Nurses Still Plan to Attend
Superintendent puts region’s children at risk by refusing to negotiate in good faith, pay a fair wage; alarming turnover in nursing staff likely to continue.
HOLDEN, Mass.—At a time when local schools are already struggling to safely care for a growing population of students with severe medical needs, the school committee for the Wachusett Regional School District has gone out of its way to put the region’s children at risk by refusing to allow the districts’ unionized school nurses to voice their professional concerns at a public school committee meeting on Monday, July 23.
The nurses, who are members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, have been working to gain a professional pay scale since their contract negotiations began in April, 2007 with the hopes of ending the dramatic rate of nurse turnover that has been plaguing the district in recent years.
According to a letter sent to Melinda Johnson, RN and co-chair of Wachusett Regional Nurses Association (WRNA), from Margaret Watson, chair of the Wachusett Regional School Committee, “members of the WRNA will not be recognized to speak at the meeting on July 23.”
The WRNA nurses still plan to attend the Monday night meeting despite the committee’s announcement that “they will not be recognized to speak.”
“The school committee’s mandate to not allow us the opportunity to publicly voice our concerns will not slow us down,” added Janik. “The people who run this school district, and Dr. Pandiscio in particular, need to understand that school nurses are highly trained professionals who maintain numerous and diverse levels of licensure in order to do their jobs. It is time for us to be recognized as the professionals we are and the committee needs to work with Dr. Pandiscio to create a fair pay scale that reflects the realities of our professional work.”
The school committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 23 at the Davis Hill Elementary School, 80 Jamieson Road, Holden, Mass. at 7:00 p.m.
The letter from Watson follows the WRNA’s efforts to arrange a closed-door meeting with the school committee?a meeting that the nurses hoped would provide both parties with a diplomatic opportunity to review their key contract issues and the effect these issues are having on the district’s student population. Those issues include:
- WRNA nurses are paid 42 percent less than their colleagues from neighboring towns.
- 42 percent of newly hired WRNA nurses leave their positions within two years.
- 44 percent of WRNA nurses are being actively recruited by other local school systems.
Despite these alarming facts, the district’s superintendent, Dr. Thomas Pandiscio, has come to the negotiating table with a number of inadequate and insulting proposals, including:
- A salary proposal that rewards only the most inexperienced nurses.
- A proposal that would provide some nurses with a salary decrease of $12,000 (between steps 5 and 6).
- A proposal that keeps salaries completely frozen for 93 percent of WRNA nurses.
“We respond to the needs of approximately 7,100 students and 800 school personnel,” said Cyndy Janik, RN, BSN, NCSN and chairperson of the WRNA. “It is widely known that many of these children have chronic conditions, acute illnesses and complicated case histories. They require ongoing assessments, monitoring, testing, medications and health education.
Janik went on to explain that the nurses also maintain constant communication with these students, their families, their health care providers and/or medical specialists, and the school’s staff members.
“Yet, despite these skills and services, skills and services that only a nurse can provide, the compensation is painfully inadequate in this district and the resulting rate of turnover is alarmingly high,” explained Janik. “Without doubt, this rate of turnover will put the district’s children in jeopardy.”