Martirano commends Boone school board for passing pay cuts

By Carrie Hodousek in News
MADISON, W.Va. — State School Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano says he has faith Boone County teachers will continue to provide quality instruction even with salary cuts that were approved by the county’s Board of Education.

“I expect no one — none of our teachers will have any kind of repercussions to our children and provide them anything less than a quality education,” Martirano said in response to the board’s Monday vote to pass a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

The budget plan includes a $3,800 to $4,000 salary cut for all Boone teachers and school administrators and a $3,650 to $3,850 salary cut per service employee, including custodians and bus drivers. That means teachers in the school district will see about a $175 cut per paycheck as well as the elimination of dental and vision benefits.

“I know there’s going to be people who are very hurt today, but I’ve also heard individuals who’ve talked to me about the fact that they’re very happy the fact that they still have a job,” he said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Martirano said the board had no choice but to approve the cuts in order to maintain local control. The state Department of Education had threatened to takeover the Boone County school system if the cuts were not approved.

“I think it really came down to the level of looking at this with a clear set of objectivity in saying this has to occur. We have to do it. We know it’s painful, but the bottom line is we don’t want to be taken over by the state,” he said.

Maintaining local control is important, Martirano said.

“Why would a school board want to give up that control and turn all that authority over to the state? Because it would remove an incredible amount of authority,” he said.

Teacher organizations, such as the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Education Association, are fighting the situation by claiming the cuts aren’t legal and that teacher contracts should not be changed. Martirano said he predicts they could end up in a legal battle, but that they have been clear about what needs to be done in order to meet the 180 instructional day requirement by law.

“The reality is those possibilities could exist,” he said. “When you cannot provide 180 days of instruction and 200 days of employment, the statute is very clear in terms of what it says about actions that need to be taken.”

Martirano said they had been working with Boone County Schools the last several months to make sure they didn’t run out of money.

“The state board was committed to taking them over which would would’ve placed them under the authority of my leadership to go in and do the same cuts,” he said. “The reality came down to this is going to happen regardless.”

The original Boone school budget was about $7 million short, according to Martirano, and would run out of money next spring.