City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Kept in Committee
May 21, 2019 6:00 PM

Requesting approval of an Administrative Order providing for the appointment of school physicians and nurses by the School Committee.


Category:Mayor's RequestPurposes:Administrative Order


  1. 2018-Physicians-Nurses Appointment

Official Text

To the Honorable Board:


Section 37 of Chapter 400 of the Acts of 2012, allows the City of Somerville to pass, subject to approval of two-thirds of the Board of Aldermen, administrative orders that establish operating divisions for the orderly, efficient or convenient conduct of the business of the city. Administrative orders may provide for the combination, separation, creation or dissolution of departments, provided that all essential city functions are assigned to a department, board, commission or office.


The attached administrative order will provide benefits to the City of Somerville by assigning school nurses to the School Department and allowing the School Committee to appoint school nurses and thereafter assign them as needed. 


There are no additional costs associated with the approval of this order other than any future increases to the compensation of the employees.


My staff will be available to answer any questions you may have.


Respectfully submitted,

Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor

Meeting History

Apr 12, 2018 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
Apr 24, 2018 6:00 PM  Finance Committee Committee Meeting

Chairman White explained that a public hearing is necessary for this item. Mr. Wright gave a history of the city’s challenges in trying to attract school nurses and said that most of the communities examined (by the city) have the school nurses under their school departments. The intent is to move the school nurses control from the city to the school committee and to keep the terms of employment and salaries as they are now, however going forward they would bargain with the School Committee and not the city. There is a presumption that the SMEA could still bargain for the nurses. Chairman White said he, as the Chair of the committee has great discretion in authorizing public input during committee meetings and that this item was slated for a public hearing. However, in fairness he did invite a representative of the SMEA to speak. Mr. Halloran, President of the SMEA asked if their attorney, Mr. McDonald could speak. The Chair allowed Mr. McDonald to address the committee.Mr. McDonald told the committee that there was no notice from the city to the SMEA that it intended to seek the administrative order. . He feels that the City should have first notified the SMEA and engaged in impact bargaining. He also indicated that litigation could result without that impact bargaining. Mr. Wright was hesitant to have this discussion at an open meeting and respectfully deferred any questions at this time with respect to collective bargaining for discussion in executive session. Alderman Rossetti discussed that she would like to go into executive session to address the concerns. The Chair stated that there was a number of city staff present and it would be unfair to them to go into executive session and require them to wait. Therefore, the Chair said that the best approach would be to table this item and then take up voting on a motion to go into executive session at the end of the meeting. The Committee agreed. At the end of the Agenda, the Chair moved to go into executive session after first confirming with the City Solicitor that executive session was appropriate to discuss collective bargaining. The Committee voted unanimously to go into executive session. The Chair also stated that upon the conclusion of executive session, the committee would then meet in public. The Committee then reconvened in public and the Chair announced that no votes had been taken in committee. Chairman White announced that he will work with the City Clerk to schedule a public hearing on this item as a committee of the whole in May, 2018, so that all members of the Board can participate.

May 22, 2018 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee of the Whole

Each speaker was given five minutes. Eleven of the 13 school nurses were present at tonight’s public hearing and Ms. Maria Tully spoke on their behalf, reading a statement against realigning the School Nurse position as part of the Somerville Public Schools’ Student Services Department. Mr. Ed Halloran, President of the SMEA, stated that the nurses do not want to be transferred nor does SMEA want to transfer them. The city has allowed the nurses salaries to fall short of other communities. The committee was told that there are concerns from the nurses that have not been addressed by the city.

Mr. Kress said that the Personnel Department has been unable to fill nursing positions due to low wages. The city has been using temporary nursing staff and has been unable to gain enough support for the city’s needs. School nurses are usually organized under the school superintendent in other communities and employed according to the academic calendar year. Mr. Kress is in full support of shifting the nurses to the school system. The committee was informed that the Mayor has the administrative authority to make such transfers internally but would need the approval of eight aldermen. Mr. Kress considers the loss of so many school nurses to be a public health crisis. Five staff members have left the city employment to go to other schools. School nurses are more than just nurses to the students, they are trusted members of the community, and they identify barriers and challenges with students and develop strong family relationships. Ms. Cooper, Director of Personnel stated that the city recognizes and supports the nurses and said that a couple of proposals to increase their wages were submitted to them.

There were questions on whether the nurses would remain unionized even if they are reassigned under the School Department and how the salary would be brought up to the level to attract and maintain nurses. There was also a conversation about splitting the existing relationship of the nurses currently in Unit A and if it would be legal to split them from the existing bargaining unit. A document was distributed that compared the city’s nurses to those in other communities and the administration told the committee that they had not seen this document before and will need time to evaluate it before commenting on it. It was also stated that the nurses were transferred from Unit B to A, which is a smaller unit, back in 2013. The nurses work hours are school days 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

The committee inquired how the nurses would be supervised if they are transferred to the School Department and what would happen to Ms. Koty, who is their current supervisor? Ms. Tully responded by saying that the state mandates that the supervisor must be a nurse and someone with clinical background. The department head must be in a clinical position to evaluate the nurses. The nurses only recently found out about the possibility of moving to the school department and they have many questions about the move.

May 21, 2019 6:00 PM Video Finance Committee Committee Meeting

Ms. Connor will speak with the Chief of Staff to determine what is needed.