Bell Atlantic to co-sponsor "Academy of Excellence"

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) will co-sponsor the "Academy of Excellence," a state-wide initiative designed to help county government officials manage issues and responsibilities of the 21st century.

The Academy of Excellence is a voluntary training program for county commissioners, chief clerks and solicitors. Participants complete 48 credit hours over a two-year period -- 30 credits of core courses and 18 credits of electives.

"We're proud to be part of this effort," said Daniel J. Whelan, Bell Atlantic-Pennsylvania president and CEO. "The Academy of Excellence is an important initiative that ensures we have informed and responsible public officials who can give our counties the leadership and management needed to deal with the challenges ahead."

Courses cover all aspects of county responsibility including financial management; personnel and labor relations; leadership, management and decision-making, and legal and ethical responsibilities. It is the only in-depth course available for county officials. Gov. Tom Ridge predicted the Academy will result in more effective county government.

"Completing this course involves a personal commitment of time and energy that demonstrates these individuals want our county governments to be the best in the nation. I'm confident we'll see the results in improved decision-making, efficiency and innovation, " Ridge said.

As part of its sponsorship, Bell Atlantic will showcase the latest distance-learning technology in an interactive experience called "The Wave of the Future." The February session will be held in five state locations -- Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Altoona, Scranton and Conshohocken-- allowing commissioners to participate in the Academy course without traveling far from home.

"We hope our technology showcase will help commissioners better understand how technology can provide solutions to the problems they face every day -- improving services, lowering costs and moving information quickly," Whelan said.

The Academy of Excellence curriculum was developed in the early 1990s by CCAP members, state officials and educators who recognized the need to provide training for elected county officials who often had no background in county government.

Courses are offered as part of regularly scheduled CCAP meetings as well as in stand-alone sessions. The first group of 65 commissioners to complete the course graduated Nov. 24.

"The Academy provides in-depth education on critical issues and also offers opportunities for commissioners to share problems, questions and ideas," said Nancy Besch, Cumberland County Commissioner and chair of the subcommittee that developed the Academy curriculum. "The networking opportunities are invaluable and open up a whole new way of interacting with each other."

The new Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX - is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.5 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.

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