D-300 nurses get new contract

CARPENTERSVILLE – All school District 300 nurses now have the opportunity for advanced training to better meet the growing demand and complexities of student medical needs, union officials said.

The new three-year contract that the district board and its teacher union, Local Education Associated of District 300, agreed to last month now paves the way for the district’s 28 full-time nurses to receive state certification for nursing students at all grade levels, LEAD 300 President Kolleen Hanetho said.

In the past, district nurses who received certification either had to take a job at the high school ranks to receive a pay bump or look elsewhere for employment at districts that accept certified nurses at the elementary, middle and high school levels, Hanetho said.

“I’m glad we are now recognizing their education and that we are encouraging them to get their certificate,” Hanetho said. “Psychologists, social workers are certified at all [district] schools. Nurses are a vital part of that team to meet the needs of students.”

The new contract contains explicit language that governs nurses for the first time in district history. The move also comes at a time when nurses workloads are increasing, nurses said.

The certification shift marks a four-year effort by noncertified nurses to get a contract guarantee that would allow them to move from a hourly wage to a salary upon receiving certification, said Pat Toomey, who represented the district’s nurses at the bargaining table during the most recent contract negotiations.

Noncertified nurses even unionized over this issue in 2010, when they were accepted into LEAD 300 but weren’t fully recognized for it by the administration, Toomey said.

“It’s another significant step in our journey,” Toomey said. “It’s a movement in the right direction.”

The administration maintains that it always allowed certified nurses to receive a salaried wage, but officials did acknowledge that they would now consider placing certified nurses at the elementary and middle school levels.

The move, however, is being driven by upcoming changes in special education law at the state level set to go into effect in July, said Sherrie Schimdt, district health services coordinator.

“The need to have certified school nurses districtwide is a result of the recent changes in special education laws as well as the influx of student health problems and increasing number of medically fragile students,” Schmidt said in an email.

Regardless of how the district change came to pass, the open acceptance of certified nurses at all levels should allow the district to better retain nurses and strengthen the staff’s expertise, Toomey said.

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