Pocahontas Board of Education Passes Resolution Supporting School Employees
Like a dinosaur standing in the middle of the living room, the specter of a work stoppage or strike by all West Virginia Teachers and Service Personnel, including all employees of the Pocahontas County Schools, loomed over the Pocahontas County Board of Education Meeting on Monday, February 19th. The West Virginia Legislature has passed a wage package for school personnel which includes a 2% pay raise next year with a 1% raise the following year. They also agreed to not increase workers portion of the Public Employee Insurance Agency (or PEIA) costs for 16 months. To the statewide Teacher and Service Personnel Unions, this was not a good enough offer to avoid a walk-out. On Wednesday afternoon, February 21st, the Pocahontas County Schools officially announced that the schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday. February 22nd and 23rd, along with all other schools in the state due to this walkout by school employees. Whether or not the work stoppage is extended into the following week or weeks remains unresolved at this time and will be addressed in Charleston.
In response to all of this, the Pocahontas County Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution supporting school employees. Listen as Ruth Bland reads this resolution at the Board Meeting..
“Whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education values all school employees, believes all employees are an integral part of our school system; and whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education recognizes the work and dedication of all our employees; and whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education recognizes that our county’s future is dependent on a quality education of all students in our schools; and whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education recognizes that the average salary for a West Virginia Teacher is 48th in the Nation and that our employees deserve a long overdue increase in pay with competitive wages and improved insurance benefits; and whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education recognizes that the school system employees, students, parents, guardians and volunteers foster a sense of community in Pocahontas County; and whereas the Pocahontas County Board of Education recognizes the benefit impact of a fully funded Public Employee Insurance Agency –PEIA- not only to the employees of Pocahontas County Schools, but also to all publically employed community members; Whereas the West Virginia Legislature has not responded with appropriate legislation to address these issues; therefore let it be proclaimed that the Pocahontas County Board of Education fully supports a legislative wage increase for all employees and the passage of legislation to fully fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency-PEIA –and pleads with the West Virginia Legislature to address these requests appropriately and in a timely manner. Adopted by the Board of Education, Pocahontas County West Virginia, February 19th, 2018.”
The Pocahontas County Board of Education thus became the 30th West Virginia County Board of Education to adopt similar resolutions supporting school employees.
Superintendent Beam arrived late for the meeting having just returned from a meeting with all 55 County School Superintendents in the State to discuss the possible work-stoppage. He said there was some disagreement among Superintendents about how to handle the situation, but all agreed with the Union proposals that school athletics, especially basketball and wrestling play-off tournaments should go as scheduled. He said that because the state still requires 180 days of instruction, it seems that any time missed because of any work stoppages or strikes would have to be made up at the end of the year.
In part two of this story, we will cover the other items discussed and voted on at this meeting.