By Jody Lomeo
The recent controversy surrounding the Buffalo Public Schools’ nursing program became much larger than it needed to be.
As everyone knows, the district has significant academic and financial challenges. Unfortunately, our staff – experienced, unionized personnel – went from longtime partner and trusted care provider to a simple vendor and prime target for a budget cut.
While Kaleida Health fully acknowledges the mistake it made, the district refuses to recognize its numerous errors and its archaic handling of its own request for proposal.
Why the reluctance?
Remember, we submitted our electronic bid on time but the exact same hard copy version was inadvertently 16 minutes late. We still are wondering how, in today’s modern world, do we rely on hand delivery only for a multimillion dollar bid and not a more secure electronic version?
The district took four months before announcing our bid was “not accepted.” Yet during the recent School Board meeting, Superintendent Kriner Cash disclosed that Kaleida Health was “more expensive” than the winning bid. This happened despite his numerous assertions that cost was not the deciding factor on awarding the bid.
If the district didn’t accept and officially review our proposal, how can it publicly disclose we were a more expensive option? Those comments were glaring and require much more legal scrutiny.
To make matters worse, things got personal.
During that same meeting, the superintendent disparaged the nurses, calling the controversy “unethical” and saying our staff “used” school district children as they rallied to save their jobs.
An apology is in order. This is not who we are as a community. Remarks like that are unacceptable from anyone, let alone the leader of the Buffalo Public Schools.
The superintendent and School Board members did not anticipate nor appreciate the outpouring of support that was shown for our nurses. Parents, teachers, elected officials, organized labor and community leaders all rallied in defense of the caregivers who have spent the past 13 years diligently serving the city schools.
Let me be clear: Kaleida Health stands with our nurses, and all will have a safe landing within our organization. Questioning their passion and concern for the students that they have cared for is reprehensible; and we won’t stand for it.
We will put our nurses up against any staffing agency in the country. If we lose a bid fair and square, we can live with that. More importantly, we can always hold our head high knowing that our staff is leaving the schools much better than they found them.
While victorious in finding a cheaper alternative, the school district lost in the long run. It lost our nurses and it lost the support of many in the community. How unfortunate and how preventable.
Jody Lomeo is president and CEO of Kaleida Health.