POINT PLEASANT — Today may feel similar to the first day of school for many, as students, teachers and service personnel return to their schools following the statewide work stoppage.
As news of the pending agreement between legislators at the State Capitol concerning the 5 percent pay raise began to spread across Mason County, optimism also spread. At Wahama Junior/Senior High School, hopes were high just prior to the deal being signed.
“The bill has made it out of committee, at 5 percent for all state employees and can be voted on by both chambers and signed by the governor today, the insurance will be addressed by a task force…there is a good faith agreement they will work on that in the next year and a half,” Teacher Jodie Todd Roush said. “We have accepted their good faith agreement statewide.”
Wahama Principal Kenny Bond said, “We support the actions of our teachers, our staff, absolutely there was not a second of this that passed that we were not in support. We appreciate the fact the community has been in support of us, we appreciate the fact our board members and superintendent have been very much in support…made it easy on us, as administrators, to know that we are acting in support of our bosses in getting folks what they deserve.”
Superintendent Jack Cullen was happy to report classes would resume at their normal times today (Wednesday). Cullen is aware there are many questions about how the work stoppage will affect the school calendar. That very agenda item will be presented at the next regular Mason County Board of Education meeting, he said. Cullen explained the state superintendent’s office has offered assistance to each county when determining a plan to come up with how to get adequate instructional time in when addressing the calendar. Given that days from the work stoppage are required to be added on to the end of the calendar year, as it stands now, the last day of school for students is June 22, and the last day for staff is June 25. However, that could change dependent on suggestions from the state superintendent’s office and discussion by school board members at the next meeting. Cullen also stressed, though the calendar was still being worked out, graduation dates did not change and will not be affected.
“We appreciate the public’s patience with this,” Cullen said. “Things are settled and our teachers, I think, are in a better state of mind than they’ve been in a long time. One thing about this, it has brought unity of schools and across the state. It shows when people stand together, you get things done.”
Once the smoke cleared at the Capitol, and after a six-member conference committee agreed Tuesday to the new pay raise proposal, the House of Delegates subsequently passed 5 percent raises for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers on a 99-0 vote. The Senate followed, voting 34-0. This means all of those representing Mason County supported the proposal, including State Senators Mitch Carmichael and Mark Drennan, who represent the Fourth Senatorial District, Delegates Scott Brewer and Josh Higginbotham of the 13th District and Jim Butler of the 14th District.
Back at Wahama on Tuesday, Roush added: “We as teachers are ready to go back, we miss our students…we are very thankful for the outpouring of community support.”
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing. Erin Perkins is a staff writer at Ohio Valley Publishing.