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No School in Harrison County Thursday; Why and What Happens Next as Per BHS AFT Rep

By Julie Perine on February 28, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

 
Driving home from Charleston this evening, JD Lister said he was waiting on his call that Harrison County Schools would be closed Thursday.
 
From what transpired today at the state Capitol and the continued stance of educators, it was bound to happen, he said.
 
“I’m not saying these bills aren’t going to pass, but it didn’t sound very encouraging today,” said Lister, who has taken on a leadership role at BHS with the American Federation of Teachers.
 
Lister said several thousand individuals gathered at and around the state capitol today, a continued display of unity.
 
“There was a very strong presence again today and an especially big turnout from Harrison County,” he said.
 
Tuesday evening, Gov. Jim Justice appeared in a live streamed news conference, announcing a proposed five percent raise for teachers and other school personnel and a three percent raise for other state workers. He also said he planned to implement a task force to investigate and permanently fix PEIA insurance. Those are the two main issues for which educators have been picketing over the last five school days.
 
But so far, there has been no movement out of the legislative session with regard to either, Lister said.
 
“This morning, the House immediately said they couldn’t do (the raise) until they got budget estimates from the governor and if the House can’t do anything, then the Senate can’t either,” he said. “The Senate quickly tabled education and recessed pretty early in the day.”
 
The Senate was expected to reconvene this evening.
 
Senator Mitch Carmichael made an open comment today that he didn’t know where the money would come from to fund the governor’s proposed teacher raise.
 
“He didn’t sound like he thought this was going to go anywhere,” Lister said.
 
But Gov. Justice did produce a budget estimate to provide to the House and union leaders met with Justice this afternoon, both which could potentially be promising steps.
 
The House may also be reconvening this evening. Three readings are necessary before a vote takes place. If a bill passes in the House, then it goes on to the Senate, Lister explained.
 
It is possible, he said, that positive news could come from the legislature tomorrow – or days from now. And it might not happen at all. In the meantime, teachers and service personnel, as well as the unions, are looking for good faith progress
.
“We need action – steps to show progress – before we feel comfortable going back to school,” Lister said. “Right now, it’s just words. There’s nothing in writing at all. We need to have advancement from the House and readings in the Senate of these bills. We also need to see the governor produce an executive order about this task force for PEIA. That could come tonight or tomorrow. That would be a good faith step.”
 
As of 5 p.m., some West Virginia counties had closed school, despite a statement from West Virginia Department of Education Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine that he expected all public schools to be in session Thursday.
 
“My thought is that if people are on the picket line, we won’t be in school,” Lister said prior to the announcement of Harrison County closing for Thursday. “(Superintendent of Harrison County Schools Dr. Mark Manchin) doesn’t want to put teachers in a position to cross the picket line. If there is no school tomorrow, our plan is to have everyone on the picket line all day or in Charleston.”
 
The anticipated closing of Harrison County came just minutes after the interview with Lister. The announcement which was sent via phone to parents said:
 
“In the spirit of maintaining unity in Harrison County Schools and in light of the reports of continued unrest in our county and statewide, Harrison County Schools will remain closed March 1, 2018 in support of our service and professional personnel. We remain hopeful that the issues will be resolved at the state level so that in the very near future, our bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, teachers and all employees will return to work. With confirmation of continued picketing throughout our county tomorrow, we must continue to consider safety and provision for our students and support of our employees as paramount in our decision.”
 
Lister said he speaks on behalf of his fellow teachers when he says they want to be back in the classroom.
 
“But teachers are not comfortable to go back without any proof – any evidence,” he said. “…We want the public to know we are waiting for good faith action steps from the government. We have to have something other than words and I think the public can appreciate that.”
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click HERE for comments from Dr. Mark Manchin on the latest developments, including extracurricular activities.
 
Read a story from earlier today which further explains the stance of Bridgeport teachers HERE



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