School Nurses Continue Fight for Equal Pay

(Wilmington Patch) An ongoing dispute between the Wilmington School Committee and the district’s registered nurses remains, with no immediate end yet in sight.

Nurses made their presence known outside of the high school before Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting as they held signs on Church Street.

Terri Furlong, a nurse at Wilmington Middle School, said that while school nurses must be licensed by the Department of Education like all educators in the system, they are not paid like those same educators.

“We feel that we’re invested in the children but we are not respected and the School Committee is not invested in us,” said Furlong. “In order to retain good, qualified nurses in the school system, they have to start paying us equal to other professionals.”

The nurses have been without a contract for about one year. Furlong said that about 70 percent of districts in the state pay their nurses on the same scale as other educators, while 30 percent opt for a pay scale similar to Wilmington’s.

Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton did not comment specifically on the negotiations, but said that a fact-finding session is slated for October 5 between the two sides.

“The fact-finder’s primary responsibility is to preside at a hearing and issue a written report with recommendations for resolving all issues in dispute,” said Benton.

When asked about the nurse dispute during the public comments section of Wednesday’s meeting, School Committee chairman Peggy Kane declined comment and said it is district policy to not discuss ongoing negotiations in public.

Woburn Street School nurse Lori Trites said she believes the majority of the town does not know that the town’s nurses are paid less than other educators, which is why they took to the streets to hold up signs and inform residents.

“Right now that is our goal, to educate the public to what is happening and what we’re fighting for,” said Trites. “The money is one thing. But we’re fighting for our professionalism at this point. We work in the town, work in the schools, and we value these children just as much as the School Committee hopefully does.”