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CHPSPO meets September 20 at Payne Elementary

Dear Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization members,

CHPSPO will meet on Tuesday, September 20, at Payne Elementary (1445 C Street, SE). Liz Davis, the President of the Washington Teachers Union, will join us at our meeting. In addition to the discussion with Ms. Davis, we will be discussing the final preparations for Walk-to-School Day, share school practices on morning drop-off, and begin planning for visits to the Wilson Building in October.

I also want to share a recent interview Andy Shallal did with Gary Ratner, Executive Director of Citizens for Better Schools, on the Pacifica Radio show, “Business Matters,” about the need for a new education strategy and what skills our city should be looking for in the next Chancellor to carry out this new education strategy. A voice recording of the 20 minute interview is available at www.wpfwfm.org . Click on “Archived Shows”. Scroll down to “Business Matters” for September 12, 2016, 9:00 am and click on “Play.” (Interview starts around 9:15 and you can skip to that by clicking on grey progress bar to right of the pause button.)

I’m also sharing a letter that was written by a Ward 4 parent regarding changes to staffing for school nurses. CHPSPO has discussed in the past issues dealing with school nurses, and I thought people would want to see this letter.

Hope to see you on Tuesday.

Suzanne Wells

Dear DC Government Officials,
I am writing you to express my concern over changes I recently learned were planned to the way school nurses are provided in our public schools. At a Ward 4 Education Alliance meeting on 9/14, Dr. Schumacher of DCPS confirmed a rumor that schools will no longer have a minimum of 1 nurse per school, and instead have a minimum of 1/2 nurse per school as part of a larger initiative to increase coordination of care with physicians and community health organizations. It was stated that these changes were intended to be implemented by January 2017.

I support the general notions that were presented, including increased equity and better utilization of public resources. But I object to the way the actions are being carried forward. I request that you preserve a full time nurse at each public school. If there are worthwhile initiatives to increase performance and efficiency, then please add to the budget to pay for those. Don’t pay for it by cutting nurse staff to our schools.

In the meeting, it was stated that school staff can manage issues while the school nurse is not present. I strongly object to this for two reasons. First, I don’t see any additional funding going to cover staff positions as we add collateral duties, and I don’t believe you get something for nothing. If anything, the staff should have fewer collateral duties or increased staff to better handle them. Second, the little training that staff gets does not take the place of a true nurse. While they may be able to handle minor bumps and scrapes, can they handle infectious disease outbreaks? Will they know the signs of more serious illness? Waiting until the nurse is back in the office is not an acceptable response. And I do not trust the idea of having centralized resources to supplement by phone. Nothing takes the place of a full-time nurse in the school invested in the school community.

I’d also like you to address the lack of transparency in this process. This represents a notable change in our schools, and you’ve hidden this from us until it’s nearly a done deal. You can do much better than that, and you have in the past. Take, for example, the school boundary realignment process. While it was painful, I do feel that you heard us and adjusted the actions in response to what you heard from us. There has been no such thing for this change, and I don’t think you’re taking us in a direction that many parents want to go. I request that you put a hold on this process and try again with parent input. There’s generally little trust in DC government and this lack of transparency erodes what little is left.

While you state a goal of promoting equity, I don’t think you’ve fully recognized the inequity that reducing nurse staffing drives. For example, when my daughter hit her head, we were fortunate enough to be able to pick her up from school and bring her to a doctor because there was no nurse available in the school. The same would be significantly more difficult for the child of a single parent with a less flexible job.

As it is, your actions seem to be related to the current shortage of nurses, which is already affecting our schools. It’s disturbing to me that the current contract provisions that require at least one nurse per school are not being maintained. What is DOH and DCPS doing about this? Is the council even aware?

Thank you,
Joshua Hertzberg
Ward 4 parent of 2 DCPS students

CHPSPO Agenda 092016.docx

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