Thursday, May 23, 2013

Success in sight for school-nurse advocates

A year ago, Teri Saurer went to a county budget hearing and made an impassioned pitch for more school nurses in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It went nowhere.

She's learned a lot since then.  After a year of lobbying, she was overjoyed to see that Interim County Manager Bobbie Shields is recommending that commissioners spend $1 million to add 11 school nurses  (see his budget proposal here).  Now she's trying to rally for a final push for approval at next week's budget hearing.

"Getting to the point we're at now to me is amazing,"  Saurer said this week.

Teri Saurer and her family
Saurer has two daughters at Ballantyne Elementary.  As I reported last fall,  she never thought about the presence or absence of a nurse until the younger girl,  who has severe food allergies,  started school.  That's when she found out Ballantyne,  like many other CMS schools,  has a nurse for only half the week.

Last May,  Saurer went to the county's 2012 budget hearing to talk about how a nurse's presence could be a matter of life and death.  She now realizes it was naive to think commissioners would hear her speech and make a last-minute addition.  The county manager had already winnowed the highest priorities into his proposal,  and commissioners were looking at cuts to some of those items.

So she geared up for 2013.  She worked with other parents of children with medical issues,  in Mecklenburg and Union counties,  to create N.C. Parents Advocating for School Health.  They connected with the School Nurses Association of North Carolina. They gathered statistics and personal stories to make their case,  developed contact lists of elected officials and got active in the 2012 county commissioners' campaign.

"It's become like a part-time job,"  said Saurer,  a working mom.  She also learned that it's tough to build a grassroots movement that spans 159 schools in CMS alone.  She feels sure that even after a year,  there are parents with similar concerns that she never connected with.

Shields'  recommendation won't get Saurer to her goal of a full-time nurse in every school.  She estimates that would take $2.4 million.  But it's a big step for one tight budget year.

Approval isn't guaranteed.  Shields' plan includes a tax hike,  which may not sit well with commissioners.  That's why Saurer is now urging anyone who wants more nurses to show up for the budget hearing at 6 p.m. May 30 at the Government Center,  600 E. Fourth St.  She already has speakers lined up;  she just wants a crowd wearing red and carrying signs,  which she'll have on hand.

"You can make a difference,"  Saurer said.  "You just have to be persistent. The minute you're not,  your issue's gone."


Anonymous said...

Teri should run for Mecklenburg office. She is smart and deliberate. No knee jerk vindictive behavior like that of Pat Cotham. We need more people like her in leadership roles, and fewer lifetime political party dictators like Cotham.

Anonymous said...

This woman makes too much sense to be in political office in Charlotte. You have to be half a idiot to be involved with city/county government. See our current staff and my point is validated.Good for her for taking a stand and making something positive happen.

Anonymous said...

"Shields' plan includes a tax hike".

Almost all plans require a tax hike nowadays.

Everyone can't have what they want. Something else will have to go.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Shields,Heath and a few of the others take a pay cut to make this happen?

Anonymous said...

It costs $1 million to put eleven nurses in schools? How much money are these nurses making?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, a nurse position includes a good deal of overhead - health office supplies, administrative costs, insurance, and emergency devices such as an AED. Batman can't save Gotham without his admin staff and equipment.

When you back out benefits, we're talking about $55K salaries, $15K benefits, $15K administrative, $3K insurance, and $2K supplies and materials. Just back of the envelope here.

That's a HUGE pay cut for an ER nurse, but then they don't get summers off.