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County schools administrators happy about 5 percent raise in omnibus education bill

BUCKHANNON – Governor Jim Justice signed the omnibus education bill – House Bill 206 – which provided for a 5 percent pay raise for educations and school service personnel; a limited number of charter schools; and funding for wrap-around services for students; and a number of other items.

Earlier this year, the Upshur County Board of Education passed a resolution opposing the first version of the Omnibus Education Bill, Senate Bill 451, which was ultimately killed in the House of Delegates, prompting Gov. Jim Justice to call for June’s special session focusing solely on education.

So, what do the local board of education and Upshur County’s superintendents think about House Bill 206 this time around?

My Buckhannon asked Upshur County Board of Education President Dr. Tammy Samples and Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison what they thought some of the key issues were in the bill.

Following Monday’s Upshur County BOE meeting, Samples said she believes the West Virginia education system needs work.

“I do not know if this is the way to improve – I’m not convinced yet,” Samples said. “I am a fan of multiple assessments to really see how we are doing. I don’t think one test tells the tale of what is happening in our public schools.”

Stankus said she is happy the staff and faculty of Upshur County Schools are being recognized for the hard work they are doing with a pay raise.

“They are being recognized with that pay raise,” Stankus said.

Harrison added she understands the bill provides for one of the biggest pay raises teachers and staff have received in a long, long time.

“The other thing is, there are some aspects of the bill that could be or that are being debated,” Stankus said. “We will uphold the constitution and our obligation to continue with our responsibilities with school leadership and continue doing the best that we can do for the students in our classrooms while working hard to make our community and schools the best that they can be.”

One provision of the omnibus education bill is teachers who miss four days or less of work will be rewarded with a bonus, as this cuts down on the costs by reducing the money that must be paid out for using substitute instructors. Upshur County Schools already have a bonus system in place that rewards teachers for not missing work, and this bonus would be in addition to the one already established in Upshur County.

“This addition will be over and above what we already have in place,” Stankus said.

Stankus said the omnibus education bill contains more than 150 pages. She said Upshur County Schools administrators will need to sit down and disaggregate the provisions of the bill and see what specifically it means to the county.

“We need to see if we need to change any of our current policies and in terms of practice, see what it means to us,” Stankus said.

Stankus said she imagines, in the end, teachers will keep on teaching and school personnel will continue doing good things in Upshur County Schools.

“They make such an impact and a difference for the students in our schools and in our community,” Stankus said.

“Our teachers are going to go back to the classrooms doing the same good things they have done regardless of how they feel about the different components of the omnibus bill,” Harrison said. “They will return to their classrooms and give 100 percent, and our students will benefit from the interactions with their teachers and the staff that work in our school system. We are blessed – we have quite a group of educators that are committed to our students regardless of what is happening outside the educational process that they are involved in every day.”

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