Harrison County school service personnel: "We're standing strong"

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - On the second day of a statewide work stoppage, Harrison County school service personnel reiterated that they are a united front and prepared to fight for the long haul.

"We're all in this as one," said Maria Mayer, the cafeteria manager at Bridgeport High School. "We're united and we're standing strong."

Late Friday afternoon, officials with the AFT-West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association announced the work stoppage will continue Monday.

"We'll just have to wait and see," said Mayer, when asked earlier Friday if a permanent solution could come next week. "It depends on what they want to do in Charleston."

Earlier this week, Governor Jim Justice signed a bill to give teachers, school service personnel, and state police a 2 percent raise for the coming fiscal year. The legislation would give teachers a one percent raise for each of the following two years, and the other two groups a one percent year for just next year.

School employees have balked at that measure, arguing that amount is not enough to attract teachers from other states or keep current employees from leaving.

They also worry about rising healthcare costs. Although the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board has frozen premiums for 17 months, school employees say that's only a short-term fix, and doesn't guarantee stability in the future.

"We deserve to be treated with respect and to be paid and receive the benefits for the job that we do," said Jon Griffith, a computer science teacher and cross country & track coach at Bridgeport High School.

"The mood has been fantastic," he continued. "We're in this together. Not just here in Bridgeport, but all through Harrison County and across the state of West Virginia."