The Monongalia County Board of Education Unanimously Vote to Support Higher Staff Wages

14 Feb

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The Monongalia County Board of Education members get ready for the emergency meeting on February 13th.

At a recent emergency meeting, the Monongalia County Board of Education voted unanimously on a resolution to support higher teacher wages and better staff benefits. This comes after West Virginia legislators voted for a one percent pay raise each year for five years, for a grand total of a five percent raise. Some call this an insult to educators in our state.

The House of Delegates passed a new bill just before the Monongalia County Board of Education meeting, calling for a two percent salary increase this year and an additional one percent raise for three following years, still equaling a grand total of five percent. Many say this revision is not enough.

Teachers, staff, and parents filled the Board of Education’s conference room to the point that some had to stand in the back. The Board wasted no time in announcing their resolution. They begun by explaining how the Board uses excess levy funds to supplement employee salaries and benefits, providing the highest entry level teacher’s salary in the state. The resolution continues:

“Therefore, be it resolved that the Monongalia County Board of Education continues to support compensation for all school employees that allows West Virginia to be competitive with surrounding states in terms of recruiting and retaining qualified employees.”

The board’s statement doesn’t provide any substantial change, but the resolution was met with positive reactions. Three Monongalia County Schools staff members told me in an interview that this could be a game changer for them.

“I just had a sense of relief that I knew that we were going to be able to be successful because we have the backing of each other,” said Nancy Jaimeson, Secretary and Accountant at Westwood Middle School.

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Credit: Shayla Klein

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average K-12 teacher in West Virginia made $45,000 in 2016, whereas the national average is $60,000. This means that a one percent pay increase would only amount to roughly $450, meaning West Virginia would still be behind on the national average by close to $15,0000.

“This is just so much more than competitive pay. This is about our kids, and this is about them taking public funds away from them,” said Heather DeLuca-Nestor, President of Monongalia County Education Association.

When I asked if they would strike if it comes to it, Sam Brunett, President of Monongalia County’s American Federation of Teachers, asserted, “Damn right I am.”

Jaimeson and DeLuca-Nestor agreed. All three explained that their mothers and fathers stood at the picket lines for unfair wages in their field of work, so to them, it’s extra important to stand up for what you believe in.

Coming from a union family myself, I understand where they are coming from. West Virginia unions are as strong as the coal this state was built on, and they will raise hell if legislators don’t raise wages.

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