After three different motions, the La Salle-Peru Township High School board on Wednesday voted 4-3 to split the three-year athletic training services contract between City Center Rehabilitation and Illinois Valley Community Hospital, both of Peru.
The cost to the district? Nothing.
Nonetheless, feelings were strong among the board members and the community members who came out for the special meeting.
Origin of the debate
According to a previous NewsTribune report, superintendent Steve Wrobleski and board members Peter Meier, Tony Sparks and Dennis O’Keefe discussed in a May 19 finance committee meeting the school’s choice of the two bidders for the contract.
After receiving bids from City Center — their provider of more than 20 years — as well as IVCH, the school received a second bid from City Center that matched IVCH’s bid: zero dollars. The committee on May 19 discussed the possibility that someone from City Center had knowledge of IVCH’s bid and used that knowledge to submit a revised bid.
The full board on May 21 held off from awarding the contract as it had planned to do, deciding instead to appoint a committee to thoroughly examine and interview both bidders.
The committee’s conclusion
Little mention of the backstory was made Wednesday, however, in the presence of representatives from City Center and IVCH, as well as students, parents and coaches.
Athletic director D’Wayne Bates presented the conclusions of the examining committee, which included himself, Wrobleski, board members O’Keefe and Rose Marie Lynch, two coaches, one assistant coach and two parents. No students were part of the committee.
Both bidders were “very athletically knowledgeable,” Bates said, adding that City Center was “focused on the well-being of students pertaining to athletic training.”
Bates then listed positive qualities of City Center, including clear communication, clear goals to decrease and prevent injuries, a commitment to operating within a budget and experience with L-P’s teams.
“We strongly feel that City Center not only provides what we need, but above,” Bates said on behalf of the committee. He then recommended the board award the contract to City Center.
A divided school board
Board member Alan Cherpeske suggested offering the contract to both bidders.
“(IVCH is) a partner in our community; they’ve done a lot for our school,” he said.
Board president Jim Quesse said a split contract would “cause quite a few more problems,” citing the “strong contingent of City Center supporters” in the L-P community.
Board member Cathy Renk was enthusiastic about the split-contract suggestion.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea, because when I cast my vote, I vote for what’s best for our students,” she said. “We allow the parents of these student athletes to decide where they want their students to go. I think it’s a win-win situation.”
Renk is employed as a physician assistant at IVCH.
Lynch agreed that both bidders were qualified, but said the committee’s consensus was in support of City Center.
“I’d be in favor of making some change if I saw a compelling reason to do it,” she said. “We have a machine that’s not broken.”
“If we award it to both, no one is losing,” Sparks said.
“(City Center has) provided good service, but can we not improve upon that?” asked Meier, who is employed as an orthopedic surgeon at IVCH.
“They do have some distinct philosophies that may contradict,” Bates said.
“The student athlete has a choice,” Meier said. “It’s really human nature to resist change.”
Quesse pointed out that IVCH also serves Illinois Valley Community College and Putnam County High School, whereas City Center would be completely devoted to L-P.
“If (the contract is) divided up between both of them, who’s going to do the lion’s share of the work?” he asked.
Lynch said she could not vote for a split contract proposal without seeing the details worked out.
“I just don’t know how this could work out between the two partners,” he said. “The logistics boggles my mind. I’m ready to vote and throw 100 percent of my support behind City Center.”
Third vote’s a charm?
Lynch made a motion to award the contract to City Center, and O’Keefe seconded it. They and Quesse voted yes, while Renk, Meier and Sparks voted no, and Cherpeske abstained.
Board Attorney Walter Zukowski said the abstention counted as a “no” vote. Quesse then made a motion to award the contract to IVCH, which he then promptly voted no to, as did everyone else except for Sparks.
In the end, Meier, Cherpeske, Renk and Sparks voted to award a shared contract to both bidders, and O’Keefe, Lynch and Quesse voted against it.
Where was the students’ say?
Incoming junior Kendra Yade, a swimmer and member of the Cavalettes cheer team, addressed the board after the vote was taken.
“Did you talk to the student athletes of L-P? I was not talked to,” she said, adding she was concerned about how so many trainers would fit into the training room, and how the students had relationships with City Center staff that were important to them.
“We made petitions; we were blatantly ignored,” she said.
Some of the board members commented that they were not aware of student petitions.
So how will this work?
Wrobleski said he, Bates and others will work together to clarify the details of the shared contract. He said IVCC has a similar shared contract for their athletic training services, which L-P would use as a model. He said having two service providers would allow for more coverage at games and practices.
The new contract must be approved before Aug. 1.
- In other news, the board approved the appointments of Russell Anderson as help desk technician, effective June 23 (replacing Sybil McGunnigal), and Emily Carney as division chair of student support services, effective 2014-2015 school year (replacing Maggie Alderman).
Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or email@example.com.