role. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Underwood to our administration, and I look forward to having her as a partner in this important work.”

As the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.

“I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth in this inaugural position,” said Dr. Underwood. “As I embark on this role I will be relying on my many personal and professional experiences as a teacher, an educational researcher, a parent and wife, and a diversity leader. I am dedicated to working with Virginians to promote lasting, institutional change at all levels of state government, and I look forward to working closely with Governor Northam and the rest of his administration to make the Commonwealth more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all who live here.”

Dr. Janice Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University in 1998 (B.A. Psychology) and 2002 (M.A. Learning and Behavior Disorders), respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University (ODU), where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.

Prior to her appointment, Dr. Underwood served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity Initiatives and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence. Dr. Underwood previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the ODU Teacher in Residence master’s program, a collaborative partnership between ODU, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public schools. Dr. Underwood also served for a number of years as a national board certified teacher for students with exceptionalities, and has extensive expertise in the cultural contexts of our public education system.

In these roles, Dr. Underwood has worked to create inclusive work and learning environments, and has collaborated with outside groups—such as the Virginia Community College System, the Chesapeake Public Library, and more—on professional development related to racial and cultural diversity.

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Governor Northam announces expansion of cloud computing degree programs with Amazon Web Services

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Governor Ralph Northam announced a new collaboration between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and select K-12 school divisions, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and leading four-year universities.

WOODBRIDGE—Governor Ralph Northam announced a new collaboration between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and select K-12 school divisions, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), and leading four-year universities. This collaboration will create opportunities and build pathways to high-skilled and high-wage cloud computing careers for students in all regions of the Commonwealth.

As part of the collaboration, participating academic institutions will use AWS Educate, an initiative to support cloud technology learning for students and faculty. AWS Educate will allow schools to incorporate cloud skills into high school STEM curriculum as well as associate and bachelor degree programs. This collaboration will also help employers throughout Virginia who have a growing need for workers with cloud computing skills.

“The field of cloud computing is growing and dynamic, and we know that for our Commonwealth to reach new heights and remain a national leader in tech talent, we must build seamless pathways from classrooms to careers at all education levels,” said Governor Northam. “This initiative represents exactly the kind of cooperation we need to ensure that Virginians have access to the skills they need for 21st-century jobs, while also helping employers find Virginia workers with the right training to fill those jobs.”

“The growing demand for these skills is clear,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Since September 2016, job postings requiring these skills in Virginia have increased from approximately 5,000 per month to 20,000 per month.”

Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University are two of the first higher education institutions in the country to offer cloud computing degrees. As a result of this new collaboration, these successful programs will be replicated at other community colleges and four-year institutions, and high school students will have the opportunity to receive college credit in cloud computing courses through dual enrollment and early college models.

“This new degree program marks an exciting first step in a much broader plan to bring cloud computing education throughout the state, as the degree seeks to bridge into high schools and four-year institutions,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

“The need for these skills extend well beyond Amazon as a company, or even what we consider the technology industry. Practically every field is growing more reliant on this technology and need people who can make it work,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois. “This collaboration means our students will be at the forefront of a degree program that will help prepare them for high-demand 21st-century jobs.”

“By embedding the AWS Educate program to create a statewide cloud degree program, Virginia is providing students with an on-ramp to innovation and careers in the cloud,” said Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services, Inc. “We applaud Governor Northam and Virginia’s educational leaders for providing this workforce development opportunity for students in all corners of the Commonwealth, from K-12 to community colleges to four-year institutions and on into the workforce.”

The following institutions will participate in this initiative and have committed to implement the cloud computing degree program in Virginia.

K-12
• Fairfax County Public Schools
• Loudon County Public Schools
• Alexandria City Public Schools
• Arlington Public Schools

Community Colleges
• Northern Virginia Community College
• J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
• John Tyler Community College
• Thomas Nelson Community College
• Blue Ridge Community College
• Patrick Henry Community College
• Dabney S. Lancaster Community College
• Tidewater Community College
• New River Community College
• Lord Fairfax Community College

Universities
• George Mason University
• Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
• Virginia Commonwealth University
• Old Dominion University
• Hampton University
• Virginia State University

For more information, please visit the AWS Educate and the Virginia Community College System websites.

