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PADECKY: School board pays for what's right
Santa Rosa public high schools will have athletic trainers, baseline cognitive testing next year

A week ago Wednesday, the idle conversation and the wringing of hands stopped. The Santa Rosa City Schools board approved the hiring of athletic trainers for each of their five high schools and neurocognitive testing for every student-athlete who will play a collision sport beginning this fall. Brain trauma now would be getting the attention it deserves in high school athletics. It was a watershed moment in Empire youth sports.

“I teach a class (in athletic training),” said Monica Ohkubo, head athletic trainer at SRJC. “I told my kids they should come to this school board meeting. Afterwards one of them came up to me and said, 'I now will be able to tell my children that I was there the day when they made the decision.' Myself, it was hard not to tear up. Santa Rosa has made a statement. They now are ahead of the curve. This is a huge milestone.”

The milestone had a lot of moving parts to it. The most significant of which was cost. No one contested the value of concussion testing. No one had to be convinced of the worthiness of an athletic trainer on the sidelines. The school board vote to approve, after all, was 7-0. But how would this be funded? In a struggling economy, with the fat already trimmed from school budgets, would it take a financial Houdini performing a sleight-of-hand to make it happen? Would essential school services be eliminated?

Oh, and there was one other thing.

“I told everyone,” said Bill Carle, SRCS board president, “the budget was already in place. I wanted this to happen but we would have to find the money.”

Carle was loathe to do anymore trimming of the budget. The budget wasn't skin and bones but you could see the skeleton without much effort. People understood and sympathized with Carle's plight, yet his statement made people squirm. Money was always the first stop sign anyone threw up when the subject was introduced.

Into this dilemma enter the most unlikely of saviors, electricity and food.

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