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AM News Brief: Firefighter Pay, New Pride Center Leader & Teacher Loses Job For Criticizing Unvaccinated

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Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
Starting this week, base wages for federal wildland firefighters will increase to $15 an hour from $13.45. This story and more in Thursday morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Aug. 19, 2021

State

Watching For Teacher Burnout

Last year was rough for teachers as they had to adapt to online or hybrid teaching, while trying to keep their students and themselves from catching COVID-19. This year, they’re facing most of those same challenges, and Utah’s largest teachers union is worried about burnout when school starts this fall. “It's uncertainty, it's frustration, it's concern,” said Jay Blain with the Utah Education Association. “We had the hardest year ever for most teachers. [They’re] looking at having this happen again.” Despite all the obstacles, Blain said he’s not sure how much of an impact this coming year will have on teacher retention. Data from the Utah State Board of Education actually found more teachers stayed in their jobs last year compared to the previous five years. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Teacher Criticizes Unvaccinated, Loses Job

A Utah high school teacher has lost her job after sharing her opinions about COVID-19 vaccinations in class. The teacher at Lehi High School was initially placed on administrative leave after a video surfaced. Alpine School District officials announced Wednesday that she no longer works there. The video appears to be recorded by a student in the classroom and shows the teacher criticizing people who choose to not get vaccinated against COVID-19. Conservative activists who have led demonstrations against mask mandates and vaccines shared the video online. The school district said in a statement that it disavowed the teacher’s comments. — Associated Press

Leadership Change For Pride Center

The Utah Pride Center, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has named a new CEO. Stacey Jackson-Roberts will take the reins Sept. 1. She’s a transgender woman originally from Beaver, Utah. Jackson-Roberts is a social worker and therapist and spent the last 20 years working in Washington D.C. on law and policy. The CEO resigned last month after former staffers accused management of discrimination and retaliatory behavior. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Radon Exposure Closes School

A school on Navajo Nation has been closed due to concerns over radon exposure. The presence of radioactive hotspots inside Cove Day school in Red Valley near the Arizona-Utah border recently came to the attention of Navajo Nation education officials. They said the radiation is likely caused by decades of uranium mining. The school is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education. The 44 students and 13 staff were already working remotely, but will not return to the classroom with other Navajo Nation schools when classes begin. The Nation has more than 500 abandoned uranium mines. — Associated Press

Firefighter Pay

Starting this week, base wages for federal wildland firefighters will increase to $15 an hour from $13.45. The boost is part of a Biden Administration initiative to improve working conditions for wildland firefighters as climate change makes their jobs more dangerous and more critical. The increase in hourly wages will include back pay to June 30. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau