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Berkeley school board wants pay hike for teachers

December 21, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - With officials saying the average West Virginia teaching salary is as much as $13,704 less than teacher salaries in nearby states, the Berkeley County Board of Education Monday night passed a resolution asking that state lawmakers consider a 15 percent pay increase for teachers.

The resolution also requests the same salary increase for service personnel.

The average teaching salary in the state is $13,704 lower than the average teaching salary in Pennsylvania, $12,649 lower than Maryland's average teaching salary, $8,076 lower than Ohio's average teaching salary, $5,744 lower than Virginia's average teaching salary and $1,691 lower than Kentucky's average teaching salary, Berkeley County Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon said during the regular school board meeting.

West Virginia's teacher salaries were ranked 30th in the nation a decade ago, but have dropped to 43rd, Arvon said.

It has become more difficult to hire teachers as the salaries have fallen behind, said Arvon, who added that the school system is faced with filling about 100 teacher positions a year.

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School board members also were updated on construction projects under way at Hedgesville High School, Martinsburg High School and other schools.

Arvon said updated school buildings will not be very beneficial if high-quality teachers are not available to staff them.

The pay increase is being pushed by the West Virginia Education Association and each county is expected to consider the resolution for passage, Arvon said.

Under the proposal, the raise would be paid over three years. In the first year, teachers and service personnel would receive a 4 percent raise. The employees would get a 5 percent raise the second year and a 6 percent raise in the third year, according to the resolution.

School board member Todd Beckwith said he also supports the idea of regional pay, which means giving Eastern Panhandle teachers higher salaries to help them deal with the increased cost of living in the area.

Beckwith said he would like the school board to consider passing a separate resolution asking lawmakers to consider passage of regional pay.

School board member Pat Murphy cautioned the board about sending mixed signals with two resolutions, saying it might hurt the pay-raise efforts.

In a related issue, school board members discussed meeting with local lawmakers to discuss issues that school officials would like to see addressed in the upcoming session of the Legislature.

School officials said they have had trouble finding a date when local lawmakers can get together to meet with the school board.

Murphy said he can't understand why lawmakers cannot find a time to meet with school officials.

"How are they working together in Charleston?" Murphy asked.

Board members agreed to tentatively set a meeting with lawmakers for Jan. 24.

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