Susan Samuels’ grandchild’s school has a full-time nurse, who helped save his life. She said all city schoolkids should be that lucky.
Most New Haven kids go to schools with nurses on premises only part-time.
Mayor Toni Harp’s proposes new $506 million city budget requests funding to add four more nurses to the school district’s staff. Samuels argued that more are needed.
Samuels was one of about 30 people who came out to a public hearing at Hill Regional Career High School Monday night to ask the members of the Board of Alders Finance Committee to provide money for up to 10 new school nurses, for public libraries, and for a new citywide “food system director.”
Right now New Haven has 35 funded nurse positions (counting four special-fund budget positions), according to city budget chief Joe Clerkin. The average nurse earns $48,286 a year. Those nurses cover 53 schools, including parochial schools, according to Board of Ed spokeswoman Abbe Smith.
The city health department schedules the nurses. Schools with more severely disabled students have nurses assigned to the building or even a particular classroom, while other schools have a nurse on premises part of the week.
Only ten schools have full-time nurses, according to Smith.
Click here for a previous story detailing the challenges the nurses face. Schools also confront challenges in distributing medication because of the shortage.
Samuels sits on the Board of Education. She said she came to the hearing not only as a school board member, but as a grandparent of a child who has had two major issues at school involving his breathing.
“Had it not been for the nurse on staff, he may have perished,” she said. “He had to be transported from school by ambulance to the hospital, where he stayed a least five days or more.” She said the school system needs at least 10 additional nurses to be properly staffed; she asked the committee to look carefully at the budget to see if they could find more resources.
The food systems director position would be a new one, and advocates came out strong to tell alders why the position, which would be responsible for coordinating the city’s efforts to address issues such as food insecurity, hunger and food access is necessary.
Tagan Engel, a member of the city’s Food Policy Council (pictured in the photo at the top of the story), said much of the work addressing food insecurity, urban farming and hunger is being done by volunteers. The city needs a point person to coordinate what’s happening inside government with what’s happening out in the community.
Without that person, advocates said, the city loses opportunities to pull down federal grant money and other resources to help the thousands who face hunger and its related problems every day in New Haven. The city also is unable to take advantage of economic development and job creation opportunities related to increasing the food supply, they argued.
Alycia Santilli, who heads the city’s Food Policy Council, said $115,000 in matching funds has been secured as matching funds for the food system director’s salary over two years. But because the mayor deems the position crucial to addressing hunger in the city, she added it to the general fund budget at $1 to open the opportunity to add more outside funding. The proposed budget also includes $50,000 for a data analyst; advocates sought to have that money go toward the food policy director position.
Engel also gave a plug for libraries, which are pressing alders to support the mayor’s budget request to help them stay open more hours and days. The council’s cooking classes are held at the city’s libraries. “We get the most requests for cooking classes because people are dealing with chronic, life-threatening illnesses” that can be helped with better access to healthful food and education on nutrition and cooking. (Read more about the mayor’s budget request for the city’s public libraries here.)
“The non-profits and the community are not going to stop doing this work,” she said. “But we need a different kind of leadership so that we can have a much deeper impact.”