Teachers rally for support at Wood County BOE meeting

Bruce Boston, left, president of the Wood County Education Association, and Meredith Hahn, right, an officer with the Wood County American Federation of Teachers, addressed the Wood County Board of Education Tuesday evening, asking for support as teachers and service personnel campaign for additional pay and improved benefits from the West Virginia Legislature. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — Wood County teachers turned out in force at Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting, holding an informational picket and filling the auditorium at Jefferson Elementary Center.

Many teachers held signs calling on the West Virginia Legislature to improve pay and fix issues with PEIA, the state employees insurance fund.

Superintendent John Flint presented a resolution by the Wood County Board of Education supporting teachers and service personnel in their work to obtain higher pay and changes to the state’s insurance system.

Bruce Boston, president of the Wood County Education Association, and Meredith Hahn, an officer with the Wood County American Federation of Teachers, addressed the board, asking for the district’s support.

Boston warned of a growing “feeling of unrest” among public employees.

Hundreds of area teachers and service personnel, many wearing teacher-group T-shirts and carrying signs, attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Wood County Board of Education. (Photo by Michael Erb)

“The feeling of unrest has grown to the point where some counties have already staged work-stoppage events,” he said. “Here in our county, we have engaged in informational pickets and walk-ins, hoping to engage the community in a positive way. However, be assured a feeling of unrest exists among employees in this area as well.”

“We all want to see our students succeed,” Hahn said. “We want our state to see a positive economic future. That will happen when we see our educational system funded and sustained.”

The two read a resolution asking the board to help support teachers and service personnel by actively lobbying state officials to improve pay and benefits for teachers and service personnel.

In other business, the school board unanimously approved Jason Ward as the new assistant principal at Williamstown High School despite protests from two elementary school administrators.

Ward has worked for Wood County Schools in the past but currently works for Jackson County Schools. Worthington Elementary School Principal Tom Wheeler, who has been an administrator at Wood County Schools for nine years, also applied for the position but was not chosen. Wheeler said he feels his seniority and qualifications were ignored.

Hundreds of area teachers and service personnel, many wearing teacher-group T-shirts and carrying signs, attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Wood County Board of Education. (Photo by Michael Erb)

“I feel I was not treated fairly,” he said. “I am asking that you, the board members, do the right thing and support me and support the experienced administrators of Wood County Schools.”

Williamstown Elementary School Principal Heather Bretthauer also spoke out against the hire, saying she had no issue with Ward but felt the hire would send a negative message to other local administrators who are looking to move between schools.

“If I wanted to step back and take an assistant’s position and my goal was to be a principal in a high school some day, would that offer not be given to me either?” she said.

Williamstown High School Principal Pat Peters, who has been absent from work for several months while recovering from surgery and has not yet returned as principal, said he was part of the interview process and selected Ward “because I felt he was the best candidate and the best fit for Williamstown High School.”

The board held no discussion on the hire, but board President Lawrence Hasbargen said he would hope a “responsible administrator who has demonstrated good work” in the county should be given “a serious look.”

The board voted 5-0 to approve Ward, who will begin once he is released from his contract with Jackson County Schools.

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