CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As the new school year opens, the West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) is keeping a clear focus on students while discussing the transition to new standards for residential care specialists at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (WVSDB).
“We are raising the standards for students across the state so they are better prepared for the next steps after high school,” said Gayle Manchin, president of the WVBE. “In that same vein, we are raising the standards for anyone who works with students.”
Recently the WVBE accepted a proposal for the reclassification of WVSDB child care workers to be residential care specialists beginning July 1, 2015. The new position will require those hired to acquire an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in a field related to the job’s responsibilities.
“I commend the current child care workers who have already registered for courses that begin this month,” said Manchin.“Their commitment to improving their own knowledge and skills follows the difficult but essential effort of all staff on the WVSDB campus to acquire certifications necessary for their jobs and to strive for fluency in American Sign Language and braille.”
During the past two years, through hard work and persistence, the percentage of teachers at the WVSDB who demonstrate the required American Sign Language fluency level has risen from 31 percent to 95 percent.
WVSDB administration will follow personnel precedent for hiring residential care specialists which provides priority in interviews and hiring for current employees if they agree to acquire the AAS degree. Current employees who accept the new positions and sign letters of intent to acquire the AAS degree will be eligible for a minimum eight thousand dollar annual salary increase even as coursework is pursued and completed.
Courses will be offered through an agreement with Eastern West Virginia Technical and Community College, with classes provided on campus. Current employees will also be provided with financial aid counseling and will have five years instead of the original three years to acquire the degree.
“Child care workers have repeatedly stated that they are loving and caring in their relationships with the children and that the reclassification does not honor those attributes.” added Manchin. “We all agree that the residential employees demonstrate much love and care in their jobs. We hope that all of our educators are loving and caring. Otherwise they should not be in the education field. These characteristics are vital, but we still expect anyone who works with our students to be highly qualified in areas related to his or her responsibilities.”
The WVSDB is a 186 strong community of educators. Successful outcomes for the students are hard won and achieved only through the collective will of all working together. WVBE respects the effort of each employee who commits in all ways to improve what they bring each day to the students.
The WVBE encourages all staff to support each other in the continuing growth of the campus and, by extension, the value that WVSDB brings to the Romney and Hampshire County communities. The goal of providing the most informed services to all students at all times is the constant. The Board will continue to work with the WVSDB at all levels and with its partners to achieve that goal.
For more information contact Liza Cordeiro in the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at 304-558-2699.