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Detroit Lakes school board stays the course with new athletic training contract

DETROIT LAKES - MeritCare will once again be providing athletic training services to Detroit Lakes High School after the school board approved continuing the existing relationship at Monday night's meeting.

Only half of the board members approved the measure -- by a 3-0 vote -- due to two board members abstaining because of their employment with the parties involved with the proposed contracts and also because of the absence of board chairman Tom Klyve.

After backing out of the arrangement due to budget cuts, MeritCare reversed course and submitted a new proposal to the district after school board member and MeritCare physician Tom Seaworth lobbied his employer to continue the existing relationship with the school.

"With budget cuts that were made in Fargo without our knowledge, we've been scrambling since then to reinstate this position in Detroit Lakes," Seaworth said.

What swung the board to approve MeritCare was the desire to keep an existing relationship in place.

"I'm very honored that St. Mary's stepped up to the plate and said they would provide this service in a time in which we didn't know if we would have it," said board member LuAnn Porter. "Having said that, I want to say that MeritCare, and especially Tom Seaworth, has provided outstanding coverage for that. He (Seaworth) has fought for this long and hard."

Board clerk Terri Boyd said that she voted for MeritCare because she knew what it could do for student athletes.

"We have a known commodity," she said.

Besides MeritCare, St. Mary's Innovis offered up a proposal that was presented by CEO Tom Thompson.

Thompson said that one of the strengths that his company brought was having an orthopedic clinic right in Detroit Lakes if a serious injury occurred.

"We do have local orthopedic capabilities available to us if, heaven forbid, if we needed to go to the scope of someone needing surgery because of an athletic injury," Thompson said.

He added that because of St. Mary's new affiliation with Innovis in Fargo, additional sports medicine consultation would be available.

St Mary's Innovis' proposal was also longer in nature. The company proposed an initial three-year term, with Thompson seeing further cooperation between the school and the company.

MeritCare's contract is for the 2008-09 school year, with either party having the ability to opt out in 90 days as the contract is currently written. An additional clause allows MeritCare to quit the contract with 30 days written notice.

Both companies proposed offering its services at no charge -- with the only caveat being the school district providing space and purchasing needed first aid supplies.

Despite not approving the St. Mary's Innovis offer, Porter said that having two health care organizations in town willing to provide their services for free is something that a lot of rural cities in Minnesota do not have.

"You really did see the need and step forward," Porter said. "We are so lucky to have you in Detroit Lakes, along with MeritCare. I don't think there are many communities that have this kind of problem."

In addition to the athletic training issue, the board also extended superintendent Doug Froke's contract for an additional three years to last through the 2011-12 school year.

The board offered a positive evaluation of Froke after a closed session of its meeting on Sept. 2.

Froke also provided an additional report on enrollment. He said that he wants to talk with the various principals in the district and is waiting for attendance numbers to stabilize before recommending action with class size issues.

The board also approved a new video board that will be operated by the Detroit Lakes Booster Club.

Two 8-by-11-foot screens will be installed in the high school gym at a cost of $11,000. The boards will display photos of players during sporting events and special events such as graduation.

The booster club plans on paying for the cost of the video boards by selling advertising, which the district will have final control over what content is displayed.