School board pursues partnership

Shane Sellers

Agreement would split duties of athletic trainer between hospital and schools

Shane Sellers

NLJ Reporter


In separate moves taken eight days apart, Weston County Health Services and Weston County School District #1 closed in on a partnering agreement to hire an athletic trainer to split duties between WCHS facilities and Newcastle schools through the end of the hospital’s current fiscal year.  

The school board went first on Sept. 12, voting to earmark $20,000 to $30,000 to satisfy the district’s portion of the trainer’s salary. The school trustees made the move to enhance health and safety services provided to students engaged in co-curricular activities and physical education classes. The hospital board followed with a limited-scope hiring authorization on Sept. 20.  

According to district superintendent Brad LaCroix, the hospital and the school district have been exploring feasibilities of the joint-hire agreement “for several months.” 

The practice of engaging a trainer is not new to the school district.  

“North Platte (Physical Therapy) did it for a while, then last year we had to hire an individual contractor,” said LaCroix, adding that the district was looking for an enhanced servicing capability in its next athletic trainer.  

“We like the joint venue (partnering with WCHS) because of the resources available,” LaCroix explained. “Most trainers are aligned with clinics or hospitals,” he reported, emphasizing the importance of having a trainer who can deliver immediate, quality injury care when students need it.   

From the hospital’s standpoint, hiring an athletic trainer was not anticipated, and no provision was made for it in the current budget. Accordingly, hospital CEO Maureen Cadwell and the WCHS Board of Trustees approached the opportunity with guarded optimism.  

Weighing growth opportunities — an athletic trainer on staff could expand therapy services and increase hospital revenues — against fiscal restraint, the board voted Thursday to authorize the temporary hire of an athletic trainer, then decide during the budgeting process if the position would be made permanent in the next fiscal year.  

The hospital board’s decision appeared influenced by the financial report CEO Maureen Cadwell delivered earlier in the evening. According to Cadwell, hospital services are trending upwards, in fact exceeding budget projections in some categories. However, Accounts Receivable are down, and the current financial report showed a $776,000 negative cash flow.  

Cadwell put the cash shortage somewhat in perspective, explaining that monies spent retired some bills, purchased equipment, and covered staff training costs. Though Cadwell expressed confidence that AR would improve, she recommended the board be prepared to cash a $517,000 certificate of deposit to maintain the hospital’s cash on hand. The board unanimously authorized that the CD may be cashed if needed.

Faced with having to cash in one of four half-million-dollar CDs to remain solvent, the WCHS board was skittish. Dialogue surrounding the hire of an athletic trainer focused on finding the balance between delivering service, leveraging opportunity, and paying the bills. The word most often heard during discussion was, “money maker.”  

Trustee Georgenna Materi captured the mood of the room when she remarked ahead of the vote, “Having an athletic trainer is one of the many services we just need to offer, but where do we draw the line?”  

Ultimately, the hospital board was reluctant to take on more salary in the face of thin revenue projections. Against $70,000 in salary and benefits, CEO Cadwell estimated the new position might bring the hospital only $57,000 in new earnings, a margin too narrow to convince trustees to add a full-time trainer to the hospital staff.  

It is unclear how the hospital board’s wait and see approach will impact the partnering arrangement between the hospital and the Newcastle school district. Both sides have reported that a qualified athletic trainer has been identified. Concern was very real — at least from the hospital board — that the candidate might refuse a temporary assignment, leaving the hospital and the school district unsupported in the short-term, and perhaps for a long time into the future.  

While it appears that neither the WCHS or WCSD boards have interest in registering a lost opportunity, and while both entities appear to be working faithfully to bring an athletic trainer to Weston County, the immediate alarm is critical for the school district.  

Superintendent Brad LaCroix reported that, absent an athletic trainer the district is vulnerable to compliance and liability issues. Additionally, school board trustees were determined that all student activities become safer, not just athletics. Specifically, the board seeks a trainer to provide both injury and non-injury services, especially conditioning, impact training and injury prevention services.  


In reply, LaCroix echoed that the district is most likely to find a trainer by teaming with Weston County Health Services. Pointing to research conducted in support of the partnering agreement, LaCroix said, “Not many trainers are eager to work for a school only.”



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