When I first met with you, I shared that DeKalb County needed change at the central office. The same people that brought us to the poor state of affairs in our schools, cannot get us out. In order for DeKalb to improve, for fractured relationships to heal, and for trust to return, I said that you should listen to the individual communities. I was hoping that you would end the tyranny of tone-deaf and short sighted decisions. I hoped that you would focus your attention on improving the educational lives of DeKalb’s children.
Your decision to rip trusted and loved clinicians and nurses from their school communities is sad and disappointing. Staff members are not widgets. They cannot be exchanged and moved as inputs on a production line. To try and do so, puts children at risk.
You have stated that this decision was based on a “review of the health programs throughout the district”. You further stated that you “determined that there were schools in which diabetic students are enrolled that do not have the support of a licensed nurse for monitoring and injections on a routine basis.” You said that, “The District’s long-standing practice has been for licensed nurses to care for our students with the most significant medical needs.” You communicated that this was a practice implemented in 2004.
Unfortunately, these statements are not consistent with the facts. The reason this disruptive action was taken was to satisfy a demand made by a well connected, former DeKalb County Schools administrator who has a grandchild that attends Bouie Elementary School. You have let the “friends and family” hegemony and callousness continue unabated in DeKalb. Once again, schools were turned upside down on a whim to meet the demands of a former powerful DeKalb administrator. In the process 10 schools – approximately 5000 children or 5% of all of DeKalb’s students– paid the price.
As you know, there is no board regulation, board policy or state law that can be used as a basis for what you allowed to happen. You have indicated that it was the “long-standing practice” of the district to address nursing assignments based on the location of diabetic children. As you have only just come to DeKalb, you must be relying on someone telling you that it is “practice.” I urge you to “trust but verify” any statement about “practice” given to you by a central office staff administrator. In fact, one of the specific issues that AdvancED/SACS cited as a reason that caused governance problems for over a decade was the use of “practice” versus policy. Practice is not policy. It is a term d’art of the administrators that has no legal meaning. It got DeKalb Schools in hot water in the past.
If you are interested in just how troubling the “practice” argument is, you can watch this video link (around the 23 minute mark) where Dr. Mark Elgart of AdvancED discusses the problem of “practice” as it was used in DeKalb. Boards and administrations using “practice” rather than approved policy was a reason DeKalb schools was placed on probation. So, when one of your administrators tells you about “practice”, please understand they may be leading you down a dangerous path.
If, in fact, it was a “long-standing practice” of the district (you indicated since 2004) to move nurses around based on the location of diabetic children, the Kittredge nurse would have been moved long ago. The facts don’t match the rhetoric.
The outcome of this ill-advised move is that Vanderlyn lost an RN because she only wanted to work at the location where her own children were in attendance. She was specifically recruited to do so. She has left the district entirely. A beloved veteran clinician was ripped from Kittredge and will now be at Vanderlyn. What if a child at Vanderlyn is diagnosed with diabetes tomorrow, or next month? Now, Kittredge is left without any nurse or clinician. The diabetic child who had been cared for by the clinician who is now at Vanderlyn, now has no one. In fact, the entire school is now without clinic staff.
The fact that Kittredge is without any clinician, and has a child with diabetes, puts that school out of compliance with state law and DeKalb Board policy.
Huntley Hills Elementary School’s nurse was reassigned to Oakcliff and a replacement has not shown up. Bouie Elementary School has lost a trusted clinician and veteran staff member. Again, what is the reshuffle plan if more children with diabetes show up at other schools? It appears that the outcome of this move is to leave the district as a whole with fewer clinicians and RNs and place more children at risk, thus increasing potential liabilities for the school district; all to please a former administrator who is responsible in part for the poor record of achievement and management in the district. It is a double insult.
Children in DeKalb would be so much better off if administrators would focus on improving education at the many failing schools in our district.
Dr. Green, I don’t blame you at this point for the errors in information that your staff are providing to you and others. Please review this matter in further detail. You have the opportunity to heal this community. Every parent that has contacted my Commission office absolutely wants the district to be in compliance with law and policy. They simply do not want these arbitrary, ill-advised, unsafe, and punitive changes to stand. You have the opportunity to build goodwill and admiration in communities throughout DeKalb. I am optimistic that you will chose that path.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this issue or any other matter. You may contact me directly at (678.360.1148).
Commissioner, District 1
The affected schools are: Bouie, Fairington, Kittredge, Vanderlyn, Oakcliff, Huntley Hills, Columbia, Oakview, Briarlake, and Hawthorne.
I understood a very important message in this letter: We have a new leader in DeKalb County’s school system and the only way escape our sad, recent history is for our new leader to lead and sever ties with those who jeopardized our youth’s future, no matter their title or expertise. They are the past.
This is an important issue. But please, I ask that you clarify that these are children with Type 1 Diabetes (NOT “diabetic children”), Type 1 Diabetes is NOT type 2 diabetes which is often caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, without which you will die – it can strike otherwise healthy children with little warning -my son was diagnosed at the age of 15. There are 4,000 children and adults in Atlanta with Type 1 Diabetes and over 1 million in the US. Children with Type 1 Diabetes must check their blood sugar levels (by poking their finger, producing blood and applying it to a meter) several times per day, they must also inject insulin after meals and snacks, either by insulin pen, syringe or meter. My son at 15 does this on his own however young school children with Type 1 Diabetes need the support and guidance of a nurse OR another adult that has been trained to understand the process.
Nancy, once again, thank you for your thorough research and communication. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this even though you’re not on the school board.
Hi Kim! I certainly understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes having had relatives with both types. I have also been the caregiver who learned how to monitor blood sugar levels, calculate the correct doses of short and long acting insulin medications, and perform the injections. What my blog is about is that the school district HAD professionals who were trained and experienced in the proper care for diabetes and chose to upset over 6000 students because of a demand from a former administrator. All state laws were being followed; as was board policy. Since the school district jumped to meet the demand of ONE former administrator, DeKalb now has fewer RNs and clinicians in the system. DeKalb is now OUT OF COMPLIANCE with state law in at least one school regarding this issue because of this ridiculous maneuver. Children with a multitude of medical issues, including diabetes, are now less safe and cared for than before. Every child in 10 schools lost something because of this. ONE administrator got her way and made all schools and children worse off.
Message From Vanderlyn Principal:
Effective Friday, October 9, 2015, our school nurse officially resigned from the DCSD. The district has passed a mandate to reassign licensed nurses to schools with diabetic students. Unfortunately, Vanderlyn is one of several schools that have an RN but no diabetic students. While we are deeply saddened by the loss, we will receive a qualified replacement from Kittredge, Ms. Sumati Jayaraman.
Message From Bouie Elementary Principal
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that [our Clinician] has been reassigned to another DeKalb school, effective, Monday October 5, 2015. [Our Clinician] had a profound impact on the lives of many of our students and staff. Her diligence, dedication and sensitivity has helped countless students through difficult periods in their lives. [Our Clinician] has worked tirelessly to support ALL students. She was often found working after school and on weekends with students in our BETA club, safety patrols, Sisters of the Circle, and never hesitated to help out with other organizations.
What about the practice of assigning the nurse from one school to spend part of a day at a school with a child who has diabetes, just long enough for a quick blood check and an insulin shot as needed? Why isn’t that school given its own nurse so that child will have help as needed for highs and lows during the day? To “share” a health care professional between schools leaves both buildings with vulnerable children during the day.