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School Nurses Continue Fight for Equal Pay

Negotiations continue with the School Committee, as the sides disagree on whether the nurses should be paid on the same level as other licensed educators.

An ongoing dispute between the Wilmington School Committee and the district’s registered nurses remains, with no immediate end yet in sight.

Nurses made their presence known outside of the high school before Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting as they held signs on Church Street.

Terri Furlong, a nurse at Wilmington Middle School, said that while school nurses must be licensed by the Department of Education like all educators in the system, they are not paid like those same educators.

“We feel that we’re invested in the children but we are not respected and the School Committee is not invested in us,” said Furlong. “In order to retain good, qualified nurses in the school system, they have to start paying us equal to other professionals.”

The nurses have been without a contract for about one year. Furlong said that about 70 percent of districts in the state pay their nurses on the same scale as other educators, while 30 percent opt for a pay scale similar to Wilmington’s.

Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton did not comment specifically on the negotiations, but said that a fact-finding session is slated for October 5 between the two sides.

“The fact-finder’s primary responsibility is to preside at a hearing and issue a written report with recommendations for resolving all issues in dispute,” said Benton.

When asked about the nurse dispute during the public comments section of Wednesday’s meeting, School Committee chairman Peggy Kane declined comment and said it is district policy to not discuss ongoing negotiations in public.

Woburn Street School nurse Lori Trites said she believes the majority of the town does not know that the town’s nurses are paid less than other educators, which is why they took to the streets to hold up signs and inform residents.

“Right now that is our goal, to educate the public to what is happening and what we’re fighting for,” said Trites. “The money is one thing. But we’re fighting for our professionalism at this point. We work in the town, work in the schools, and we value these children just as much as the School Committee hopefully does.” 

