Harrison County Superintendent suggests fallout from 1990 strike is instructive

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Hours before Harrison County school administrators announced that their buildings will remain dark Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin reflected on the tense fallout from the strike of 1990, which he said he wanted to avoid.

"I can remember 1990," said Dr. Manchin, who was in the state legislature at the time. "And there were hard feelings for years after that. I think that's injurious to this county."

Dr. Manchin has drawn both admiration and criticism during this current strike, after he became the only superintendent in the state to announce extracurriculars would be cancelled until the work stoppage ended.

Earlier this week, the head coach for girls basketball at Bridgeport High School complained that the decision was an "injustice" to the students.

"If they want to shut the whole state down and not play any activities, I could live with that," Dennis Hutson said Monday. "But for 54 other counties to do it this way and for us to be the rogue county out there--the lone wolf--I have a hard time with that when it involves the kids."

On Wednesday, Dr. Manchin stood by his decision.

"People would not cross the picket line," he said. "And I'm not going to force our employees to make that decision."

Asked if his memories of the tension that came with the 1990 strike has influenced his stance, Dr. Manchin acknowledged it had, adding that he wants to ensure there are no hard feelings between anyone in the district.

"I think that those issues would be exacerbated if we open up schools for some and force people to make decisions to come or not, and the animosity it creates between our own employees," Dr. Manchin said.

Teachers and other school service personnel in Harrison County will continue to picket Thursday, rallying for a legislative fix on wages and health benefits. It's not clear when they will be back in school.