Cumberland Times-News

Local News

June 2, 2014

Students protest house parents plan

Nearly dozen man picket line at W.Va. deaf, blind schools

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — Nearly a dozen students armed with handmade signs picketed at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Monday to protest the administration’s position on child care workers.

Ninth grade student Brooklyn Phares said most of the students are upset because the schools want to replace the house parents (child care workers).

“Our superintendent is trying to send all our house parents back to college. That is what she told them and that is what she told us,” Phares said.

Phares said her mother doesn’t have a college degree. “Most parents don’t have a degree. Why do the house parents have to have one?”

“We’ve wanted to talk to her but she’s always busy and won’t talk to us.”

School superintendent Lynn Boyer did meet with seven seniors for about an hour prior to the picketing on Monday.

“The meeting was mildly intense but respectful,” Boyer said.

Chaperoned with a guidance counselor and a teacher, students picketed behind the stone wall that borders the school along U.S. Route 50 because they had not obtained a city permit to picket on the sidewalk.

Boyer allowed the students to picket from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. so they’d miss only half of two classes. Their original plans were to picket from 9 a.m. to noon after walking out of their classes.

The picketing had been in planning stages for a couple weeks. Picket signs were made by the students over the weekend.

Jacob Hundley is a seventh-grader at the school for the deaf.

“The house parents are like our family. We don’t want them to get fired. Dr. Boyer is going to fire them if they don’t get a college degree,” Hundley said.

Ashley Shuck was also among the students picketing.

Shuck reiterated the same feelings.

“We want to save our house parents. Why do they have to go back to college?” Shuck said.

The situation began when the administration at the schools announced that child care workers positions would be phased out on July 1, 2015, and replaced with the position of residential care specialist.

The replacement jobs would require an associate degree in child development, psychology, social work or related fields or an employee’s written intention to acquire the degree within three years of being hired.

The 60-hour program at Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College would cost $4,300.

Boyer said she hopes to keep the dialog between the administration, the union representative, the students and the child care workers.

Boyer’s decision for residential care specialist is supported by the state board of education.

Phares said, “None of us can say anything bad about our house parents. We are one huge family. Without them it would be heartbreaking.”

“We’re planning more picketing. We are not going to stop until we get what we want and that is for the house parents to keep their jobs.”

Contact Marla Pisciotta at marlapisciotta@frontier.com.

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