Jonna Brazell September 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I have two children with Type 1 diabetes. My daughter is currently in the North. My son will start Kindergarten next year. I cannot begin to tell the citizens of Wilmington how important the school nurses are to parents like me who have children with life-threatening illnesses. The school nurses are required to maintain their licensure with the Department of Education. They are an integral part of the school system. I think they earn the right to receive equal pay every single day. It would difficult, if not impossible, for my children to receive an equal education without the school nurses, not to mention what they do on a daily basis for the children without special needs. I know I sleep better at night knowing they're there! Please support our school nurses.
sha fullerton September 27, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Please support our school nurses. They are an integral part of the school system. I think they earn the right to receive equal pay or actually bettter every single day. We can hire a substitute teacher in an emergency BUT a licensed RN is the only one we can call upon for a medical emergency.
Midnight Rambler September 27, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I could not agree more,I have a son with type 1 diabetes and the care he gets at Shawsheen school makes me feel at ease knowing he is in good hands while I am at work.
Richard Jertz September 27, 2012 at 05:22 PM
How much do the school nurses make?
Jason Dango September 27, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I hope they wake up and begin to pay the Nurses accordingly. As a former coach in the system Wilmington is way behind in paying their Athletic coaches as well. The tax payers in the town are willing to pay for a new school but I'm sure they don't realize how their children's coaches nurses etc... Are being underpaid. They are the people along with teachers who have nothing but the childs well being and futures in their best interest yet are not paid up to today's standard. Many people in these positions do a great job but in this tough economy cannot continue to stay in Town financially. Its a sad situation and im glad the schools Nurses are trying to get the eord out. Good luck Nurses.
Richard Jertz September 27, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Are you kidding me Jason. They did not reward coach Scanlon for all his efforts in leading that fine group of scholar athletes to the Hockey State Championship title. They lost one great coach a few years ago and I don't know how much longer the other coaches are going to put up with this.
Susan Russo Rogers September 27, 2012 at 08:29 PM
School nurses in Burlington are on the same salary schedule as teachers...after all, they are licensed by the DESE. Put the nurses in Wilmington on step with their educator colleagues. And while we are at it, look up how much lower the salaries are for both teachers and coaches in this town...much lower than comparable districts in the Middlesex league. We will begin losing the great teachers and nurses to nearby districts as the next batch of retirees vacates the profession. Like it or not, you get what you pay for.
PBaker September 27, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I like the Wilmington school nurses and can say when my children were in the schools they were wonderful. The article however is misleading and makes it appear that the nurses not only have bachelor's degrees in nursing but that they also must be licensed as educators. Their licensing is basic and as highly educated nurses, the licensing is really not that difficult for them to obtain. - they need to be licensed by the state but in no way as teachers. They must have a minimum Bachelor's nursing degree and complete an orientation program based on the requirements for delivery of school health services as defined by the Department of Public Health. Passing score on the Communication and Literacy Skills test. I agree that the nurses are a great resource in the schools but saying they should be paid the same as educators based on their licensure is incorrect. School teachers are required to obtain a Masters Degree- not the case with school nurses.
Professional Nurse September 28, 2012 at 01:25 AM
PBaker, You are incorrect and should review DESE licensure requirements. A school nurse must attain a Master's degree or National Certification to hold professional licensure. In some cases, school nurses choose to obtain both requirements. School nursing is a specialty field of nursing with daily challenges. There are more and more children attending our schools with special health care needs and they need knowledgable and competent licensed RN's taking care of them!
Nurse Kay September 28, 2012 at 02:50 AM
1. The degrees amongst educators in Wilmington range from Associates to Masters. Unfortunately, many do not have their Masters or they'd be teaching college courses while obtaining their Doctorates. 2. Perhaps you're unaware of what a Nursing degree requires?? A (Bachelor) Nursing Degree requires a 4 year degree in Liberal Studies THEN a minor in nursing. Of course that's not counting the field/clinical time that needs to be done. I truly can't remember how many hours it is nor do I care to, but no other profession out there compares. I'm not knocking teachers of any kind, but there is just no comparison between nurse and teacher and the amount of information that needs to be remembered at all times. 3. Every job comes with an orientation-even school nurses, but you do know that nurses are required by state and national law to have "Continuing Ed" credits, without which, our license will be taken away? Just so we're clear on "Continuing Ed" credits for nurses... They're unpaid. Done on days off. Last for hours. Required more then any other profession. Typically require some sort of extra service (working a certain amount of time on a unit outside your norm). 4. In conclusion, a school nurse has never been there for the amazing paycheck nor will they ever be. They are by far, the lowest paid on the nursing chain. This devotion deserves compensation.
Midnight Blue September 28, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Nurse Kay, You are correct in all that you mentioned except that a Bachelor's degree in Nursing is actually a Bachelor of Science in Nursing- there is no minor in Nursing. Numerous hours are spent doing clinical rotations in various hospitals. School Nurses are required to have a minium of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing,as with all Registered Nurses- Licensed to Practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 5 years of clinical nursing experience, and become certified through DSES and either obtain a Master's Degree or pass the National School Nurse Certification exam within 5 yrs of initial certification from DSES.
Nurse Kay September 28, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I stand corrected. It is definitely a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I was thinking in regards to myself. I hold 2 degrees and went about things perhaps a little differently then others. There was a difference of 1-2 classes I believe. I had grand hopes of becoming a Science Teacher, but went where the money/desire was. Thank you for pointing this out! My old age and late schedule tends to catch up with me at times!
Richard Jertz September 28, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Would they make more money if they worked in a hospital?
Nurse Kay September 28, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Yes, they would. In the nursing field, they are considered "bottom of the barrel" as awful as that sounds because their job is vital too. VNA's, private practice, Hospice, and specialty nurses get paid more. In many cases, substantially more. How anybody can knock a nurse, especially a school nurse who gives up so much on many levels is beyond me. How they are receiving LESS then the teachers is even more baffling and disgusting. Every person (teacher, student, custodial staff, etc.) in that building relies on the competency of the school nurse. Whether it be a simple Tylenol or life saving medication like Insulin, parents and staff rely heavily on the skills of their school nurse. I'd also like to point out that they are also the people who stay on top of vaccination records for each student and staff member so we don't have outbreaks of a slew of different diseases. Speaking of outbreaks, they're constantly on top of current outbreaks/trends in medical patterns and implementing and informing parents of prevention. Really, we could just go down the list of things a school nurse does, and I think it would blow the minds of quite a few people, especially people like PBaker.
Steven McGinley September 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Well I don’t have any degree, this still seems like a no-brainer to me. They should absolutely be paid on an equal basis to the educators, it shocks me that there not. Not surprising though that Wilmington it is in the 30% that chooses to underpay these hard-working professionals.
Pat King October 01, 2012 at 02:49 AM
PBaker has no idea of what she is talking about. Besides being licensed by the dept. of public health, they also need a masters degree in nursing to work with the school children. The Town of Wilmington should feel blessed to have such devoted people. Mrs Kane has refused to deal with the nurses for years. this is fact. Pat
Richard Jertz October 01, 2012 at 02:52 PM
What is the average salary of a school nurse? I heard $60,000. If thats true, not bad for 8 - 9 months work with no holidays, weekends, or summers.
Amy Mason RN M.Ed. October 02, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Mr Jertz....Its possibly $60,000 only if they are on the teachers pay scale. I'm sure it's closer to $35-40K not on the teachers contract. When I became a school nurse 8 years ago I took a $15k pay cut from VNA nursing. I did have to take the teacher's literacy test and now having my professional license I am required like any other teacher to obtain 150 professional development points within 5 years, as well as CEU's for my nursing license. In a school system, nurses are one of the few jobs that need to carry 2 licenses. Before you throw around that we don't work holidays, weekends, etc, just remember teachers get the same time off. It's about time school nurses gain respect and pay equity!
Christina October 02, 2012 at 04:37 PM
The starting salary for a School Nurse in the district I work for here in NY would be just over 22,000
Richard Jertz October 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Thank you Amy. I was just curious what the pay was and wasn't sure if what I read was correct. I agree that it is time for Wilmington to wake up.
Suzanne Shields October 04, 2012 at 04:04 PM
School Nurse in Burlington are not on the teachers salary. We are far below it! We are in the same boat as the Wilmington Nurses.
Suzanne Shields October 04, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Nurses are BORN licensed and DESE licensed. Nurses also are required to get PDP's as well as CEU's. All interaction between the nurse and a student includes education and assessment.
Eileen C October 05, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Today was the rescheduled Fact Finding session. Any news?
Matt Schooley (Editor) October 06, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Thank you for the reminder, Eileen! I'll check into it likely Monday and see if there is anything to report.

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