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Schachtner resigns health care provider position at SHS

Patty Schachtner, who has worked as Somerset High School’s health care provider since 2007, resigned her position to focus on her work as a medical examiner for St. Croix County. (Photo by Micheal Foley)

Patty Schachtner has been used to juggling two important jobs for the past seven years: part-time medical examiner for St. Croix County and Somerset High School’s health care provider. But back in October, she announced her decision to leave the school district and focus on her position as a medical examiner. Her resignation was effective Dec. 31.

“It was just getting too hard to do both,” Schachtner said. “When I got the position at the high school, I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate to be able to do both. And it was a good mix. But our volume has increased. At the end of last academic year, I noticed our call volume (at the ME’s office) was going up and it was troublesome for me to leave and everything.”

Schachtner, who has worked for the ME’s office since 2003, was hired as the district’s high school health care provider in November 2007. While the mix of both careers worked for years, this summer Schachtner contemplated a change.

That change was confirmed in October when there was a couple of times she was gone from the high school two or three times in a week. While the district has always been flexible with her ME schedule, she felt that, in a way, her having to leave sometimes during the day wasn’t fair to students and parents who expect a medical person to be on site at all times.

“People don’t call and make an appointment when they die, so I never knew when it was going to happen,” Schachtner said.

She‘s on call for the ME’s office 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and contracted for 20 hours of administrative work per week. But during the week while she was working at the high school, she wasn’t able to go to all of the autopsies. It was getting too complicated and she doesn’t like complicated, Schachtner said. She had to pick one.

“It was an interesting mix because I was able to bring my experiences from the ME’s office also to the district and my experiences from the school district to the ME’s office,” Schachtner said. “It was through the two that I started seeing a lot of problems with drugs and the easy access to drugs.”

Schachtner and her husband have six children, so they have seen their share of injuries, wisdom teeth surgeries and the like over the years, she said. They never gave their children narcotic pain killers, but stuck with Tylenol or Ibuprofen. She admitted to being shocked and confused by the number of parents who bring in medications such as Vicodin prescribed for their children.

“There is really no time that goes by that there isn’t some sort of narcotics in the high school health office for pain management,” Schachtner said.

She said she is frankly shocked by the nonchalant attitude toward narcotic pain killers and noted that if an adult suffering a work injury taking narcotics is not allowed to work, then how can parents and educators expect students to perform while taking them?

“What kind of message is that sending?” Schachtner said. “That’s where I started noticing … things are starting to connect the dots here.”

Parents don’t want their kids to suffer, so they buy into the painkillers to soothe their child’s discomfort, Schachtner said. But that can lead to problems down the road, whether it’s addiction or getting hooked on something else.

Running for school board

Schachtner has no plans to cut her ties with the district entirely. In fact, she is planning to run for Somerset School Board in the April election.

Both she and her husband, their parents and siblings all graduated from Somerset and are products of a good public education, Schachtner said. She also loves policy, is goal-oriented and a big believer of implementing a vision to get results.

“I love the community of Somerset,” Schachtner said. “I really do. I want what’s best for the community.”

Schachtner has had experience serving on a town board and has been involved in the community over the years. She hopes to help the district plan for responsible growth if elected.

“If we want our students to be competitive, we have to invest in them. It’s that simple,” Schachtner said.

Inspiring youth to stay here and work in St. Croix County instead of leaving the area after receiving their educations is key, Schachtner said. She noted that many residents of the towns surrounding Somerset may live here, but work across the border in Minnesota.

Schachtner credits her own career success to WITC, where she started in the EMS field and later earned a hands-on teaching certificate, among other credentials.

Her time in the schools

Besides missing her coworkers in the school district, Schachtner spoke fondly of a group of students she calls her “lunch crew,” an “eclectic” group of kids who came in to see her every day at lunch. She said they would discuss everything under the sun. For example, recently they all watched a YouTube video to teach themselves to whistle with their fingers.

“It’s those kinds of relationships that you develop with kids,” Schachtner said. “I will miss that because with the ME’s office, the relationships I develop are out of tragedy, and at school was always joy and happiness. So it was a good balance for me to do both.”

Schachtner is proud of her work with last year’s Running of the Spartans, a district-wide walk/run that was possible due to collaboration with the Lakeview Foundation’s PowerUp initiative. She said the run raised close to $20,000, which will be used throughout different district departments to raise mental health awareness.

Schachtner had an array of responsibilities as the high school’s health care provider, dealing with everything from concussions and after care, diabetics, accidents, asthma and everyday ailments, plus teenage pregnancy, self harm and STDs.

“Being a teenager nowadays is complicated,” Schachtner said. “There’s a lot of stuff and a lot of pressure. I think the teeanagers at the school knew they could come talk to me.”

District Superintendent Randy Rosburg said the Board of Education held a closed session meeting concerning the high school health care provider position on Monday, Dec. 22, and decided to hire Christine Leyden to take Schachtner’s place.

The board wanted to discuss the position and make sure its credentials, skill sets and criteria were up to date, Rosburg said.

“We’re going to miss Patty Schachtner,” Rosburg said. “She did a great job and we wish her well in her departure. She did great things for us. Christine Leyden will move the program forward and the great things put in place.”

Schachtner said it’s been great fun watching the district change over the years.

“I was there through two state championships, which was awesome. I was there to see the music department grow and flourish,” Schachtner said. “Some great things have come out of Somerset.”

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in February 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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