, 2014

Supervisors deny responsibility for
elimination of school nurse funding

by Audrey Thomasson

School superintendent Dr. Daniel Lukich is trying to sell the citizens of Lancaster a false bill of goods by blaming supervisors for the elimination of a school nursing position, some supervisors claimed at last week’s meeting. They said Lukich did the same thing last year when he eliminated the primary school music teacher position and again when he threatened layoffs in the maintenance department, always pointing at supervisors as the culprits.

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The comments came during a discussion on whether the county should provide $65,000 in supplemental funding to hire a replacement nurse. A decision was postponed pending action by the school board.

It was clear from the opening comments that some supervisors were livid over Lukich’s comments to school employees that the supervisors’ budget cuts and allocation of the budget by category had tied his hands on replacing a nurse who quit last term, leaving the district with two nurses to cover three schools.

“We need to write the strongest...letter possible—short of being vulgar—from this body to the superintendent,” said District 5 supervisor Wally Beauchamp.

“The letter needs to go to the chairman and school board—not the hired gun,” said District 1 supervisor and chairman Butch Jenkins.

During the lengthy discussion, District 3 supervisor Jason Bellows explained that decisions on how the school budget is spent are made by the school board and not supervisors.

Bellows, who is a Lancaster High School science teacher, came under fire by school nurse Jane Vogel, who made a plea during the public comments section for the county to provide funding for a third school nurse.

“We’re not doing as we should do,” Vogel said. “We’ve been told that you’ve set a limit and Dr. Lukich said you were responsible...Did you know you were cutting out a nurse?” Vogel asked.

“That was the decision of the (school) administration to take it out of the medical staff because it was easy,” responded Jenkins.

“Do you have any way to change (Lukich’s) mind? I cannot sway him,” said a tearful Vogel. “I am overworked and underpaid. Something has to give. I hate to see it happen. Mr. Bellows, I will not be voting for you even if you said he’s a blowhard. This is not good, sound care for the children.”

“The school board makes the decision,” replied Beauchamp.

Currently, there are two full-time registered nurses (RNs). In addition, a teacher’s aid who also happens to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is spending most of her time fulfilling nursing duties. The nurses’ schedule shows all three crisscrossing paths between the three schools, creating gaps in coverage which are covered by school staffers.

“I spent a good deal of my life scheduling people. I can’t understand why they have these people running back and forth,” said Jenkins.

“The school board is crazy—this is setting them up for a lawsuit...Why come up with the very complicated, convoluted schedule when they have three people?” asked Bellows. “Keep one at each school and call it a day.”

As a result of the schedule, students’ medications have been overlooked.

Beauchamp said one mother contacted him about her child missing his medication on four separate days. “That’s something we cannot tolerate,” he said.

Supervisors Ernest W. Palin Jr., who is principal at Lancaster Primary School, said that situation happened at his school and that he had already resolved the problem before the parent notified supervisors.

The parent maintains the problem was not resolved because when she called to check the situation the following day, she discovered her child had again failed to receive medication.

Beauchamp said the superintendent had ample time to replace the full-time nurse after she announced her retirement last term, but instead decided to use it against supervisors.

He said the school board adopted the budget as it was presented by the superintendent. “The school board has not come to us and asked for money. They plan to remedy it without extra money...in the next couple of weeks,” he added. “I want to wait and see what the school board does. We shouldn’t do anything until we know what they’re going to do,” he said.

“Mrs. Vogel is looking for some help,” said District 4 supervisor William Lee. “She’s asking what can we do to put pressure on (Lukich). Waiting bothers me. They didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” Lee added.

“For the benefit of the safety and welfare of our schools...let’s put all this behind us,” said Palin.

“Yes, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers,” added Jenkins.

Palin said he was not acting as a school principal but as a supervisor in making a motion to allocate the funding from $235,000 left over from the fiscal year 2012-13 school budget.

“At the last meeting, we were supposed to find out if the schools have the funds” in this year’s administration category of the budget, said District 2 supervisor William Lee.

County administrator Frank Pleva said he couldn’t tell if the schools would have money remaining just two months into the budget year.

By consensus, supervisors agreed to discuss the issue next month after school board members reviewed the situation. Palin agreed to table his motion.

School board members were scheduled to discuss the issue yesterday.

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