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Governor Northam Announces Commonwealth’s Unemployment Rate falls to 2.8%

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percentage point in August to 2.8 percent, which was unchanged from a year ago. In August, the labor force expanded for the fourteenth consecutive month by 14,204, or 0.3 percent to set a new record high of 4,404,492, as the number of unemployed decreased by 3,551. Household employment increased by 17,755 to set a new high of 4,281,899. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which was unchanged at 3.7 percent.

“The drop in Virginia’s unemployment rate is yet another sign that our economy remains strong and our efforts to create opportunity in every corner of the Commonwealth are paying real dividends,” said Governor Northam. “While we welcome this news, we also know that we still have challenges to overcome in making sure that all Virginians have access to affordable health care, a world-class education, and the skills they need to get a good-paying job. My administration will stay focused on making the strategic investments that will help the families we serve and ensure that Virginia continues to be the best place to do business.”

Virginia has the lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states. Virginia has the third best rate among the states east of the Mississippi. Virginia is ranked sixth in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate along with Colorado and Utah.

“The strength of Virginia’s labor market is evident not only in the declining unemployment rate, but in increasing rates of labor force participation that show how some who had been on the sidelines have resumed looking for work,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We’re proud of this statewide unemployment rate. But as some localities continue to struggle with a higher rate, the Governor remains focused on bringing new investment and jobs to all regions of the Commonwealth.”

Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 65 consecutive months. For August, Virginia’s over-the-year growth of 1.8 percent was greater than the national rate. Nationally, over-the-year growth was higher in August at 1.5 percent from 0.8 percent in July and 0.9 percent in June.

“Virginia’s thoughtful investments in workforce development are paying off in the form of sustained low unemployment rates and a growing labor force,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Thanks to Governor Northam’s leadership, more Virginians than in our Commonwealth’s history have either now secured or are seeking a job. We are encouraged by our progress, and will continue to deliver opportunities and results for job seekers and employers throughout Virginia in the months ahead.”

In August, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 35,500 jobs, while employment in the public sector increased as well by 1,200 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, eight of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains, while the other three experienced employment losses.

For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at www.vec.virginia.gov.

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Governor Northam announces 105 new jobs in the City of Manassas

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that High Purity Systems, Inc., a leading provider of mechanical piping systems for a broad range of industries, will invest approximately $8.5 million to grow its manufacturing operation in the City of Manassas. The company will expand into a new, 30,000-square-foot facility in order to increase production capabilities for piping fabrication. The project will create 105 new jobs.

“Innovative manufacturers like High Purity Systems are thriving due to the region’s competitive operating costs, strong pipeline of skilled talent, and extensive transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s existing businesses play an important role in fostering economic vitality, and when they choose to reinvest and expand, it helps generate and sustain economic development throughout the Commonwealth. With a wide range of clients across cutting-edge and emerging industries, High Purity Systems is an emblem of 21st-century manufacturing, and we thank the company for its continued commitment to the City of Manassas.”

In business for over 30 years and based in the City of Manassas, High Purity Systems, Inc. (HPS) specializes in solving complex, highly technical mechanical projects for a variety of industries including microelectronics, biopharmaceutical, aerospace, food and beverage manufacturers, and other industrial companies. In addition to traditional mechanical services, HPS’ expertise includes fabricating and installing critical process piping systems, performing orbital welding and other specialty welding services, and manufacturing skidded piping systems.

“High Purity Systems has thrived in the City of Manassas for more than three decades, and we are honored that the company has again chosen to reinvest in the Commonwealth for its latest multi-million-dollar expansion,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This homegrown manufacturer is a valued corporate partner that will continue to benefit from the region’s robust infrastructure, world-renowned workforce, and strategic access to its growing customer base. We look forward to HPS’ continued success in Virginia, and to the creation of 105 new, high-paying manufacturing jobs.”

“High Purity Systems, Inc. is proud to partner with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the City of Manassas Economic Development Authority to expand our operations,” said Jody Ralston, CEO of High Purity Systems, Inc. “Our company and our employees’ families have deep roots in the area, which is why we’re thrilled to remain in the City of Manassas and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This expansion significantly increases our capacity to serve our industrial and government client base throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, as well as our national fabrication customers.”

