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Teachers’ Strike Continues

February 28, 2018
Tyler Star News

Teachers and school employees across the state continued their strike on Monday, picketing in protest over pay, fully funding the Public Employees Insurance Agency, seniority issues, and what's known as the paycheck protection act. The latter, if passed, would require employees each year to approve union payments being deducted from their checks.

As of Monday, the teachers and school employees in Wetzel and Tyler counties held work stoppages on Thursday, Friday, and Monday.

Meanwhile, the state Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said officials were considering "legal action" regarding the stoppage.

Article Photos

Photo provided by Lisa George
Teacher Stop Tyler Cutline: Tyler County’s teachers, service personnel, and supporters gather outside of Tyler Consolidated High School on Feb. 22, speaking out for higher pay and insurance benefits, among other issues.

County superintendents from across West Virginia participated in a conference call with Paine Saturday, Feb. 24, during which administrators contemplated their response to the walkouts. Late Saturday, Paine issued a statement regarding the call.

"Many asked whether the state was planning to pursue legal action in this matter. A decision will be made on Monday if an agenda item will be added to the State Board of Education meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss legal action.

If an item is added and the agenda is amended, the public will be notified on Monday," Paine said.

Fact Box


Staff Writer

The Tyler County Board of Education, along with Superintendent Robin Daquilante, addressed the statewide work stoppage during the board's Feb. 19 meeting. Daquilante announced that schools would be closed Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

Those two days will be made up on the first two available OS days in March. Daquilante said that, as of now, those two days missed will not extend the school year.

"It will be a total countywide closure, including all 240 and 261-day employees, including my office," Daquilante said.

Daquilante went on to say that all activities will cease except for the sports that are affected because of tournaments. She also said that practice for the teams that are in play now will continue. Track, softball and baseball will not practice because they aren't in season yet.

"Students that are at the end of their season have worked for this. They shouldn't be jeopardized by this. Another good point is there may be students, maybe some of ours, maybe not, but in their post-season play they may still have coaches looking at them if they are looking at post-graduate opportunities for athletics," Daquilante remarked.

Board member Jimmy Wyatt asked about the FFA and the Ham and Bacon Show.

Daquilante replied, "I will need to meet with them. That may be something that we will have to allow. This time is crucial for them with whatever they do with their meats. I will work with them, so those students are not jeopardized."

Daquilante recognized Kelly Haught, President of the Tyler County Education Association and Daniel Cooper, President of the West Virginia Schools Service Personnel Association, for all of their hard work during this time.

"These two have been great, because back in 1990, everything was a secret and nobody knew until you got to school the next day what was going to happen. One of them are constantly communicating with me and keeping me up to date on what's going on. I can not thank them enough for that. It has made this a little less painful," Daquilante commented.

The board communicated their support for principals, teachers and staff.

"As a board, we are standing behind you 100 percent," Board Member PJ Wells remarked. Jimmy Wyatt added, "We are all here for the same reason, and that's the kids."

In other business, the board approved a Medicaid Billing Support Services Contract.

The contract is an agreement with Wood County to assist with the Medicaid billing for the rest of the school year.

The cost is $45 an hour and it will run from Feb. 1 to Aug. 31.

Financial Director Jeff Davis further explained the contract, "RESA V was doing the billing for us, previous to this, and Wood County actually hired a Medicaid billing specialist with Wood County schools, so the service is no longer at RESA V.

Basically, it is the same service that we were getting through RESA, just now we are paying Wood County instead of RESA V. Actually, we are paying a lower rate because RESA tacked on administrative expenses."

In another matter, Daquilante announced that the School Building Authority granted permission to redo the bid package and rebid the HVAC project at Tyler Consolidated.

The low bidder that was awarded the project withdrew the bid, deciding they had underestimated expenses and bid too low.

The board voted for Art Mason to fill an unexpired term that was held by Scott Strode, who recently resigned to pursue a seat in the county commission.

The board approved the following requests:

Trip Requests:

Anna Carpenter will take the Boreman Elementary fourth and fifth grade choir, by bus, to Tyler Consolidated for All-County Choir dress rehearsal March 14;

Matt Jennings will take the TCHS Concert Band, the TCHS Jazz Band and the TCMS seventh and eighth grade band, by bus, to the West Virginia Strawberry Festival May 18;

Rob Schupbach, Amy Yeater and Seth Patterson will take the Class of 2018 on a senior trip to the New River Gorge in Fayette County, by bus, May 21-May 22;

Ashley Cochran will take five members of the TCHS TSA to WVU to compete in the TEAMS competition March 3. Cochran and another board employee will transport the students in their personal vehicles.

