All 76 Buffalo school nurses have to find new assignments this summer. As employees of Kaleida Health, their assignments in Buffalo Public Schools is ending. The Buffalo School Board Wednesday night voted to replace them with cheaper, non-union nurses from two staffing agencies.
For the last week, Kaleida and its nurses have been pushing hard to continue in city schools, a contract the healthcare company has had for 13 years. The difficulty was that Kaleida's paper bid proposal was delivered after the deadline and ruled out.
District lawyers threw out the bid, plus those of two other applicants. Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash supported the lawyers' decision.
Starting July 1, the nurses will come from Oldsmar, FL-based SunBelt Staffing and Supplemental Health Care, with a base in Park City, UT and an office in Amherst. The proposal received the required minimum five of nine votes for passage.
Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold was opposed to the decision.
"Very emotional. Certainly the personal stories, the children, in particular, who came and talked and people were very sincere and talked about their concerns about losing this particular nursing staff and it was very difficult," Seals Nevergold said
Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi and Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash yelled across the room against each other during the vote.
"I applaud 99 percent of what you do and you know I do," said Mecozzi, "but when we have something this huge, where there are so many lives affected and it will....I don't understand why you are looking at me like that."
"You think I'm going to affect lives," Cash said.
"Right," Mecozzi said. "You don't think changing nurses is going to affect lives."
"Not if they are quality," Cash returned, "and...."
"...made my point," Mecozzi finished.
An attempt to delay the vote did not work out. Follwing the vote, board member Catherine Flanagan-Priore resigned her seat in protest.
Nurses packed the Common Council Chamber and had rallied outside City Hall before the meeting.
"Most of our work days start before we clock in and end long after we clock out," said nurse Amy Piniewski. "Just this morning, I had a student have a seizure as soon as I walked in the door. At the same time, I had one of my diabetics' glucose was low. I was able to treat them both safely and fast. After, they were both able to return to class. After I clocked out today, I had a student run up to me who had a big laceration which required stitches."
The nurses said they bring years of experience in caring for children, getting to know them and their families and attending sporting events to cheer on their school. Oishei Children's Hospital President Allegra Jaros said the pairing of her hospital with the nurses is a better deal.
"The value proposition around our proposal is much more than staff," Jaros said. "These specialty nurses with their training expertise are backed by collaboration and knowledge of the Oishei Children's Hospital physicians, programs and staff. This robust knowledge and expertise simply cannot be replaced."
Kaleida spokesman Mike Hughes said the nurses will still have jobs.
"Every single staff member that you saw speak tonight, every single school nurse staff is guaranteed a job from the Kaleida health system," Hughes said. "Our goal is to protect the nurses, unlike what happened tonight."