HPS is seeking individuals with any level of experience in Project Management, Estimating, Engineering, BIM/VDC/CAD, Welding, Mechanical Helper, Marketing, Accounting, as well as anyone looking for an exciting career in the Piping and Metal Trades. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply at highpurity.com/careers.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Manassas to secure the project for Virginia and will support HPS’ job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change in order to support employee training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens. The company is eligible to receive Sales and Use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment, as well as a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created.

“High Purity Systems, Inc. has become a vital part of the Manassas business community with ties to several of the City’s largest employers in aerospace and advanced manufacturing,” said Mayor Harry J. Parrish II. “We are proud to have created an environment in which companies like HPS are able to thrive and grow, helping make the City of Manassas a regional employment center with one of the highest percentages of high-wage jobs in professional and technical services in Virginia.”

“High-paying, skilled jobs are a critical component of our efforts to diversify Virginia’s economy,” said Senator Jeremy McPike. “The investment that High Purity Systems, Inc. is making in the City of Manassas strengthens our community by creating these high-paying jobs closer to home.”

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Crime/Court

Harrisonburg woman pleads guilty to fatal overdose distribution

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HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Iza Mar Rosario-Cruzado, 31, of Harrisonburg, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Rosario-Cruzado further admitted her distribution of this drug mixture resulted in an overdose death. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement following the defendant’s guilty plea.

“Heroin laced with fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our district for the last several years,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to investigate and prosecute cases involving overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable under federal law.”

“This sentence is a great example of our efforts to keep our local communities safe from the spread of drugs. Heroin and fentanyl are extremely deadly substances and those who spread this poison across our cities, acting with blatant disregard for the lives of the people who live here, will not be tolerated,” said Special Against in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Division. “This case is a testament to the hard work DEA and our law enforcement partners do every day to keep these dangerous drugs out of the hands of our loved ones.”

According to court documents entered during yesterday’s hearing, on December 13, 2017, victim M.J.M. was found deceased following a heroin and fentanyl overdose. Investigators determined that the day prior, December 12, 2017, Rosario-Cruzado distributed a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Richard Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently redistributed the same drugs to M.J.M., who ingested them, resulting in his overdose death.

On September 12, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.

At sentencing, scheduled for December 17, 2019, Rosario-Cruzado faces between 12-16 years in years in federal prison, as agreed to as part of her plea agreement.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, and Harrisonburg Police Department, with the assistance of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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State News

September 24 is National Voter Registration Day

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RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Department of Elections is pleased to participate in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Volunteers and organizations from all over the Commonwealth will encourage all eligible Virginians to register to vote and increase awareness of voter registration opportunities.

On that day, the Department, in coordination with OnTheSquareVA, will host an “Everything Elections” NVRD event. The table will be set up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Capitol Square near the Bell Tower. At the table, the public can register to vote, update their voter address, request an absentee ballot, obtain voter photo ID information, or sign up to be an Officer of Elections.

Department employees will be on hand to answer any questions about elections and the voter registration process.

Every year, millions of Americans are unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, do not update their registration information, or are not sure how to register. National Voter

Registration Day seeks to raise awareness of voter registration opportunities around the country.

“At the Virginia Department of Elections, we are committed to making the voter registration process as easy, convenient and transparent as possible,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner. “We are thankful for all those who help us fulfill that mission.”

The deadline for registering to vote in the November 5, 2019 general election is Tuesday, October 15, 2019. All eligible Virginians can register to vote, update their voter address, or verify their registration status at vote.virginia.gov.

As of August 31, 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia has 5,588,740 registered voters.You can find out more about National Voter Registration Day at NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org.

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AG Herring recognized for his contributions to advancing cannabis law reform in the Commonwealth

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RICHMOND(September 9, 2019) – Virginia NORML has honored Attorney General Mark R. Herring with the 2019 Vanguard Award for his contributions to advancing cannabis law reform in the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring has called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, action to resolve past convictions and a move towards legal and regulate adult use. In calling for reform, Attorney General Herring cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color.

