Teachers mum on walkout

officials plead for patience

March 13, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -School superintendents in Berkeley and Jefferson counties on Monday joined other local officials in expressing concerns about whether a possible teacher walkout Wednesday is the best way to protest a 3.5 percent pay raise given to teachers by the Legislature.

Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said he wishes teachers would give local school officials a chance to see how other school funding efforts passed by the Legislature could help school districts improve salaries beyond the 3.5 percent before walking out.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said the 3.5 percent pay raise is not enough to make local teacher salaries competitive with teacher salaries in neighboring states.

But other funding sources opened up in the Legislature show progress is being made on school funding issues, said Arvon, who wrote a letter to employees urging teachers to report to work on Wednesday. (That letter appears on this page.)


"There's potential here for these raises to be very worthwhile," Arvon said Monday night.

Arvon said he does not believe a work stoppage is the answer to the Eastern Panhandle's teacher salary problems and said Wednesday's possible walkout is a "very major decision" for local teachers.

Nichols and Arvon were referring to funding plans approved by the Legislature, including one that would generate as much as $1.5 million for Berkeley County Schools and possibly as much as $700,000 for Jefferson County Schools.

The plan deals with the so-called school-aid formula that is used to calculate how much a county school system gets from the state to run its schools every year.

A county's school-aid formula is based on how many students a county has, among other factors.

After that is determined, the amount of money generated from a local general levy is subtracted from the state funding.

Lawmakers agreed to reduce the local share that is subtracted from the state aid formula to 94 percent next year and to 90 percent the following year, Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said.

Arvon said it is not clear yet how much teacher salaries could be increased with the new funding plan.

Charlie DeLauder, president of the West Virginia Education Association, has said teachers are frustrated over the pay raise offers by the Legislature and added that WVEA members plan to stage a one-day walkout Wednesday to protest the teacher pay raise.

DeLauder said it is unclear how many of the WVEA's 17,000 members will participate in the walkout.

The union is allowing individual chapters to decide whether to miss classes that day.

Despite concerns over the possible walkout, the president of the Berkeley County Education Association has bristled at any requests for teachers to slow down in their plans for a possible walkout.

Jim Keller said Sunday that teachers have been holding off on taking extreme actions like a walkout and "it's gotten us nothing."

Keller said Monday that Berkeley County teachers were still in the process of deciding whether to walk out Wednesday.

School officials in Jefferson County said they will have a better idea today how many teachers might participate in the walkout.

School officials in the two counties said they will have to decide whether or not to cancel classes Wednesday depending on how many teachers might leave their classrooms.

Arvon said he heard that 30 percent of Berkeley County teachers might walk out.

"I don't know how accurate that is," Arvon said.

Betty Jo Walter, president of the Jefferson County Education Association, said Monday night that she could not comment on how many Jefferson County teachers might participate in the walkout but she said an announcement would probably be made this morning.

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