I should title this, “What has my Former Stated Done II” as I am no longer a West Virginia resident. The West Virginia teachers made Forbes top fifty list of most influential people because of our statewide strike last year. The teachers did not really win in the strike. They received a $2,000 pay raise that was only good for one year. The rest of the state employees, for whom we were also striking, received a higher raise that was permanent. We also received no fix for PEIA. If you are a state employee, you are required to have PEIAas your insurance. A long time ago, over thirty-five years ago, PEIA was considered the best in the country. Then greed took over, and WV Congress began pocketing PEIA monies for their pet projects. The other issue is that not all state employees have the same benefits and premiums with PEIA – teachers pay higher premiums that are at the will of PEIA which means that two teachers both with a spouse and the same amount of children can pay vastly different premiums. As a single person, I paid between $1,000 to $1,500 a month premiums, and my deductible was $7,000. I know other single people who paid $100 a month premium and had a deductible of $3,000. There was no rhyme or reason for the differences.
This year’s strike has to do with taking money away from public school education and giving it to charter schools. I can’t help but laugh a sad laugh at the media frenzy of attacking public school education, but then praising charter schools when charter schools are not required to hire anyone with an educational degree. Charter schools are for-profit businesses. I’m not saying all are bad, but the failure in Michigan paints a bleak picture of how charter schools can destroy education for all students. After a two day strike, WV legislation tabled the charter school bill. Yea, for passionate, talented West Virginia Educators.
But the WV education story doesn’t end there. Around six years ago, I was interviewed by a United States Special Investigator for my friend’s five-year security clearance review. Living where I did, a DC breakfast community, this was not uncommon. The investigator and I ended up spending thirty to forty minutes discussing education. She named the top five most corrupt districts in the country. Three were in West Virginia; the number one most corrupt was my former school district of fourteen years. This past week, the superintendent was forced to resign. He is leaving with a $14,500 a month pension. This means that in two months he will earn more than a starting teacher’s yearly salary in the same district. This area has a cost of living on par with the DC and Northern Virginia area.
An incident at one of the school’s went viral, but before it did, the superintendent was aware of it and swept everything under the rug. Hence, his forced resignation. Since then, a lady in North Carolina has been investigating the district and airing its dirty laundry for a national audience. I have mixed feelings: there are wonderful, talented teachers who do not need to be brought down with the few bad seeds; but on the other hand, there are terrible administrators who need to be investigated. Her public forum has garnered the attention of the State General Attorney who is now requesting teachers and parents to contact him with evidence.
My first year, I taught at an alternative school for learning disabled and behaviorally impaired students. I had a bad principal. One student was so destructive that all the teachers wanted an evaluation of him. One morning he brought a gun to school – it happened to be my breakfast duty week. If you had Breakfast duty the only other employees at the school that early were the cafeteria workers. This student walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Anthony check this out.” He then pulled out a gun and shoved the barrel into my stomach. I didn’t think, I reacted. I put my right hand on the cool, smooth barrel and twisted the gun out of his hand. I then held a tight grip to the barrel and held it the same way we are taught to hold scissors when handing them to someone, and I walked the cafeteria shaking uncontrollably listening to the students whispering about the gun in my hand and what they just witnessed.
Later, I was chastised by the principal for being afraid of a plastic toy gun. It was a real gun that had real bullets in it. That same principal would come to school drunk, reeking of alcohol, and at times would walk into the classrooms screaming racial slurs at students. Once he went a little crazy and took off his shirt then pooped into the classes to yell at the teachers and the students. No one understood what he said that day. Another time when the entire school left for a field trip to Antietam National Battle Field, the principal locked one of the students in the industrial arts room because he didn’t like him and didn’t want him on the field trip.
The superintendent’s response, “Don’t worry he is retiring at the end of the school year.” I was new to full-time teaching, new to the area, and I was naive. Looking back, the super should have immediately removed that principal from the beginning of the school year. Over twenty years later and the Superintendent is now the one forced to resign.
Oh and for that student with the gun, the following year the new principal demanded the parents have him evaluated. He was determined to have an early onset case of schizophrenia and was placed in a psychiatric home for children and adolescents.