By Sarah Plummer
Local members of the West Virginia State Service Personnel Association met Thursday evening at Woodrow Wilson High School to discuss the state Board of Education’s response and recommendation to the governor’s efficiency audit.
Union field representative Joe White said the organization has held 17 area meetings to discuss the main 2013 Legislative Proposals the WVSSPA will oppose.
White said the first area of concern is the loss of pay for bus drivers if, as the state board has proposed, all bus driver training is contracted to West Virginia’s eight RESAs (Regional Education Service Agencies).
He said every county has local drivers trained to do training and shifting it to the regional agency would make local employees lose out.
Additionally, White said two separate counties have already had the experience of contracting bus driver training to RESA. In those instances, drivers could have been trained at the county level for $3,400 but were instead billed in excess of $20,000 from RESA.
In addition, the audit suggests bus drivers become eight-hour employees. The West Virginia Board of Education in turn recommended that drivers make their morning run and then go into the school and work as classroom aides.
“Our average driver starts their runs at 5:30 a.m. and would get off 1:30 p.m. Who is going to make the afternoon run? We don’t know. In my opinion this will be an attempt to contract out the evening bus runs,” White suggested.
Those present raised concerns about bus drivers not being trained to work with children inside the classroom.
The WVSSPA also opposes the recommendation that the state Board of Education do centralized hiring.
White said this adds another level of bureaucracy, takes away local school boards’ power and, with the state board meeting only once a month, would not fill vacancies in a timely fashion.
Next, the WVSSPA will oppose the balanced calendar.
“Many of our service members and teachers have summer jobs, and those jobs would not be available to them any more. We have been hearing from the tourism industry that they hire students, service personnel and teachers to work during the summer and having a balanced calendar would shut them down,” he said.
And finally, White said he opposes any proposal that gives more power to RESA by regionalizing school service personnel jobs to RESA.
“RESA has become a retirement home for ex-superintendents. Since RESA is funded by the Department of Education, let’s take that money we are using to give retired superintendents $400-a-day pay and put it back into the school system,” he said. “I have not been to one state board meeting recently where they have mentioned the students. They only talk about money. If they really want to reform education, lets start at the top and reform education, not at the bottom.”
He said the auditors surveyed the school system with little understanding of how it worked on a state and local level.
They, for instance, noted that cooks get paid for 200 days instead of 180.
“I guess they thought the cooks could come in, order food, clean the kitchen, and train new cooks on the first day of school,” he said.
“Let’s put children on the top, not the dollar bill. The jobs we do affect these kids.”
The WVSSPA also opposes providing pay raises based on merit and diminishing the value of using unused sick leave days to pay PEIA premiums and/or retirement.
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