Wheeling Sixth-Grader Gets Credit, Pen from Gov. Jim Justice

Triadelphia Middle School sixth-grader Gideon Titus-Glover poses with Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones and Superintendent Kim Miller after a town hall with Gov. Jim Justice last week. Photo by Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — A copy of the bill giving West Virginia school employees a 5-percent raise and the pen that signed it are on their way to Triadelphia Middle School sixth-grader Gideon Titus-Glover.

Gov. Jim Justice has repeatedly said it was his encounter with Glover during a town hall discussion at Wheeling Park High School last week that convinced him to change his way of looking at education funding as simply a “prudent expenditure.”

Glover stood at the microphone and challenged Justice, telling him an investment in school students is an investment in the future of the state.

“If you’re putting money into public schools and making smart people, that’s a smart investment,” Glover told the governor.

As Justice signed House Bill 4145 in Charleston on Tuesday, he began to pass out the pens and copies of the bill to legislators and union leaders most instrumental in its passage. Those in attendance began chanting, “Gideon,” and Justice set aside a pen and copy for him.

“One person can make a difference,” Glover said. “People are kind of scared of the governor, but we shouldn’t be. He works for us.”

He said the contentious discourse at the town hall inspired him to take the microphone.

“There were so many adults speaking I thought could have done better,” he said. “And I was kind of mad. I thought he was insulting us.”

Glover said he intends to frame the bill and keep the pen “in a special place.”

He said children his age definitely can have a direct effect on the world.

“Even if other people say you can’t, you can,” Glover said. “We are the ones who hold the earth’s future.”

His mother, Michelle Titus-Glover, is a transitional kindergarten teacher at Middle Creek Elementary School, and was among educators on Tuesday afternoon preparing for a return to the classroom.

“I have to do lesson plans for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and we have testing that is overdue,” she said. “I also think it’s an opportune time to teach my 5-year-old students about how a bill becomes a law.”

She said the walk-out by teachers “wasn’t just about money,” but about the issue of “respect and disrespect and doing what’s right.”

“It will help people, but we’re still 48th in nation in pay,” she said. “We need to look into getting 5 percent in the coming years.

“We don’t have to be 10th among the states, but we don’t want to be 48th.”

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller said schools “are preparing to open the doors with excitement and enthusiasm.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the support shown from our communities,” she said. “We are expecting teachers and students to be engaged — strong with motivation and ready to go.”

She said many teachers were in the buildings Tuesday evening preparing for today’s classes. At Woodsdale Elementary Schools, teachers were doing lesson plans and decorating the school with balloons and signs in anticipation of the students’ return.

Shauna Zervos is a pre-kindergarten teacher at McNinch Primary School in Marshall County.

“We’re thrilled to be returning to normalcy — both the parents and the teachers,” she said. “It’s going to literally be like the first day of school all over again. We will have a lot to do getting the routine back to normal.”

Her students are age 4, and she said she has been in contact with them through phone apps. And everyday parents are sending her photos of the students doing their “homework” and writing on their chalkboards at home.

“At that age, they love homework,” Zervos said. “They get excited.”

Elizabeth Jeffers, a math teacher at Wellsburg Middle School in Brooke County, said it will be necessary to re-introduce to students information taught just before the walkout.

“I’m going to need to tweak the lesson plans a bit,” she said. “Instead of just picking up where we left off, we’re going to have to review the algebra concepts I’m sure they haven’t been practicing.”

During her time away from the classroom, Jeffers said she has been coaching the school’s math competition team and preparing them for a state competition. Assisting students with one-time events such as state tournaments was permitted during the walk-out.

Jeffers said the teachers were right to hold out for a 5-percent raise.

“I think after a certain point, it became absolutely necessary to hold out once the offer of 5 percent was made,” she said. “It had to be made good.”

Jeffers believes an initial plan giving teachers a 2-percent raise the first year, and 1 percent each of the next two years might have been acceptable to teachers — but not really noticeable in their paychecks.