CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After much success one year ago to raise funds, the West Virginia School Employee Strike Fund is back after the most recent statewide work stoppage for schools.
The fund, meant to help teachers and school personnel who’ve lost pay due to the stoppage, will focus on Putnam County service personnel who held picket lines while the county school system remained open. Putnam County Schools was the only district in the state to remain open on Tuesday and Wednesday
“This year we decided we wanted to thank the Putnam school service personnel and teachers who went without pay because the county had chosen to keep schools open,” Savanna Lyons, with the West Virginia School Employee Strike Fund said.
Even with remaining open during the statewide strike over the big education reform bill, Putnam County Schools said that only 232 teachers and staff went to work on Tuesday and 246 on Wednesday, which is roughly 25 percent of the system’s professional staff. 660 students were in class on Tuesday and 258 on Wednesday across the county. Some were praising those who remained in the classroom during the stoppage as all teachers and school service personnel returned to work on Thursday.
Putnam County schools have 9,670 students and 1,261 full-time employees. Lyons said they are going to prioritize school service personnel.
“Not a single school bus left on the first day of the strike,” she said. “That really shows bravery and solidarity from those school bus drivers who put themselves on the line. We are really focusing on the school service personnel in Putnam County.”
Lyons said the West Virginia School Employee Strike Fund took off after last year’s strike and they are hoping this year will do the same. She said as of Thursday, the fund already had over $7,000 even though it has been open for less than 24 hours.
“We will most likely keep the fundraiser up for two to three weeks to see if we can get some national attention to thank these Putnam County school service personnel and teachers,” Lyons said.
“Our fundraiser last year kind of went viral. We got a lot of national and international attention. We raised over $330,000 to support teachers. 100 percent of that money was redistributed to teachers.”
If enough funds are raised, the Strike Fund may begin supporting teachers and personnel beyond Putnam County who have been striking or losing pay, per release.
Lyons said all are invited to donate at http://wvstrikesupport.com and school service personnel who have lost pay in Putnam County can also apply for compensation on that website.