Preston board agrees to credit CTE teachers for some work experience

KINGWOOD — Beginning next year, Preston County’s career and technical education (CTE) teachers will get credit for some of their experience in private industry.
Many other counties already allow this, the Preston County Board of Education was told Monday, before it voted 5-0 on the policy change. And Preston gave credit for experience in the past but stopped at some point.
The  policy, which will credit CTE  teachers with up to six years of industry experience, will go into effect next school year and affect about six teachers.
Currently, CTE teachers who do not have a teaching degree can get no credit for the experience they earned in private industry in the field they now teach.  Instead, they are paid as first-year teachers with an AB degree when they start. That gives them a starting salary of about $34,000.
Assistant Superintendents Brad Martin and Ange Varner said that can put Preston at a disadvantage when recruiting CTE teachers.
Varner gave the example of finding a teacher for the nursing program.  The county can offer someone $34,000, and nurses can easily earn more than $50,000 their first year on the job, she said.
Board President Jack Keim said his daughter is a nurse, and Varner was correct.
“How do we get qualified people to come in when we’re behind all these other places?” he asked.
Board Member Bob Ridenour said it is something the county should be doing, “But I question the timing on this. When we’re scraping for money elsewhere, I’m not sure now is the time we should be giving raises.”
Board Member Jeff Zigray said CTE is an important part of what the education system offers and many graduates go straight to the workforce and earn good salaries.
He estimated it will cost the county $40,000 to $50,000 the first year. Varner said state funding is always one year behind, so the first year the experience is added, the county has to pay the difference. After that, it will be picked up by state funding.
Electrical trades teacher Jason Curry said that, when he went for training there were about 26 other CTE teachers in his class, and all the others were receiving payment for industry  experience.
CTE teacher Dean Watson, who worked about 40 years in industry, said he knew of a teacher in another county who was credited for 34 years experience. “I don’t understand, why would I get zero years to start?” he asked at the time and was told that’s not how Preston does it.
The discussion came late in the meeting, after a number of CTE students and their instructors were presented to the board. They were recognized for honors the students have won in their fields of study this school year.
Superintendent Steve Wotring said he also has plans to expand the CTE courses offered at Preston High. He promised more information later on that.