The board approved the following personnel matters:

Employments or Transfers and Rescissions:

Employ Benny Thomas as Multi-Categorical SPED with Gifted Teacher at Arthur I. Boreman Elementary School and Sistersville Elementary School, effective at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year;

Employ Amanda Heasley as Multi-Categorical SPED Teacher at Sistersville Elementary School, effective immediately.

Paine's statement follows that of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who has characterized the strike as "illegal."

On Sunday, Feb. 25, Wetzel County Schools Superintendent Ed Toman released a statement regarding the cancellation of school on Monday, Feb. 26.

Toman said the announcement of the continuation of the work stoppage "came as a surprise to many."

The superintendent said after gathering information from sources, locally and statewide, WCS would remain closed on Feb. 26. He said the status of Feb. 27 is unknown and would be provided "as quickly as it is known."

Toman said all 261-day employees would report to work on Monday, and he noted that the Wetzel County Board of Education would examine the school calendar and may convert March 28, 29, 30 and April 2 and 3 into instructional days.

"This would remove the Spring Break and provide an earlier ending to the school calendar year."

Toman said extracurricular activities, practices, and games will continue as scheduled."

Toman said the West Virginia State Board of Education would be meeting on Tuesday night in Charleston to discuss possible legal action concerning the work stoppage.

"Your continued support is valued and appreciated," Toman said.

Also on Sunday, Feb. 25, Tyler County Schools released a statement, reporting there would be no school on Monday, Feb. 26. It was stated this day would not have to be made up by the students.

Furthermore, Tyler County Schools reported that the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in Sistersville, along with the Indian Creek Baptist Church in Blue, offered to provide childcare on Monday for working parents, as well as breakfast and lunch for those children.

In other matters related to the stoppage, teachers and employees have found support through a variety of local entities.

As previously reported, the Wetzel and Tyler boards of education have passed resolutions supporting higher wages and fully-funded insurance benefits for their respective teacher and service personnel.

At its Feb. 20 regular meeting, the Wetzel County Commission released a letter of support for state employees.

The letter noted that the commission supports "teacher, service, and state employees in their effort to obtain a pay raise and affordable healthcare benefits."

"We certainly realize this is a difficult issue, but action is needed now to avoid the further loss of good teachers and other essential state employees."

The letter of support was signed by all three commissioners and will be delivered to state lawmakers.

Visit Wetzel County also released a statement supporting "fixing PEIA for our teachers and all public employees."

"We are in support of increasing the budget for Tourism in the State of WV in order to increase tax revenue for the State," noted Sandy Hunt, President/Chief Executive of the Wetzel County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Longwoods Research, an international firm focused on tourism, has shown that for every dollar spent on tourism, $8 in revenue comes back to the state. The current State budget on tourism is $6 million dollars (compared to Ohio, which is over $40 million). The Division of Tourism has asked for an increase of $14 million dollars, which is a one-time increase if you consider the revenue it will generate. $20 million spent on tourism will bring $160 million per year back to the state and local governments," Hunt continued.

"PEIA budget is currently in the vicinity of $375 million dollars with Governor Justice wanting to increase it by $10 million dollars while only agreeing to a one year freeze on premiums. An increase in tourism will increase general revenue that could be used to help with additional funding for PEIA. Currently, without tourism dollars, each person in the state of WV would pay an additional $700 per year in taxes. It doesn't have to be a debate between the teachers and tourism; the State should be able to do both," Hunt said.

"In that spirit, we are supporting our local teachers and sponsoring your current Red Out in Wetzel County. And we support an increase in the tourism budget as well," Hunt said on behalf of Visit Wetzel County.

The Wetzel County Democratic Executive Committee also took action at its Feb. 20 meeting, announcing full support and endorsement "of the Statewide action by school librarians, custodians, cooks, teachers, bus drivers, all school employees and State Troopers in their rightful, strong and unified effort to negotiate with the State Legislature for pay raises and health insurance security."



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