Hancock board backs pay raise proposal

NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County school board has thrown its support behind the state teachers union’s efforts to get a pay raise for West Virginia’s public school teachers in the 2014 legislative session.

Board members and Superintendent Suzan Smith signed a resolution on Monday asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the West Virginia Legislature to adopt a multi-year salary increase for all school employees – professional and service.

The resolution notes that West Virginia teachers’ salaries have dropped from 30th in the nation in 1993 to 48th in the 2013-14 school year and that average salaries are “not competitive” with those in neighboring states.

It also notes that most West Virginia education graduates are taking jobs out of state and that in five years, more than 50 percent of current educators will be eligible to retire.

“We want to attract teachers to our state,” said Melanie Donofe, president of the Hancock County Education Association. “It’s very difficult with surrounding states offering the pay that they do.”

Donofe also encouraged board members and school district supporters to “flood” the governor’s office and the offices of local legislators with emails in support of the West Virginia Education Association’s “We Deserve Competitive Pay” campaign. The emails are meant to be timed for the December Legislative Interims, which last through Wednesday.

The WVEA is gearing up for a concerted lobbying effort on behalf of teacher raises in the 2014 legislative session. Teachers in West Virginia do not have collective bargaining rights, and their pay scale is set by the state Legislature. The last salary increase for teachers was set about five years ago.

Donofe said legislators likely will follow Tomblin’s lead on the issue of teacher salaries.

School Board President Jerry Durante said although he supports the resolution, the issue of teacher raises must be placed in the context of benefits, pensions and other post-employment benefits.

Also Monday, the school board:

Hired Weirton Heights Elementary Principal Frank Carey as principal of the new Weirton Elementary School, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in March 2014. The school will unite Weirton Heights, Liberty and Broadview elementary schools under one roof on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The district also is hiring two assistant principals, 70 teachers and 40 service personnel for the new school, which will be open for the 2014-15 school year. The board expects to act on those positions at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6.

Accepted a bid of $10,545 from the AGX Inc. environmental consulting firm, of Wexford, Pa., to provide environmental evaluation and testing services for the demolition of Broadview, Liberty and Weirton Heights elementary schools.

Accepted a bid of $11,887 from Stegman & Schellhase Inc. civil engineers, of Wheeling, to provide boundary and topographic surveying services for the demolition of the three schools. Stegman’s was the lowest of two bids.

Met in executive sessions with teachers’ aides.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)