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Six dozen professional posts vacant in Berkeley schools

July 12, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

BERKELEY COUNTY, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

With six weeks left until school begins, the Berkeley County Board of Education is seeking six dozen professional employees, including teachers.

"I have 72 open positions right now, which is double what I've ever had (at this time)," Assistant Superintendent Rick Deuell said Monday night during a Board of Education meeting.

Deuell said that several noted employees recently submitted their resignations, prompting Deuell to call each and ask what would persuade him or her to stay.

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More money was the universal answer, he said.

Teachers can make, on average, $20,000 to $25,000 more a year in salary simply by driving across state lines to work in Virginia or Maryland.

After the meeting, Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said that typically, the Board of Education must fill more than 100 vacancies over the summer, caused by resignations, retirements and new positions created by growth.

Last year, 164 professional positions had to be filled, a number that did not include service employees like secretaries, teachers' aides, custodians and bus drivers.

"It's a huge challenge every year for Berkeley County Schools, and it's getting more difficult as this area, this region, grows," Arvon said. "People are going where the money is."

This year, around 200 positions likely will need to be filled, although the Board of Education had hoped the number would only be around 125.

At the meeting, board members approved hiring eight new teachers but accepted the resignations of 13 others.

Attracting and retaining teachers is the biggest challenge now facing the school system, Arvon said.

"I have one clear goal now and it's locality pay," Arvon said. "I think the governor is well aware of what's going on here and the importance of a good education system in the strongest economic development section of the state."

The cost of living is higher in the Eastern Panhandle than in most other parts of the state, yet all teachers statewide are on the same salary scale.

Arvon hopes legislators will pass a law allowing for locality pay - sometimes called regional pay - which means higher salaries can be paid to state employees who live in areas with higher costs of living.

Growth accounts for some of the professional vacancies.

From 1990 to 2003, Berkeley County Schools had 3,777 new students walk through its doors - the most in the state. Last year, enrollment increased by more than 700 students, Arvon said.

To keep up with the growth, a new school is built almost every year. Mountain Ridge Intermediate School will open this fall for students in the Back Creek Valley and Gerrardstown, W.Va., areas.

The first day of school for teachers for the 2005-06 school year is Aug. 23. The first day for students is Aug. 26.

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