CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Hundreds of Harrison County teachers and service personnel gathered Thursday, not in the classroom but instead outside of their respective schools on day one of a two-day work stoppage.
Many of those educators are expecting the work stoppage to extend past Friday, and say if it does, they’re ready.
“As long as it takes,” said Bridgeport High School English teacher Jared St. Martin Brown. “I don’t see any signs of people getting ready to quit. We do feel like this is a turning point, so it’s worth sticking with it.”
Others, however, are more hopeful that the two-day stoppage will be enough of an effort for action to happen in Charleston.
“I still have faith in our legislature,” said Ashley Edgell, an eighth grade English teacher at Bridgeport Middle school. “I think we’re all very hopeful. We can’t predict, we’re just hoping.”
But if not, Edgell said she’ll be back on the picket lines with her coworkers.
“We’ll do whatever it takes,” she said. “There’s no limitations on doing what’s right.”
After months of meetings and rallies, teachers and service personnel alike were glad to see a work stoppage finally occur.
St. Martin Brown said that taking that action gave educators the chance to show what they’re all about.
“We feel really supported by the community right now,” he said. “They want us to have better and they want to save public education in West Virginia.”
Terry Mellott, a custodian at Nutter Fort Elementary School, was pleased to see large turnout and public support, but says he remains disappointed to not see that support in Charleston.
“It feels like they care more about big business than they do us,” Mellott said. “I mean, I hope the legislators would listen to us and do something. It seems like they want to do everything for big business. Let’s do something for the workers.”
Edgell said that she, too, feels let down by the state’s governmental leaders.
“It’s disheartening, but it’s not slowing us down because we have so much community support that it’s enough to fuel us and keep us going,” she said.
Some of that community support comes from State Police, staff of DHHR and other public state employees that are unable to join Edgell and her fellow educators on the pickett lines.
“We are overwhelmed with pride to be out here representing our service personnel, our teachers and our state employees,” she said. “We’re just really proud to be here and be standing up for what’s right.”
But doing what’s right means not being able to be in the classroom, and even on day one many of the teachers said they miss their students already.
“Absolutely, that’s the worst part,” Edgell said. “We love to impact children, so it’s not about the money. It’s about being treated with respect by our state and by our legislature, and we deserve that.”