“As attorney general, I have a special obligation to fight for justice, opportunity, and equality for all Virginians, which means I’m always thinking about whether we are living up to that standard, and it is clear to me that criminalizing marijuana possession isn’t working,” said Attorney General Herring. “We have a system where getting caught with one joint, or a small amount of cannabis can totally derail someone’s life. There are smarter, better ways we can approach cannabis, and that begins with decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts, addressing past convictions, and taking responsible steps towards legalization. I want to thank Virginia NORML for honoring me with this award and all the hard work they do to advocate for cannabis reform.”

“Virginia NORML is thrilled to honor Attorney General Herring with this years award,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, Director, Virginia NORML. “His advocacy for not only decriminalizing but legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana has significantly elevated the conversation regarding the immediate need for legislative action and demonstrates his unwavering commitment to justice for all Virginians.”

In the last decade the number of first time marijuana convictions in Virginia has risen 53%, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017. About 90% of marijuana arrests in 2018 were for possession alone and arrests for cannabis possession have increased about 115%, from around 13,000 in 2003 to nearly 28,000 in 2017. The cost of cannabis criminal enforcement is estimated to be up to $81 million each year.

The weight of the current approach to cannabis enforcement falls disproportionately on African Americans and people and communities of color. According to the Virginia Crime Commission, African Americans comprised 46% of all first offense possession arrests from 2007 to 2016, despite comprising just 20% of Virginia’s population and despite studies consistently showing that marijuana usage rates are comparable between African Americans and white Americans.

About Virginia NORML
Virginia NORML is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the decriminalization of the possession of cannabis and the regulation of in-state medical and adult-use production and sales for a safer Commonwealth.

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Upcoming Events

Sep
21
Sat
all-day Huge Annual Yard Sale @ YARD SALE
Huge Annual Yard Sale @ YARD SALE
Sep 21 all-day
Huge Annual Yard Sale @ YARD SALE
Huge Annual Yard Sale, Sept 19 – 21 Location: 136 Passage Manor Drive, Strasburg, VA Flash Sale: Thursday: 10am – 2pm  |  Friday: 8am – 2pm  |  Saturday: 9am – 1pm
Sep
23
Mon
6:30 pm Monument to Mosby’s Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
Monument to Mosby’s Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
Sep 23 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Monument to Mosby's Men @ Front Royal's Prospect Hill Cemetery
The Col. John S. Mosby Camp, SCV, will lead the annual ceremony at the Monument to Mosby’s Men, 6:30pm on September 23rd, at Front Royal’s Prospect Hill Cemetery. Past Camp Commander Richard W. Hoover will[...]
Sep
24
Tue
1:30 pm Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Sep 24 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor Elena Maza will focus on learning basic skills to create watercolor landscape paintings: basic composition and use of color and value to create a sense of depth and distance.[...]
Sep
25
Wed
8:00 am Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
Sep 25 @ 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Senior Safety & Health Expo @ Moose Lodge
The purpose of the Expo is to keep our seniors safer and healthier, and to strengthen communication between the law enforcement and senior communities. And have some fun and fellowship along the way! Topics may[...]
10:30 am Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Children’s Art Class “Back to Sc... @ Art in the Valley
Sep 25 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Children's Art Class "Back to School" Session @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
11:30 am Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
Sep 25 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Women In Networking @ Middle of Main
Guest Speaker: Samantha Barber Topic: Voice for the Voiceless THIS IS A FREE EVENT – Please join us and other women looking to be inspired! “More than just another networking group.” FRWRC WIN is open[...]
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Sep 25 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four session course will focus on learning basic drawing skills as applied to botanicals: basic line drawings[...]
Sep
26
Thu
12:30 pm Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
Sep 26 @ 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Watercolor Painting Essentials @ Art in the Valley
This class will teach you the necessities to create your own watercolor paintings. Setup of materials and proper studio techniques will be shown. Indispensable ideas about drawing and color mixing as well as paint application[...]
4:00 pm Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Sep 26 @ 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Sketching with Pencils @ Art in the Valley
Pencil sketching is a great way to capture a visual record of your experiences and ideas. This class will give students a strong foundation for making pencil images for a journal or sketchbook. Principles for[...]
Sep
27
Fri
10:00 am The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
Sep 27 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]