California Educator

February/March 2020

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 43 of 63

Dissatisfaction is an opportunity W hile vocally unhappy with the new contract, the school nurses didn't stop organizing for the resources they need and their students deserve. Nurses and union leaders continued working on numer- o u s w o rkl o a d - re l a t e d g r i e v a n c e s , including for caseloads far in excess of the 1,350-to-1 ratio set in the collective bargaining agreement. In Se pt emb er 2018, f ive months before the strike, OUSD made a settle- ment offer with $2,000 in guaranteed stipends, senior nurse and longevity pay, and the hiring of three non-pub- lic-agency nurses for student diabetes management (OUSD has 70 students whose diabetes requires monitoring and management multiple times a day by credentialed school nurses who often have to travel between sites to perform these vital services). e nurses rejected the offer. In the months following the strike, union leadership and OE A/CTA staf f continued working to reach an agreement on these grievances. Unified by the strike, the nurses organized around their issues, working to edu- cate their teaching peers on the gravity of their situation and building support among their fellow OEA members. Every single nurse was present during grievance con- ferences, and all participated in thorough discussions before responding to OUSD settlement proposals. ey spoke with one voice, briefing OEA leadership on their message so that management always heard the same concerns and demands from the union, no matter who was speaking. e nurses were fearless in their advocacy, identifying problems and demanding solutions from the district, even developing a campaign called "Quick! We Need a School Nurse!" to publicize the lack of health services for their students. ey collected postcards with signatures from parents and teachers, delivering them to the OUSD school board to demand adequate resources and to shine a light on the continued fail- ure of elected officials to address the health needs of Oakland students. "e progress we've made here is due to our nurses taking the bull by the horns," says OEA President Keith Brown. "eir tenacity has made them role models for our whole union. Now school psychologists and speech-language pathologists are uniting to enforce their contractual rights, too." The nurses' efforts were fully supported by OEA leadership and staff, who worked closely on the settlement, while Brown reiterated their points during his regular meetings with the OUSD superinten- dent. The deep organizing work came to fruition in October when OEA won a massive settlement with $19,000 in guaranteed stipends for each school nurse, the establishment of a substitute nurse pool, and additional pay when caseloads exceed 1,350 students per nurse. Lim says the settlement is a step in the right direction to improving the services for Oakland stud ent s and w orkin g c onditions for over - worked and bedraggled nurses. "On paper, they acknowledged we were over our heads," Lim says, noting that the working conditions take a difficult toll on nurses who want to do what's best for kids. "We want to care for everybody. It's what's inside of us. But then we don't take care of ourselves." B oyd b elie ves that e ver y Oakl and public school should have a school nurse, pointing to the California Associa- tion of School Nurses recommendation of one school nurse for every 750 healthy students. As of December 2019, there were 1,352 students per school nurse in Oakland — almost double the recommendation, but a substantial improvement from the 1,742-to-1 ratio nurses faced only a year prior. And while Boyd worries about OUSD's sincerity in addressing issues raised by overworked nurses, all the school nurses, now 28 ("Our union meetings are a lot bigger," she remarks), are organized and ready to advocate for the issues important to them as OEA prepares for the next contract. "I want to be involved in bargaining," Boyd says. "I want to start hav- ing conversations about our issues now. It was very clear to me that our needs were not fully understood." Oakland Education Association members and school nurses Sarah Nielsen Boyd and Stephanie Lim continue the fight for the health resources their students need. " The progress we've made here is due to our nurses taking the bull by the horns. Their tenacity has made them role models for our whole union." —OEA President Keith Brown Continued on page 45 42 Advocacy

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - February/March 2020