Partnership Raises Concerns

March 3, 2017

The Douglas County School District in Colorado will enter into a sports medicine partnership with local Panorama Orthopedics. This will result in the former's athletic trainers becoming employees for the latter.

According to the Castle Rock News-Press, Douglas County's school board approved the partnership when it met on January 17. The district currently employs nine athletic trainers, at a cost of $560,000. Panorama will hire all nine and allow them to work at their current school with their existing salary. The partnership with Panorama will cost the district $450,000, saving $110,000. While the new contract has not been finalized, it is planned to begin on July 1.

News of the partnership has received mixed reviews from Douglas County’s existing athletic trainers. Chris Mathewson, MS, ATC, CSCS, Head Athletic Trainer for Ponderosa High School in Parker, Colo., represented the district's athletic trainers in negotiations and said some are having a difficult time accepting the change.

“We, as a group, have been doing some really good work,” he said. “We do a good job. We cover a lot of things. Take care of the kids … and they’re blowing up the program. It hard to wrap your head around.”

Some of Douglas County’s athletic trainers also serve as teachers. The partnership calls for them to teach during the day and then work as Panorama employees while providing sports medicine care after school.

But this proposed model concerns Mathewson. He says that because the district rules prohibit teachers from working other jobs while employed by the district, this could potentially prevent the athletic trainers from treating student-athletes during the school day.

“We’ve had some pretty significant concerns from the start about what this would do to the safety of their teaching positions,” Mathewson said. “We have been told many, many times that teachers cannot double dip.”

However, Derek Chaney, Douglas County Director of Athletics, Activities, and Alternative Education, says the administration is working to address the matter of athletic trainers treating athletes during the day.

“We want to continue to support our athletic trainers in that because it’s good for our student-athletes and good for them,” he said. “We just need to make sure it says that in the contract.”

Another concern raised by Mathewson deals with athletic trainers’ benefits. Switching over to Panorama would potentially impact their retirement savings.

“I have 18 years in PERA, and now that I don’t teach, my PERA is gone,” Mathewson said. “Panorama is offering a 401(k) and things like that, but 18 years in PERA, you don’t get much. So that hurts.”

Nothing is set in stone, countered Chaney, who insists the impact to the district as a result of the partnership should be minimal. He explained that because Panorama has worked with other school districts in the past, he was confident that they would be able to address any issues that might arise.

“I think it will be a good partnership at the end of the day, but change always causes a little angst,” he said.

In the meantime, Chaney has been busy meeting with athletic trainers to get their input and says they will be involved in finalizing the contract. For Mathewson, this is encouraging.

“No one knows our job like us,” Mathewson said. “My hope is that we’re included in the process.”

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