Upshur authorizes action

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School board offers support, rally set for 4 p.m. today

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education expressed support for teachers and service personnel who are unhappy with small proposed pay increases as well as the rise in PEIA premiums.

Board president Dr. Tammy Samples read a prepared statement at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“On behalf of the Upshur County Board of Education members, we express our support to all school employees during this time. We recognize and appreciate that you are dedicated and caring individuals that want what is best for both our students and your families. We realize that you must make difficult decisions in the coming weeks. We support you.”

Katie Loudin said she had attended a recent informational session at West Virginia Wesleyan College hosted by the American Federation of Teachers — WV, West Virginia School Service Personnel and the West Virginia Education Association.

“I don’t know if there is anything for us to do yet, but I just want to say publicly, I see the teachers, see how hard they are working and personally believe they deserve a pay raise to get PEIA fixed.”

Loudin’s spouse is a band teacher in Lewis County.

Board vice president Alan Suder, whose spouse is an Upshur County teacher, echoed those comments.

“Where would we be without our teachers and their dedication?” he asked.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Wager indicated that Upshur County professional and service employees had voted to take action on a work stoppage if it came to that.

Teachers are unhappy with increases in health insurance and low pay, which ranks 48th nationally. They have indicated small 1 or 2 percent raises currently under discussion in the legislature are inadequate, and say Gov. Jim Justice’s one-year moratorium on PEIA increases just kicks the can down the road.

“The administrators of the county are going to be affected by whatever they do (at the state level),” he said. “We are all in the same boat. And it’s not just the teachers and service personnel, it’s all state employees — the DHHR, the DOH, State Police are all affected by this.”

Wager said the state professional and service personnel unions have agreed to give 48 hours notice to superintendents about a work stoppage. Area superintendents recently met in Buckhannon to develop a contingency plan.

“What the superintendents in our area have all agreed to do is, if the organizations call for a walk out, we will cancel school. It will be a non-instructional day.”

Wager said the day cannot be made up with any of the built-in days, so it will be tacked on to the end of the school year.

However, under the state calendar law, students can only be required to go until June 29.

Events such as the state wrestling tournament next week in Huntington and the state basketball tournament in March should not be affected.

“If it’s an SSAC sanctioned event, it will go on,” he said. “We are not going to keep the kids from playing.”

A rally for state employees is being planned for today at 4 p.m. at the Upshur County Courthouse. Supporters are encouraged to wear red.

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