At a time where we’ve needed it the most, Mason County has banded together in a show of solidarity and support for one another that I am hard pressed to say I have seen at any other time or in any other place in my life. This work stoppage was not something we anticipated to this degree, and it has undoubtedly depleted ALL of us in at least one way or another – financially, mentally, emotionally. Despite the extreme lows that these last few weeks have shown us, there are bright lights of hope. When we cling to these, hopefully we can see that better days ahead and we can make it.
Mason County Board of Education – From the beginning, you told us that you had our backs. Given that we were embattled with other elected officials in Charleston, and you all are elected officials in our county, this wasn’t an easy sell. But we watched you come out, time and time again, when it wasn’t always convenient, and there were undoubtedly other things you could’ve been doing. Your messages to us were heartfelt. You looked us in the eyes. You never wavered. You traveled to the Capitol, attended town halls, called out our elected officials who were not supporting us, and you never let us down. For that, we all thank you.
Superintendent Jack Cullen – You came out and spoke early on about your own experience in the 1990 Teachers’ Strike. You relayed your plans and your outlook to us with the most transparency I’ve ever seen a superintendent give his or her respective county. You kept us informed with emails and personal appearances. Your message never changed and it was a foundation for which this county could build the morale we desperately needed to fight this good fight. You stood at the Capitol countless times, and you even sat, waiting, for Sen. Carmichael and Gov. Justice to meet with you and you did not back down. That’s leadership. That’s courage. Your employees thank you and love you all the more for that.
The Employees of Mason County Schools – Where there once were divides between what we may have previously considered the “haves” and the “have nots” I see unity. We have scrambled to keep each other informed and on the same page, regardless of which school we worked at, what union we belonged to, or how well we even knew each other personally. All we had to know was, this is a sister or brother who works in the MCS System and we have each other’s backs. I think we have a natural bend toward this type of unified stance, but certainly, the tone from the top helped us gain ground far more quickly in this situation. Today, we have various county pages on social media and we keep in touch. I’d like to think that once we’ve emerged from this crisis, we will stay in touch and connect even further.
The Mason County Community – When I say the burden reached us all, you have certainly taken on a large part of it. With school out, you’ve had to find care for our students. Many of you have had to miss work or appointments due to these unforeseen circumstances. You were also contending with Mother Nature in the form of some of the worst flooding we’ve seen in years. I guess when it rains it does pour, for lack of a better term. However, our community has shown an unbelievable amount of support for us. Parents, business owners, pastors and churches have all helped us get food to our students over this time off. Many people have offered their homes to watch children in the area. Community members at my school, Hannan, have kept our Blessing Box (portable pantry) stocked like I’ve never seen! We couldn’t do this without our community and hopefully we will figure out a way to show our appreciation to you when this storm passes.
Scott Brewer, Delegate, 13th District – We have had one elected official under that golden rotunda who has supported us in many ways. He’s voted for bills and amendments to bills that help us, not hurt us. He’s taken the time to talk to people and attend as many town halls and educational rallies or meetings as possible, even while being in session. He was also one of the first people to donate money toward feeding Mason County students over this work stoppage. If you ask me to mention our other elected officials on this matter, I won’t be able to at this time. This article was titled “Winners” for a reason. While we don’t see much light shine our way from Charleston, we do always have that one bright shine from Delegate Brewer. Remember in November, folks.
So, hopefully we can take stock of the silver lining that has come from this darkest of clouds. We are experiencing support and unity that is unparalleled in my fifteen years in public schools. We are forging friendships that I hope last our lifetimes. Lastly, we are growing. There is no losing. We win and/or we learn. That, Mason County, means we will all be winners after this fight is over. One day we will look back and actually find fondness in surviving this together and enjoying bonds that only something like this can create. Until then, take stock of the good; hold it tightly and press on. Our students are watching!
Brianne Solomon of Culloden, is the Fine Art Department Chair and a teacher at Hannan Jr./Sr. High School. She is the Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates, District 14.