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WV Senator continues efforts to help employees of WV Schools for the Deaf and Blind

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One West Virginia Senator is looking to work with legislative staff members to draft a bill that aims to protect the jobs of the current child care workers of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

Former Circuit Court Judge, Sen. Donald H. Cookman, D-Hampshire, said he and several members of both the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have already pledged their support for his potential bill.

Cookman said the process has been ongoing, and the idea of the legislation has been in the works for several months. He was one of the first people – and first legislator – to sign a petition of support for the WVSDB house parents, has organized and attended numerous meetings with interested parties, arranged for a meeting between the Child Care Workers and the Governor’s office, helped the house parents secure representation and even joined the house parents on the picket line on more than one occasion.

Cookman said he first approached legislative staff in May of 2014 to begin readying a bill for introduction during the next legislative session. 

“All along the hope has been that the West Virginia State Board of Education and the administration of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind would do the right thing and make acceptable accommodations for the child care workers at the school who have spent years filling these positions,” Cookman said in a news release. “While those negotiations are still ongoing, the proposed bill has been drafted in the event that these efforts fail.”

The proposed legislation would set forth a method of transitioning current child care workers from their current “Child Care Worker” position to the new “Residential Care Specialist” position. The bill would provide that the current workers’ years of service must be considered as part of the hiring for the new position. 

“When I was initially approached by the Child Care Workers at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, their No. 1 concern was of losing their jobs," Cookman said. "This bill will prevent that. These are people who help to get children off of the bus, teach them life skills, tuck them into bed at night — these are the surrogate parents while the kids are at the WVSDB, and many of them have done this job for decades. 

"It is my full intention to introduce this legislation during the 2015 legislative session. I pride myself on being a full-time representative of my constituents and the people should know that I will work tirelessly to make sure that their interests are always represented.”