San Dieguito approves expanded high school athletic trainer contract


San Dieguito Union High School District board voted 3-2 to increase the level of certified athletic trainer services at its four high schools. The board extended its contract with Rehab United Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy through 2018, increasing the level of service and the contract amount from $126,152 to $165,000 a year. For the first time since 2009, the district will be paying for these services out of the general fund rather than asking for donations to support the program from the high school foundations.

Trustees Mo Muir and John Salazar voted against the Rehab United contract.

Eric Dill, associate superintendent of business services, said that the agreement has expanded in scope to cover the growth of the athletic program (22 sports in total), additional hours, added a fifth trainer to cover absences or gaps in coverage, and to provide additional support such as strength and conditioning and nutrition should the teams request it.

Superintendent Rick Schmitt said asking for foundations to support the program began during the economic downturn. The district asked for $100,000 from the four foundations to be able to keep it.

“They stepped up, but it was never a forever strategy,” Schmitt said.

Dill said upon looking at the service last year, the district decided that it was time to assume the contract fully. The money is in the budget, and they have rebuilt the district’s reserves to be able to restore athletic directors as a district expense.

The board heard public comment from Paul Gaspar, a board member of the San Dieguito Sports Medicine Foundation, which held the athletic trainer contract with the district for more than a decade until a few years ago, when it was awarded to Rehab United.

“There were numerous problems over the last year with the new provider,” Gaspar said, referring to last fall when several parents expressed concerns that athletic trainers were contractually obligated to refer injured athletes to Rehab United.

“Those things I hope were written into the contract so this does not happen again,” Gaspar said.

Gaspar asserted that he was not making these comments because he wanted the contract over Rehab United. He said because of the way trainers were treated by the district and the district’s failure to make timely payments, he wouldn’t be interested in working with the district again.

As far as problems go, Dill said that the district does not feel anything remains as a serious concern. The referral issue was changed in the contract language — athletes are free to follow up with any care provider they choose.

Dill also apologized to Gaspar for the district’s previous payment problems. When he moved into the business services department, he learned that the district’s method had been waiting for donation money to come in to pay the contractor. He said they have since changed that practice.

Trustee Muir said she was upset that the district did not issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the contract, since it is such an important service for student-athletes.

“I think it would’ve been prudent to search and see if anybody else was interested in doing this,” agreed trustee John Salazar. “Especially for this amount of money.”

Dill said the district does not go out for RFPs every year on every contract it has. The district last issued an RFP for athletic trainer services in 2013, and the district received only one bid, from Rehab United. Before that, in 2008, the district received only three.

“There are not many providers that provide this service,” Dill said.