California Educator

February/March 2020

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W H E N T H E H I S T O R I C Oakland Edu- cation Association (OEA) strike ended in early March 2019, school nurses Sarah Nielsen Boyd and Stephanie Lim were angr y. Th ey and th e oth er 19 school nurses tasked with the health needs of 37,000 Oakland students had walked picket lines for seven days for the schools their students deserve, but when the agreement called for new bonuses and stipends to attract and retain school nurses, they felt their needs for more resources to help with untenable workloads were unaddressed. And worse, they felt misunderstood. Images of the proud, defiant school nurses and their homemade signs with jaw-dropping student ratios f looded social media and news reports during the strike. And when OEA's bargaining team reached a historic tentative agreement, they had won retention bonuses for school nurses of $10,000 for the current and next year, as well as an additional 9 percent by 2020-21 on top of all negotiated salary increases (more than 20 percent total). But Boyd, Lim and their fellow school nurses were devastated. "We didn't want a bonus," Boyd says. "We wanted more resources for our students — a nurse in every school." Over the past five years, the number of school nurses in Oakland Unified School District had dwindled to the point where a third of the positions were unfilled h eading into th e stri ke. W h en long tim e nurses retired or left for districts with sup- portive administrators and better resources, OUSD began dragging its feet on hiring new school nurses, Boyd says. Open school nurse positions went unposted at education job clearinghouse EdJoin, as district personnel administrators opted for unconventional locations to post their positions, according to Boyd and Lim. ey say applicants — nurses who want to work in Oakland schools — would often not hear back about vacancies from OUSD. "We started 2018 with 11 open positions," Boyd says, noting that a lack of school nurses is an area where California falls way behind the rest of the country — 75 percent of schools nationally have a school nurse com- pared with only 43 percent in California, according to the National Association of School Nurses. "One of the good outcomes of the strike was that we were really seen and heard. And everyone knows we were really angry with the way it ended." " We didn't want a bonus. We wanted more resources for our students — a nurse in every school." — Sarah Nielsen Boyd, Oakland Education Association Never Stop Fighting Oakland school nurses organize for resources By Julian Peeples 41 F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 2 0 A

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