Thank Goodness It Wasn’t Wednesday

Thomas MacMillan Photo

When a 6-year-old at Wexler-Grant School started having a bronchial spasm, school nurse Gloria Rosati-Culver was there to save her life — because it was a Thursday.

If it had been a Wednesday, the day when no school nurse is on duty at the K-8 school on Foote Street, the girl might not have made it, Rosati-Culver (pictured) said.

She recounted the story Thursday evening at a different school, Conte-West Hills, where the Board of Alders Finance Committee held public hearing in the auditorium. The committee took testimony on the mayor’s proposed $511 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

Mayor Toni Harp’s budget includes a 3.8 percent tax increase, a proposal that drew criticism at Thursday’s hearing. Neighbors testified against the tax increase; questioned a 33-percent increase in the capital budget; and called for more spending on homeless services, parks, and early childhood programs.

Rosati-Culver, wearing flower-patterned scrubs, caught the lawmakers’ attention with her impassioned testimony calling for funding for more school nurses.

Rosati-Culver, in her 37th year as a registered nurse, has been a New Haven public school nurse since last September. She divides her time between Clinton Avenue and Wexler Grant schools, each of which has no nurse on duty for one day each week. 

On a recent Thursday, she said, she saw a 6-year-old girl who had been coughing since the previous day, when no nurse was on duty. “I think she’s aspirating.” Something was partially blocking her airway.

Rosati-Culver gave the little girl a sip of water, then a bite of a saltine. She had trouble swallowing. “Two seconds later, this kid went into a bronchial spasm, where, if you don’t do something right away, you’re going to have one dead child.” Rosati-Culver called 911 and the girl was taken immediately to the hospital.

“If this had happened on a Wednesday and I hadn’t been there — where are we accountable?” Rosati-Culver asked. “We need a nurse for every school.”

East Rock Alder Anna Festa asked if teachers are trained to administer medication if nurses aren’t there.

They are, Rosati-Culver responded. But sometimes they are busy with other responsibilities and “there are lapses with kids not getting their daily medications.”

“I’m really worried about we heard going on in the schools,” said committee Chair Andrea Jackson-Brooks, at the end of the public hearing.

The standard of care should be having a nurse in every school, full time, said Newhallville/Prospect Hill Alder Mike Stratton.

Alders agreed to have the health department come to the next budget hearing, on May 12, to answer to questions about nursing staffing in schools. Board of Alders President Jorge Perez (pictured with Alder Jessica Holmes) also requested the presence of staff from the Community Services Administration, to speak about homeless services, and the budget director, to speak about the 33 percent increase in the capital budget.

The May 12 meeting will also include Board of Ed officials, to answer questions about education spending.

Budget amendments for consideration by the Finance Committee are due by May 13. The committee will meet on May 14 to vote on amendments and on the budget, which will then go to the full Board of Alders for a final vote and, possibly, more amendments.

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posted by: Jill_the_Pill on May 2, 2014  8:49am

This should be the single most important issue for the schools.  School reform, career and college, wrap-around services . . . none of it means anything if the most basic need of taking care of student health and safety is not met.  The city has been running a dangerous gamble for far too long.  Ditch the trolley.  Drop the branding consultant.  Dump the chauffeur.  Delay a technology upgrade.  Find the money to hire a nurse for every school.

posted by: wendy1 on May 2, 2014  9:43am

I am an old registered nurse now semi-retired but still licensed.  I am shocked that each school does not have its own nurse.  There are plenty of young women and men who could fill these positions.  All New RN’s have some background in Pediatrics.  Choate has RN’s who rotate to cover school children every day.  So should public schools.

posted by: elmhurst1 on May 2, 2014  9:48am

Stratton believes every school should have a nurse - good. But his People’s Caucus budget proposes completely cutting every school nurse.  Every last one.

Either he is heartlessly opportunistic - willing to change his tune to support whoever is in front of the committee and then cut their funding when noone’s looking - or he really has no idea what he’s cutting when he proposes complete line-item eliminations, which seems even more dangerous.

