Agawam school nurses protest for better contracts - FOX Carolina 21

Agawam school nurses protest for better contracts

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Agawam school nurses have been working without a contract for nearly a year as they are currently in the middle of negotiations with the town.

On Tuesday night, they rallied together in protest outside the school committee meeting, asking town officials to meet their needs.

"We just feel like we're not being respected as professionals," said Sally Peiffer, a nurse at the junior high.

"As nurses, we deserve to be paid in a professional manner. We've got bachelors degrees. We're professionals," said Agawam School Nurse Leader, Mary Pasteris.

Pasteris has been a nurse for the Agawam Public Schools for nearly 20 years.

She said Agawam nurses are paid 13-29 percent less than all other school nurses in Hampden County, causing many of her staff to leave.

She also said the district is under-staffed when it comes to school nurses.

"Seven nurses have left to go to other districts that pay better," said Pasteris.

That leaves Agawam with only nine school nurses to provide health services for eight schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, plus the Early Childhood Center.

Forcing nurses to be bumped around from school to school.

"I know my students. They know me. When there's a different nurse in there everyday it's difficult for them," said Pasteris.  

Nurses said that is a safety hazard for everyone involved.

"We deal with kids that are mentally and physically disabled. I deal with kids who need Epi-pens for allergies. I have kids who have seizures. So it's serious business. We don't just give band aids out," said Peiffer.  

The contracts were not on the agenda for Tuesday's school committee meeting.

The nurses will go back into negotiation talks with officials on May 19.

In a statement issued to CBS 3, Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen said, "We have just started negotiations. I don't believe it is productive to negotiate in the press. I appreciate their concerns and hope that the negotiations will result in an agreement that is beneficial to both the town and the union."

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