"Please don’t take the safety away,"
Riverside parent Courtnay Kittell appealed to the Greenwich Board of Education Thursday night as she and Greenwich Public School nurses outlined the impact of reducing the hours the district's nursing supervisor can work.
The cut of the full-time position to a part-time job was part of a second round of staff reductions imposed by School Superintendent William McKersie.
Kittell told the board she credits the nursing staff with the ability to "navigate the waters" for students in Greenwich schools. At the meeting held at Western Middle School, Kittell explained that she was on the verge sending her child who suffers from epilepsy to a private school. But it was Riverside School nurse Ruth Holz and Greenwich Public Schools Nursing Supervisor Kathy Mignone who assured Kittell that "we can keep an epileptic safe."
"I am so proud of the skilled professional nursing staff here," Kittell said. Because of the care her child receives, he is "safe" and seizure free this year, adding that the kindergartener is now reading. With another child with serious food allergies, Kittell said that the school nurses are on the "front lines day in and day out."
Nursing Supervisor Reduction
In late February, Mckersie (see attached) outlining non-certified staff reductions for the 2013-2014 budget in a letter to staff. "The following positions will be reduced from full-time to part-time, effective July 1, 2013: Administrative Staff Assistant II for the Assistant Superintendent, School Nurse Supervisor, Confidential Assistant for the Board of Education/Communications, and the Contracts Coordinator," McKersie wrote.
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In response, the GPS nursing staff united and delivered a letter to the McKersie's office on March 1 (see attached) outlining the "impact" a reduction of the School Nurse Supervisor Kathy Mignone would have "on the health and safety of not only our students, but on school staff."
According to the GPS website, the School Health Program is set up to "assess the health of each student, prevent disease, promote health and a healthy environment for all students and staff." To this end, each elementary and middle school has a full-time nurse. Additionally, Greenwich High School has 3 nurses and 2 health aides. Further, "the school nurse in each school monitors required health and immunization assessments, plans nursing care to meet student health needs, and provides health care referrals, emergency care, and programs that promote a healthy environment."
"Our school medical experts expressing significant apprehension,"
stated PTAC President Lisa Beth Savitz, who revealed to the board during the that "every individual school nurse contacted her PTA presidents, dismayed by the nurse supervisor's change in hours."
Savitz explained the nurses "are also PTA members, thus doubly charged with protecting the welfare of our children, and they are telling us that their ability to do this will be compromised."
Among the nursing staff who addressed the board, was Angie Lucas from Eastern Middle School. She read from the March 1 letter to McKersie and declared that "the health and safety of students will be comprised" with the reduction of the supervisor's hours.
Greenwich High School nurse Mary Ann O'Connor described the activity at the high school's health office. It is, O'Connor said, much more than "Band Aids and bellyaches." The GHS office has approximately 15,600 visits a year, dispenses 4,000 medications, has made 32 9-1-1 calls and operates at a ratio of 1:890 students. She also said the nurses are responsible for the off-site patients at the ARCH, CLP and Milbank locations.
"We need extra hands," said O'Connor, wondering what will help with the reduction of the supervisor who plays a "vital role" in "clarifying policies" and helping to "navigate."
Parkway School nurse Julie Prescott called their work a "well-oiled machine with Kathy at the helm." Additionally, Ruth Holz, Riverside School nurse and union president, asked McKersie to "please revisit the issue of cutting our supervisor." Further, the nurses' letter states "it is important to stress that a district without a full time Nursing Supervisor could leave itself open to litigious situations. Health issues and crisis do not wait for the day or time that the Nursing Supervisor is present, they occur at any given time and can leave a lasting mark on a school if they are not handled correctly."
The nurses also said, "With the increasing entry of special needs children, complex medical situations and the increasing expectations of district parents, a full time Nursing Supervisor is crucial to the nursing staff."
Eastern Middle School mother Suzette Harris spoke with her sixth-grade daughter Sydney. Harris told the board that she is a parent of two diabetic children at EMS and she was there representing a "group of concerned parents." The supervisor's position, Harris said, "is paramount to our families."
During his superintendent's report, McKersie reacted to the public outcry of the nurses and parents. He said that in the last 24 hours Director of Human Resources Bob Lictenfeld reached out to Mignone and will examine the the scope of work of the Supervisor's work.
"We will keep looking at it, he responded. "I promised I would follow-up," although McKersie did say that to date, "the decision has not changed."