He cut the library before he wanted more library outreach workers. He cut youth@work before he started crying about more youth jobs. He eliminated homeless services before people started making an issue about it. He completely defunded New Haven Family Alliance before they came to a hearing and he praised them.

This is either blatant hypocrisy or total ignorance. Why is this not being covered every time he opens his mouth? He’s proposed cutting almost every program people have been talking about at these public hearings. Some of them showed up specifically to rail against his cuts. We can’t let this slip by unnoticed.

posted by: JohnTulin on May 2, 2014  9:59am

I voted no.  Of course I want a nurse in every school, I just KNOW that it doesn’t require another tax hike to get them in there.  Less administrators, coaches, consultants, no-show jobs, deans and more nurses, teachers and social workers.  Done.

posted by: A.T. on May 2, 2014  10:32am

Pare down administrators to the absolute bare bones and hire a nurse per school and with the money left over, hire extra para’s, buy computers and accurate books and supplies for every school, and add social workers. Concentrate the funds on personnel and materials that directly work with or assist children. How’s that for a revolutionary school reform program? Taxes do not need to be raised to add nurses. The department of education needs to stop being an employment program for anything but crucial positions with direct access to kids, first and foremost.

posted by: Shaggybob on May 2, 2014  11:05am

Maybe if Mayor Harp gave up her new car on the city’s dime we could afford to have nurses in schools.
Oh and maybe if the budget showed EVERY line item and not just the ones they want to show we could trim the budget just enough (referring to health Insurance)

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on May 2, 2014  12:26pm

Here is the twisted logic and priority of the New Haven Board of Education: divide one school into three “academies” and appoint three principals to head each. The BOE hires all kinds of consultants, creates a multitude of unnecessary administrative positions, employs private firms to run some of our schools, but we nurses working part time in our schools placing our young people at risk. An insufficient number of nurses, not enough counselors, teacher aides and paraprofessionals, but a plethora of principals, assistant principals, principals on special assignment, numerous assistant superintendents and other superfluous administrators!
“KIDS FIRST!” used to be the BOE slogan. But the focus now is top heavy administration, creating positions which have the least direct educational impact on the kids.
This is why every school does not have a full time nurse. If kids were first nurses would be placed in schools every day! If kids were first every teacher would have all the books and supplies and support staff to effectively do their job. If kids were first counselors would not be so overloaded with students that they CANNOT spend quality time to meet all of their needs. If kids were first the BOE would cut administrative staff in order to divert funds where they are MOST needed.
We don’t need to raise taxes to get full time nurses. CUT THE ADMINISTRATIVE FAT and hire more nurses! SERVE THE STUDENTS’ EDUCATIONAL NEEDS! Really put “KIDS FIRST”! Right now they are third or fourth on the Board’s list of priorities.

posted by: darnell on May 2, 2014  12:32pm


I think the question is unfair. Some of us believe that there are choices other than “more nurses equal more taxes”. Maybe we should choose between “more nurses equals less administrators”, or “more nurses equals less central office staff”, just to name two.

[Paul: Good point! Does anyone have specific administrator positions in mind?]

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on May 2, 2014  1:11pm

Though it might seem to make sense to cut administrators to provide nurses, it’s not the same budget.  The Board of Ed doesn’t pay for or hire the nurses.  That’s the Health Department.

posted by: mstratton on May 2, 2014  2:46pm

The enemy of the bureaucrats is THE QUESTION because this could lead to THE TRUTH. Spend a few months pouring over the budget and you still will not understand much more than when you started. Millions of dollars in spending are proposed under things like “other”. For 20 years, very few questions were asked about the budget, so the descriptions and support for the line items became vague and unsupported by any evidence of effectiveness. The masters of overhead creation at City Hall, BOE HQ, and city funded non profits absolutely love it. The less you have to explain, the more you get!

