Taunton School Nurses Win Fight to Put a Nurse in Every School
The Taunton School Nurses, who are represented by the MNA won a big victory last ngiht, as they made their case before the Taunton School Committee to prevent a planned layoff of two nurses, which would have left schools in the system without full time nursing coverage. After a compelling presetnation by the nurses of the role and value of school nurses in protecting children, the school committee not only voted to reject the plan for a layoff, but voted to add a school nurse to ensure that there is indeed a nurse in every Taunton public school. Click on the link below to vew a frontpage story on the victory in the Taunton Daily Gazette.
Nurses back in Taunton
By Gerry Tuoti, Staff Writer
GateHouse News Service
Wed Jul 18, 2007, 10:38 PM EDT
TAUNTON – There will once again be a full-time nurse in every school.
After the district’s members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association met with the School Committee to protest a proposal to lay off two of Taunton’s 18 school nurses, the committee voted not only to restore the positions to last years’ levels, but to also add an additional part-time shift to ensure coverage for all schools.
“These are kids’ lives,” committee member Alfred Baptista said. “I’m really worried about what would happen on a Monday or Tuesday if a kid has a crisis at the Summer Street School.”
For the past several years, one nurse has had to split her time between the Barnum and Summer Street schools.
The School Committee’s Nursing Sub-committee had originally recommended restoring 0.8 nursing positions, maintaining the status quo. But Baptista pushed for an additional 0.4 position, essentially a two-day-a-week employee, to fully staff the Summer Street School.
According to East Taunton Elementary School nurse Karen Tremblay, the district’s nurses had more than 84,000 visits from students last year.
Juliann Donabedian, who has split her time as nurse between Summer Street and Barnum schools, explained that nurses have to be prepared to deal with a variety of medical issues.
“Our role has become more complicated as more students with special medical needs are mainstreamed into the classroom,” she said.
Taunton has 42 students with bee sting allergies, 169 with food allergies, 28 with diabetes, 726 with asthma, 48 with heart conditions and many more with medical issues including lupus, cancer, hemophilia and seizures.
“The job of a school nurse today is definitely beyond giving out Band-Aids and ice packs,” she said.
The nurses also said that last year saw an 11 percent increase in the number of visits to the school nurse. The lay-offs would have reduced the staffing level by 10 percent.
Donabedian told the committee how she had to cover two schools.
“I would be on call at Summer Street while working two days a week at Barnum,” she said. “If there was an emergency at Barnum, I’d have to drive like a maniac to get there.”
Parent Sharon Curry, whose son has diabetes, spoke in favor of the restoring the nursing positions.
“My son’s insulin dependent,” she said. “If there wasn’t a nurse there every day who knew him, I would not feel comfortable sending him to school.”
A heated moment came in the sub-committee meeting after Baptista disagreed with Superintendent Arthur W. Stellar about how many positions were needed to ensure full coverage.
Barry Cooperstein, who chairs the nursing sub-committee, told Baptista to speak in turn and to not raise his voice when addressing Stellar. Baptista, upset with the way Cooperstein ran the meeting, replied, “Yes, heil Hitler. Sieg heil.”
In other business, Baptista re-introduced a motion that, despite the looming budget shortfall, no programs that offer direct services to students be reduced or cut. Cooperstein was the lone dissenting vote against the motion.
Stellar warned that there are not many expenses left to cut.
“The bottom line is that there is just not enough money to maintain everything we want,” the superintendent said. “This is an extremely tight budget, and there’s got to be some cuts in something.”
Committee member Cathal O’Brien, who voted in favor of the nursing proposal, expressed hesitation at doing so because of the budget situation.
“Dr. Stellar is going to have to get the square pegs in the round holes,” he said.