CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There will be no public school next Thursday or Friday anywhere in West Virginia. Whether classes resume on Monday remained up in the air. The West Virginia teachers unions and service personnel organizations all agreed to authorize the first ever walkout in all 55 counties of teachers and service personnel.
“We’re done. We’re done waiting. We waited and have given them chances and they didn’t want to take it seriously,” said Teacher Christiana Frye of Cabell Midland High School. “Honestly I’m praying two days is enough because some people can’t afford to be out longer than that, but the way they’ve treated us so far I don’t know that it will.”
Cathy Pizzino, a teacher at Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg was dug in for whatever it takes.
“We’ll be out a whole hell of a lot longer than two days,” she said. “I’m ready for 20, 30 whatever it is. I told my kids, it’s going to be a long haul.”
Thousands of teachers stood more than two hours in a cold and driving rain on Saturday, covering the Lincoln Plaza of the State Capitol. There, they pledged solidarity and believe the work stoppage will be the pressure needed to get improvements. The teachers agreed pay was an issue, but by no means the only issue.
“It’s the PEIA, it’s the wanting to take our seniority, it’s allowing uncertified teachers to come in and teach our classes,” said Donna Roberts who teaches at Sherman Elementary in Boone County. “It’s about a whole lot more than a paycheck.”
“I don’t think it’s fair that my benefits are determined by my husband’s or my family’s total income,” added Brenda Bolyard a teacher in Taylor County. “It’s ridiculous.”
While most agree the work stoppage is necessary, they also agreed it was worrisome to know students will not be in school those days.
“It’s not anything we want to do,” Roberts added. “But when we’re facing not being able to pay our bills month to month, we have to do something.”
“I actually have two children in the school system myself and even if I wasn’t a teacher, I’d be right there with their teachers,” said Frye. “They are helping to shape my children’s future and we are worried about the students.”
Although a strike by public employees in is illegal, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee indicated on MetroNews Talkline it isn’t something the union considered a factor.
“What are they going to do, fire 15,000 people?” Lee rhetorically asked when questioned about the legality of the work stoppage.