State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans quietly dropped the secondary medical insurance policy that covered city students who sustained injuries while playing in the playground or while engaging in athletics.
Evans agreed to reinstate the insurance policy on Wednesday evening after school board members blasted him for dropping the insurance in June of this year. School board member Manny Martinez called the move “shameful.”
“The initial decision was for savings, since then I’ve gotten new information, that suggests it was a mistake,” said Evans. The district has been suffering from years of state flat funding that resulted in the layoff of more than 360 employees earlier in the year.
The district was paying $292,000 in 2014-15 school year for student medical insurance, said Lisa Pollak, the district’s attorney. She said this year increased premiums pushed that price to $364,000 for 2015-16.
“I think a mistake is an understatement,” said Martinez. “Trying to save money on the backs of the safety and wellbeing of our students is shameful.”
School board president Jonathan Hodges called the discontinuation of the coverage an “unfortunate decision” that resulted from the district’s dire financial straits.
“Bottom line is a lot of kids have insurance. In fact, you’re required to have insurance,” said Pollak. The insurance kicks in when an injured student’s primary insurance does not cover or is not sufficient to cover medical expenses.
Evans said he was told 17 students utilized the coverage last year. He was later informed 42 did in the last school year, said the superintendent.
Martinez and other school board members said they were unaware of Evan’s decision to discontinue the coverage at the end of last school year. Martinez said he found out about the matter when parents, who received letters about two weeks ago, contacted him.
“We were caught blindsided by this,” said Hodges.
“Decisions like this should be brought before the entire board,” said school board vice-president Kenneth Simmons.
Martinez, incensed at the discontinuation of coverage, said without coverage the district’s athletics programs will be adversely impacted. What parent in their right mind would want to have their children in an athletic field to run the risk of — God forbid — getting injured and cover medical expenses out of pocket, said Martinez.
“We’re not a wealthy town,” said Martinez.
Evans told board members the district intends to renew the insurance coverage. “The insurance is going to be reinstated as of tomorrow,” he said.