Here is what I am thinking about now. I am working on this for the special Board of Education meeting on Monday.
Special Board Meeting 4 May 09
I agree with Mrs. Badone’s statement in her letter of March 29 stating that “we do not always get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we respond.” I am here today and I choose to respond because I have grave concerns about how the recent RIF will affect the health of not only our students but also our staff. I know that many of us are hesitant to speak out because of the potential adverse affect that it could have on our jobs, but I feel that it is a necessary risk for one huge reason—-our kids today deserve to have their health care needs safely met while in the school setting. It is our job to understand and interpret the link between health and learning and to make a positive difference for children every day. We are their liaison to the school, community, parents, and health care providers. We help to advance their well-being, support their academic success, and promote life-long achievements by providing a critical safety net for our most fragile children.
We have 3 LPNs, one CNA, and one Administrative Assistant in our Health Offices. They have all been RIFed. They share over 38 years of experience in our schools. Because of them, we are able to take care of the needs of not only students but staff as well. We see kids and adults with asthma, diabetes, fibromyalgia and lupus. We help parents and families as they deal with a woefully inadequate mental health care system. We help parents access health care options in our community so that their kids can stay healthy and stay in school. We are the primary care providers for many students who have bad things happen to them sometime between Friday at 3:30PM and Monday at 8AM when their parents tell them to “wait and see the nurse on Monday.” We take care of kids with cancer, teachers and staff with cancer, and those who are grieving loss due to cancer. We help those who have brain injuries, epilepsy, broken bones, dislocations, and surgeries. We take care of students who are beaten by their parents and assaulted by other students. We make decisions to call 911 when their problems are emergent. We exclude them and send them home when their health status is contagious so that others can stay healthy. We urge parents to seek medical care and often have to advocate for the child when the parent refuses to take them for medical care. Conversely, we help them learn that not every ache or pain needs to be seen in the ER, and that it is OK to be uncomfortable sometimes, that life is sometimes uncomfortable and that is normal, and that tylenol won’t cure everything. We call CPS, YPD, the Sheriff’s Office, Poison Control, and Amberly’s Place as advocates for our students.
We have kids with trachs, feeding tubes, kids with transplants, and kids on dialysis. We have kids who are suicidal, kids who have been raped, and kids who have contracted STDs for which there are no cures. There are signifiant increases locally in both gonorrhea and syphilis in teens.
We see the cyclical nature of teen pregnancy, abuse, neglect, and poverty. In the most current report (2007) AzDHS reports that Yuma County’s birth rate for females 19 or younger ranks 4th in the state at 559; we follow Maricopa County @7,816; Pima County @1,674; and Pinal County @644. The labor and delivery costs for 463 (83%) of these 559 births are paid by AHCCCS (96 from Indian Health Services, private insurance, self and unknown). We no longer have a liaison with the Yuma County Health Department to work with these teens to keep them healthy and in school because that program had drastic funding cuts. It is difficult to finish high school when you are a teen who is already a parent, or about to become a parent. At Cibola I have seen the second generation enter high school, and they are now becoming parents.
On my campus, from the first day of school until last Thursday, we have seen a total of 8,849 students in 161 instructional days, for an average of 55 student visits per day. We are open 30 minutes before class starts, we never close at lunch, and we are there for 30 minutes after the final bell rings. Parents, teachers, students all have access to us at any time. When a student walks into our office, they may have a splinter in their finger, or they may have just swallowed a bottle of tylenol in an attempt at suicide. We never know.
We have seen kids coming from our feeder schools who have been there for 2 years and have no immunizations (Crane doesn’t have nurses ) so we immunize them. Whooping cough is making a resurgence because many people have stopped immunizing their kids, and some schools don’t enforce the immunization law. Giving immunizations at school helps keep kids in school. It is ironic to be speaking to the board today when 1 year ago we were here being recognized for our efforts with our immunization program. We administered 5,306 doses of vaccine last year. This was feat was possible only because of the commitment of all of our nursing staff and our Administration at both the campus and District level.
I believe in public education, but I know that if a student is not healthy they cannot learn. I urge you to please, please reconsider the decision about our LPNs, Admin Assistant and CNA. It is because of their contributions that we are able to deliver the quality of care that now exists. There is no way we can maintain this level of care. Unfortunately the losers in this situation aren’t just those who are losing their jobs. The biggest losers in this situation will be our students.
It takes more than a clerk to fill these shoes. An Office Specialist, no matter how well trained or how competent, will never be able to replace an LPN. Please talk to them and listen to their ideas about their jobs, they have some great ideas, give them an opportunity to help solve this problem by talking to them. And could we please open a dialog with other possible funding sources for these positions, in the same manner as the District supports the SRO program. Perhaps we could approach the medical community in Yuma, perhaps talk with YRMC about helping to fund these positions at least partially, in the same way that they fund the school-based clinics in some of elementary schools around the county.
Please, please—I beg you to consider their contributions of our colleagues to the health and safety of our students. Our future tomorrow depends on their education today. At the end of the day, please do what is best for kids.