Teachers unite

JHS staff "walk-in" to rally for school employees

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Teachers unite

Teachers gather in front of Jefferson High School in attempt to be heard.

Teachers gather in front of Jefferson High School in attempt to be heard.

Teachers gather in front of Jefferson High School in attempt to be heard.

Teachers gather in front of Jefferson High School in attempt to be heard.

By Makayla Miles and Chloe Munslow

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Jefferson High School teachers, administrators and staff staged a walk-in before school on Friday, Feb. 9 as part of a county-wide effort to raise awareness for issues affecting educators across W.Va.

Staff wore red, stood in below-freezing temperatures, held signs, and cheered in the front of the school for passersby to see.

Why? W.Va. teachers have been protesting because of the low salaries and health insurance changes for all public-school teachers in the state.

Jefferson High School counselor Jenifer Steen and student support facilitator Devon Pearrell huddle together in the cold as they show support for teachers and public employees.

According to information in a letter written to parents by Dr. Bondy Gibson, superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, average pay for a public-school teacher in W.Va. is $45,544.66 and $27,342.13 for service personnel. West Virginia is in the bottom 10 states for public school teacher pay. Also, W.Va. public school employees are required to use PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency). PEIA regulators have indicated the possibility of increasing monthly premiums and require employees to meet fitness/health requirements to avoid higher healthcare fees.

W.Va. has seen incremental increases in teacher pay, but teachers say those increases don’t match inflation rates. Combined with increasing health insurance premiums, it may feel like a pay cut.

In Jefferson County, border states such as Maryland and Virginia are in the top 10 ranking states in public school teacher pay, making job opportunities a short drive away more appealing.

Jessie Ramsey, JHS teacher and Social Studies department chair, voiced his concerns about the regional issues.

“The answer to this, is locality pay for border counties in West Virginia, ” he said. “This will help to make teachers from border counties stay in the state.”

A few JHS students came to support their teachers as well, including junior class officers Andrew Johnson, Alexandra Whalen and Desirae Satterlee.

Johnson, junior class president, said he was pleased to be outside to support his teachers.

“The walk-in this morning made me feel as though my fellow students and teachers were all on a level playing field for once,” he said. “We were all standing united for something bigger, to be heard.”

Administrator Mary Beth Group and others hold signs to show they’re united.

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