Rancho Pico nurse defended by students, avoids termination

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A number of students, parents and colleagues either spoke or attended on behalf of a school nurse whose job was at risk during Wednesday’s meeting of the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board.

They urged the board to allow Marlene Castellanos to continue in her role at Rancho Pico Junior High School.

“I think we would want to think about fully disclosing the reason why, but needless to say we did not feel any of the charges warranted a full dismissal from the district,” said Jessica Morrow, Castellanos’ labor relation representative through the California School Employees Association. “Clearly, she’s an asset to the community and the students and we did not feel a termination… there was no just cause.”

According to those with knowledge on the matter, rumors had been circulating that cause for disciplinary action to be taken against Castellanos stemmed from an “ongoing conflict” with a male colleague, but board members have said that is not the case in this instance.

“The reason she was brought in front of the board had nothing to do with any allegation of a confrontation between her and a person, but was an administrative issue,” said board member Linda Storli. Beyond that, Storli declined to comment further, citing it as a human resources issue.

Students and parents spoke on the school nurse’s behalf, saying they use her office as a daily refuge from the types of comments and bullying typically found on a junior high school campus.

“Kids on campus say racist things or homophobic things,” said Rancho Pico student Jake Fico. “It helps when you want to get (something) off (your) chest or escape it, and she’s there to always talk about it.”

“I never had that connection with her until about this year, until I had started taking medication and plus I started an IEP (individualized education program) class this year,” said Timothy Connolly, another student from Rancho Pico, whose older sister and mother both spoke on the nurse’s behalf, as well. “When my anxiety would kick in, Marlene’s office is a safe place.”

According to Morrow, a number of students had come out to show their support for the nurse and the board ultimately decided to not fire the Rancho Pico nurse.

“They’ve decided to suspend her for five days in lieu of termination, and we’re really appreciative of the board for listening to her, and they decided not to terminate her,“ Morrow said.

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