AP NEWS

Laid-off nurse wants answers

May 18, 2019

KANKAKEE — The Kankakee School District has yet to provide many details on a planned “restructuring” of its two school clinics, prompting at least one employee to seek answers.

At this week’s school board meeting, Kathleen Ahrens, a registered nurse in the clinics, asked why the school district wanted an overhaul.

She, along with other clinic employees, will be laid off June 30, but officials say they are welcome to reapply.

During the public input portion at Monday’s meeting, Ahrens said the clinics, which are in the high school and junior high, have never had an issue with the state government and have always followed state guidelines.

“If the administration has been unhappy with our performance or something else, then why were we not approached?” she said. “For example, if a teacher has done something wrong, then they are sat down and a discussion takes place. If this was the case, I think this situation could have been averted if some type of communication was attempted.”

Ahrens asked the board when the clinics would return to operation under the restructuring and when the jobs would be posted.

“As of last week, there still had not been anyone hired to oversee the new restructuring,” she said.

The clinics have four employees and six contractors, including the medical director, according to the district.

The school board did not comment on Ahrens’ statement during its session; board policy forbids members from responding to public input at meetings.

In response to Daily Journal questions, the district said Tuesday it had hired Amy LaFine, former chief executive of Amita Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, to oversee the restructuring of the school-based clinics.

LaFine will serve in a “limited role,” working no more than 500 hours, district spokesman Bill Yohnka said in an email. The district will fill positions, he said, but isn’t sure how many.

“This will be part of what Amy LaFine will be working with us on,” he said.

In a statement, Superintendent Genevra Walters said the district’s goal was to restructure the clinics to “fully utilize the resources and partnerships in our community and beyond to better serve our students and families.”

“We are proud of the work our health clinics have done over the years, and we believe the addition of Amy LaFine will help to take these services to a new level,” she said.

The local district was one of five original recipients of state school-based health center grants. Services began at the junior high in 1987 and the high school in 1992, according to the district.

The clinics offer physical exams, vaccinations, sexually transmitted infection screenings and treatments, mental health services, dental care and treatment of injuries, among other things.

In an interview, Ahrens said she spoke to the board because she wanted its members to know what the clinics do.

“I don’t think they’re familiar with us, the services we offer or how long we have been here,” she said.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.