By Terry Dean
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.