Lets look at what happens when you ask questions at an alder finance workshops:
Me: Mr. Library Head (LH) why are you spending $350,000 on the restoration of old magazinet?
LH: Oh boy, we are so sorry! That was a misprint in the budget. That is for new book purchases.
Me: Glad we cleared that up. Without new books, hard to have much of a library.I noticed the mayor cut staff at library, tell me more?
LH: Yes the Mayor cut our request for 4 youth librarians and a spanish liaison to get the hispanic community into the libraries. That would expand our open days from 4 to 5 and expose 30,000 people to our programming.
Me: So for $225,000 total, we get 25% more hours of open libraries. Thats a no brainer!  I will try to amend the mayors budget and get that back in.

Me: Why does your non profit need $200,000 for street outreach? I talked to my constituents on winchester, they never heard of this program?
Street Outreach WorkersTheres only 9 of us.We need more people. Look at these texts and emails. (At NH Family Alliance, they show me several very recent notes from kids that are so violent chills go down my spine. We talk for 2 hours about their experiences stopping 6-7 murders in past 4 months)
Me: You only make $13 an hour? (they nod) Thats the best return on investment in town. would another 50k help cover whole city?
SOW:Could you try?
Me:yes You can bet the house on that.

posted by: RichTherrn on May 2, 2014  2:50pm

I personally agree that more schools should have nurses.
However, thinking that an increase in administrators is to blame is not the case.
In 2006 there were 132 members of the School Administrators Association.
Currently in 2014 there are 116 members.

posted by: darnell on May 2, 2014  5:58pm

I didn’t mean to target administrators, even though they are always in the sights, but I just wanted to make the point that before you consider stressing taxpayers more, perhaps you should give folks a chance to decide between already budgeted items. It could be any number of things. Personally, I would vote to eliminate many of those “consultants” at the central office to add nurses to the schools, but that’s just me.

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 2, 2014  6:47pm

Mr. Bass asked for suggestions on where to pare the administration staff: Here goes.


Garth Harries, Superintendent
Imma Cannelli, Ass’t Superintendent
Sonia Flanagan, Executive Business Director
Early Childhood Director
Facilities Supervisor
Food Service Manager
Human Resources Director
Athletic Director
School Security Chief
Ken Mathews, Math&Science; District Supervisor
Elaine Parsons, Reading&Social; Studies
Arts & Music Manager
Special Education Supervisor
Foreign Language Manager
Transportation Manager
Occupational Arts Supervisor

Every effort should be made to assist those let go to make a successful transition to other districts if need be.

It is past time to put our resources first and foremost in the classroom—not above the classroom as per status quo.

posted by: mm on May 2, 2014  10:29pm

Enough of the nanny state mentality…...
I attended public school in New Haven from K-12. In elementary school we had a nurse on duty 2 afternoons per week.  If you needed more than a band aid on an off time, the school contacted your parent or the adult to be notified on file, otherwise truly severe cases were sent to the ER.  It is NOT the responsibility of the schools to have full time nurses in each building running a health clinic.  Get your health care outside of school, at your doctor or clinic.  The school nurse should not be a substitute for a primary care physician, nor should the nurse be a paramedic, EMT, or ER triage attendant.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on May 4, 2014  8:59am

So, mm, because you were neglected as a child, it is right to neglect this generation of kids?  I am very glad you survived, but it sounds like the child in this story needed the school nurse badly.  For whom is a “nanny state” more appropriate than children? 

I volunteered in a school office a few years back.  We had to call the parents of a child with asthma, not a dire emergency, but the possible beginnings of one.  Though the child had private health care, he did not have an inhaler on him, and when the parent showed up, it was obvious that no one in the family understood which of the inhalers were for emergencies and which are preventative.  That kind of sub-acute care, prevention, education and management is what school nurses do so well.  It can save the entire community money and heartache and keep the kids in school learning.

posted by: New Haven Observer on May 5, 2014  4:58pm

Which Special Education Supervisor? There are at least 4, plus the Director.