To help attract nurses to the district, Carson City school officials have dropped education requirements for new hires from a four-year degree to a two-year registered nurse degree.
School board members on Tuesday night approved a new two-year contract with its 10 nurses. The contract is retroactive to July 1 and continues through June 30, 2007.
Of the two nurse positions filled this summer by the school district, one was taken by a four-year degree nurse, the other by an RN a few credits short of a full degree. The starting RN salary is $26,904.
Debbie Benson, head of the nurse's union and a nurse at Carson High School, said the change does not diminish the quality of care for students.
"They are registered nurses," she said. "Just the associate degree has a little less education to it than a bachelor's degree."
There is still one open nurse position at Eagle Valley Middle School. Benson said she'd like to have more substitute nurses available and said the district is hiring for those positions too.
"With Western Nevada Community College here, there is a larger pool of associate-degree nurses," Benson said. "At least it's a door open, and they can get their bachelor's degree if they want."
Although she said the district and the nurse's union came to an amicable agreement for the new two-year contract, she is working toward having nurses with bachelor's degrees make the same starting pay as teacher's with bachelor's degrees in the district. There is a $1,337 difference.
"We've always tried to get on the teacher's pay scale and that's something we've been working toward and have not been successful at this point," she said. "We did bring it up. It was something that was not agreed upon."
A teacher new to the Carson City School District with a bachelor's degree and no previous experience makes $28,241. A nurse new to the district with a bachelor's degree and no previous experience makes $26,904.
Benson said Carson City School District nurses with bachelor's degrees are among the few in the 17 school districts in the state who do not make equitable pay as teachers.
Douglas County School District revealed nurses and teachers are on different schedules and paid differently, but in the Washoe County School District new nurses and teachers are on the same schedule. Both start at $27,976.
According to Richard Stokes, associate superintendent of human resources for the Carson City School District, the district pays the two groups on separate schedules because their responsibilities are different. Nurses deal with immediate problems, while teachers must prepare, teach, follow up and participate in other activities.
He said negotiations were particularly smooth this year and hopes they will continue. The new contract gives the nurses a 2 percent raise in the 2005-06 school year and a 4 percent raise in the 2006-07 year.
The contract also allows nurses to be paid for personal days if they leave the district voluntarily.