District 200 to decide on retaining OPRF athletic trainers

School wants to contract with new company, but coaches, parents say no

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The District 200 Board of Education will decide the fate of Oak Park and River Forest High School's two athletic trainers on April 25.

Based on opinions expressed by some board members, and support from coaches and parents, retaining those trainers looks like a strong possibility.

Dave Heidloff and Shannon Wyatt have been with the school for about seven years, contracted through Oak Brook-based Athletico. They work primarily with student athletes who are injured during games, and assist coaches in deciding when athletes should return after an injury.

But OPRF's administration has recommended switching to another physical therapy company, NovaCare Rehabilitation. Athletico's three-year contract ends on June 16.

Both companies have submitted bids to OPRF, with NovaCare coming in the lowest. The matter came up for discussion at the board's April 16 finance committee meeting. More than a dozen people, including OPRF coaches and parents of student athletes, came out in support of Heidloff and Wyatt. Every person who spoke during public comments praised the two trainers for their work but more so for their relationship with the students and families.

Head football coach John Hoerster, head baseball coach Chris Ledbetter, and Mike Powell, the school's wrestling coach all urged the board to retain the two trainers. They stressed that the determining factor in the board's decision shouldn't be money but the safety of students.

The high school wants to sign a new three-year deal with either company. Athletico and NovaCare both submitted initial and revised bids to the school. Athletico's current contract totals roughly $196,000, or about $65,000 per year, an amount that includes the salary for both trainers.

NovaCare, which is based in Pennsylvania but provides services across the country, submitted a bid totaling about $126,000, or roughly $42,000 per year. The high school allowed Athletico to adjust its bid, which later came in at $50,000 per year. NovaCare was allowed to do the same, theirs coming back at $38,000 per year.

The disparities in the bids raised eyebrows among some board members. Dietra Millard asked Athletico's Jason Bannack, who was in attendance, if OPRF was overpaying for services provided by the company all these years. Bannack, the company's director of athletic training services, responded that OPRF had actually received a discount and that such services run closer to $100,000 annually. But Athletico, he said, has been willing to take the financial hit because it values its working relationship with the school.

Despite her inquiry, Millard expressed support for retaining Athletico. Board members John Phelan, Terry Finnegan and Amy McCormack agreed.

The board does not take action at committee meetings but at their regularly monthly meeting. The vote on Athletico or NovaCare is set for Thursday.

Reader Comments

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Bum Shoulder from Chicago  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 1:43 PM

Can't always look at the price of the contract. Need to look at the value you get out of the product. You aren't building a shed, you are making sure the kids are properly cared for


Posted: April 25th, 2013 1:05 PM

Why doesn't OPRF just hire the trainers directly as OPRF staff rather than contract with a company like Athletico? As part of the bid do the athletes get other services or access to training facilities/equipment that they would not otherwise?

Ezra Israelsohn from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 12:47 AM

I spend a few years as a Student Sports Manager at the HS working with both Dave and Shannon, they're great at what they do and are well known and well loved by the schools athletes, coaches and parents. They're extremely hard working and have put in countless hours of work making sure our student athletes are healthy and happy when coming off a injury which with all the athletes we have isn't a easy task. Without a doubt that they should be brought back for years to come.

Bernard R. Bach, Jr, M.D from River forest   

Posted: April 24th, 2013 6:09 PM

As an Oak Park/River Forest resident since 1986' and having been the OPRF team physician for all but four years since 1988, I attended last week' s meeting. As director of the sport medicine division at Rush I have witnessed multiple athletic trainers at the school over two decades. Last week's meeting was attended by far more than 12 people! Shannon and Dave do an outstanding job and are trusted by students, parents, and coaches.

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