Update on WV School Walk-out

Well, here we are, the WV schools remain closed on Monday and Tuesday as the teacher walk-out continues.  Actually, since in a measure of support for school employees, the Pocahontas County Schools, as well as all of the other school districts in the state, have officially closed through at least Tuesday, February 27th, school employees  cannot be penalized for failing to report to work on those days since schools were officially closed.

What happens next? No one seems sure, but everyone –administrators and employees- are bracing for possible legal action from the State to force the school districts to reopen their schools. That’s when things will become dicey. Will there be enough teachers, bus drivers, janitors and cooks willing to cross a possible picket line? Will the local Boards of Education defy state orders to reopen their schools? Will the State order school employees back to work? What happens if they refuse such an order?

These remain unanswered questions. Perhaps there will be a last minute agreement ending the crisis.

What do we know? So far the school days missed will be made up since the schools closings were official.  If the schools are ordered open but are unable to because of lack of personnel, will those days need to be made up?. One thing you can count on is that Allegheny Mountain Radio will provide you with the latest information we have. And this just in. We just heard (Monday afternoon) that there is no new news, but he expects to hear something on Tuesday, February 27th.

Additionally, we interviewed two principals last Friday that we just happened to find standing along with their teachers on the bridge in Marlinton- although we heard that other principals were also on the streets supporting their teachers.  First up is PCHS Principal Joe Riley.

“We’re here today on the bridge in Marlinton just to support the teachers of Pocahontas County, also the teachers across the state, but not only that, but all the workers who work for the state” said Riley. “We need to be competitive in what we are offering our state employees because we have some problems trying to keep people within the state. Whenever we graduate kids from Pocahontas County High School, sometimes it’s hard for them to stay here because there’s nothing here in the way of jobs and also the competitive pay outside our state is a lot more. So I would like to see the state think about this, the legislators, the Senators to think about this –the more we can do in order to keep children here and also so we can get employees within our school system to be able to stay here, because right now a lot of our teachers can go to any other state and make a lot more money and also get insurance that will work for them. What we need to look at is let’s get some better insurance and let’s get some pay that’s competitive so that we can keep people within our state. “

Next we talked with Dustin Lambert, Marlinton Middle School Principal.

“So we’re here on the bridge today” said Lambert. “I always knew that we were a very close knit community, but to see the support from not only teachers and Service Personnel but also students and parents. I think that’s really unique to our community here- it’s really special. All kinds of people are going by waiving their hands, blowing their horn. I just think it’s an energy like no other. I really didn’t know what to expect before I got here, but just to be a part of this energy, it’s really special. So, as Joe said, I think the issue for us as principals is securing individuals- professionals- for positions in our schools.  We have a hard time getting individuals coming in who are certified anyways. If we’re pushing them away because we’re not giving them a competitive wage; not giving them the insurance they need for themselves and their family, it’s going to be difficult for us to continue to secure highly qualified teachers for our students – and we can all admit that our students deserve that. So I think it is a real struggle for our state and I think it’s really sad that we are not as devoted as I would like our representatives to be in terms of securing that higher wage, that higher salary and those benefits not only for the individuals but for their families as well.

So, that’s why I’m here on this bridge, that’s why I’m supporting these teachers. I believe in supporting my teachers, not only in the classroom but in the community as well. And I think this is a real way to get us bonded together even more, so I’m really glad to be here.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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