N.C. Department of Correction--Correction News--October 1998

Spotlight on Division of Prisons OPUS Operational Support

Nevelle Jones is the Division of Prison’s Chief of Classification. He has been one of the department’s leaders in putting new technology to work for employees. Jones drafted a team of prison managers to help build the initial OPUS prison records. "When OPUS started, we wanted significant user input into developing it, so the division identified a number of people to come in and work," said Jones. "First they sorted forms to see what we used, then they tested systems for MIS. From there, a group of people answered calls giving phone help and designing training." Many of the people he invited to work on the project for a "few weeks" in 1994 are still part of the DOP Operation Support group.

More than 150 people have been a part of the division’s efforts to develop OPUS. As many as 65 prison employees were working on the project at one time. They were borrowed from different facilities and offices. Their work helped to build OPUS and has helped the division train 14,000 people in a little more than a year to use it.

Richard Burkhart joined the department in 1986 and was a program director at Anson Correctional Center.

"I had developed a computer application and had sought Mr. Jones’s approval to use it," Burkhart said. "When Jones pulled the first working group together for OPUS, he called me." That first meeting was at the end of December 1993. Today, Burkhart heads up the Operational Support group.

Mark Marshall joined the department in 1994 as a correctional officer at Central Prison and later moved to program staff. He joined the OPUS help desk in February 1997. "My hobby is working on computers. I built the computer I use at home," Marshall said. "I know HTML, the language used to build pages for the world wide web and am working to learn java script, another web tool." Marshall answers questions about OPUS prison records. He also helps division staff who request remote access to the NC DOC internal web page. So far, 57 employees have remote access.
Irene Hemby’s voice is familiar to people who call the Randall Building. She’s answered calls there for the last six years.

She is the newest member of the Operational Support group and will be answering calls now for the help desk.

Kathy Sledge has worked almost 21 years for the department. She started at Fountain Correctional Center for Women where she worked as a program assistant and assistant unit manager. She moved from there to Tillery where she worked as a program supervisor.

Since she joined the OPUS team, Sledge has led the team that wrote the curriculum, set up the training centers and prepared the trainers. "When we first cut OPUS on, the screens were blank," Sledge said. "We had to design nearly 1,000 different screens and then teach people how to use them." The first section of OPUS was released in December 1994 and Sledge has been busy training prison employees since then.

Gary Parks (right) and Jim McElroy helped write the curriculum for OPUS training. Over Parks’ desk is an Oakland Raiders pennant and on McElroy’s computer screen is a message about the Dallas Cowboys. Though he’s never been to Oakland, Parks remembers watching the Raiders on television when he was five years old. And he’s loved them ever since.

McElroy grew up in Washington, D.C., home of the Redskins and, despite that, learned to love the Cowboys. McElroy worked in programs at Polk Youth Institution until he joined the OPUS help desk. From there, he moved to curriculum development.

Parks is a former Halifax County news reporter who went to work at Caledonia Correctional Institution in 1988 as a personnel assistant. In addition to writing lesson plans for OPUS, Parks and McElroy are now training staff for the department’s first computerized fingerprint machines. One of the machines has already been put to work at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women.

Cathy Zalascek runs the OPUS training registration desk. She’s been with the department for almost six months.

Her job is to register participants for training and to keep a training schedule current on OA and the internet. Persons sign up for classes by calling, faxing or sending her an OA message.

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