Parents sound off on walkout

March 15, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Joan Moats said she believes teachers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia should be paid more, and she was sympathetic to certain teachers' decisions to take part in a walkout Wednesday.

"I'm not a teacher, but I travel to Virginia because they pay more," said Moats, a nursing assistant at a health and rehabilitation center in Winchester, Va., for 14 years.

With her sons, William, 9, and Brandon, 15, in tow outside the Berkeley County Judicial Center on Wednesday, Moats said she was well aware of the salary disparity between Loudoun County, Va., and Berkeley County.

Moats said her oldest son's uncle teaches algebra in the Virginia school district that borders Jefferson County, and he makes about $60,000 a year, practically double what he'd make in West Virginia, she said.


About 400 teachers in Berkeley County and about 75 percent of teachers in Jefferson County did not go to work Wednesday, participating in a state teachers union-backed walkout to protest the 3.5 percent pay raise approved last week by the state Legislature.

Unlike many parents interviewed about the work stoppage Wednesday, Moats, of Spring Mills, W.Va., said her sons' day off from school didn't present a hardship because she works on weekends.

A mother of three, Shelly Garrison of Martinsburg, said she "absolutely" supported the teachers 100 percent, but also questioned the end result.

"But what's important is our children's education," said Garrison, who has a daughter attending Martinsburg High School.

On Wednesday, the Martinsburg High sophomore was "out running around, spending mom's money," Garrison said.

"The kids are lovin' it."

Bail bondsman Tommy Weatherholtz said his daughter is enrolled at Faith Christian Academy. If she weren't already, he said he would have enrolled her in the private school after Wednesday's walkout.

"Ultimately, it's the kids that are paying for it," said Weatherholtz of Bunker Hill, W.Va.

Stay-at-home-mom Janet Smith said her daughter, who is home-schooled, missed an event because Smith's two boys didn't have classes at Berkeley Heights Elementary on Wednesday.

"They're the ones who are going to be paying for this," Smith said after she took her children to War Memorial Park, instead.

Smith said she was somewhat annoyed by teachers who picketed in front of the Board of Education offices along South Queen Street, primarily because of the building's proximity to St. Joseph Parish School where classes were not interrupted by the teachers' walkout.

Lainie Weber of Martinsburg said she was "not real happy" about the work stoppage.

"I had to take off work to be home with my kids," Weber said while waiting at a hair salon in the Martinsburg Mall with her 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

Weber said her employer, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., was amenable to her taking off work.

Gina Santos said the work stoppage would have been a "major disruption" for her on practically any day other than Wednesday, when she was recovering from dental work.

"I agree with the teachers, but the children are the ones that will suffer. It kind of goes both ways," Santos said while shopping with her three boys, ages 7, 10 and 13, at Wal-Mart Supercenter.

With afternoon temperatures in Martinsburg topping 70 degrees, Ellen Allen watched five of her grandchildren play at War Memorial Park while her daughter was at work, unable to take off.

"I would like for them to be in school," said Allen, who typically takes her grandchildren to board the school bus each morning.

Sue Henry of Martinsburg wasn't clear on the specifics for the work stoppage when interviewed with her grandson at her side at the park.

"If it's a one-day thing, I can certainly understand what they're doing," Henry said. But Henry said she would be concerned if the stoppage continued further.

Jeanne Mayhew, a teller at a local community bank, was at work Tuesday, but said her husband had to take their elementary school-age children with him and had to rearrange his schedule. Their baby sitter had to work and was unavailable.

"I think it's ridiculous," Mayhew said of the walkout. "What's it going to prove?"

Though she didn't believe the teachers should have walked out, Mayhew acknowledged they "probably deserve more money."

Her children, meanwhile, missed another day of school and traveled with their dad to the airport.

"They've missed enough school this year with the weather," Mayhew said.

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