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Both Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools will have certified athletic trainers available for all sports during the upcoming school year.

The Petaluma City Schools Board last week unanimously approved paid positions at both high schools. The certified trainers at each high school will receive a stipend of $15,000 per year.

In reality, the change is only at Petaluma High School. Heather Campbell, who teaches athletic trainer classes at Casa Grande, has been providing the service at the east-side school for almost 20 years. It has been a largely volunteer effort on Campbell's part, although she has received a small stipend as a "coach" for some of the teams.

"I'm excited," Campbell said. "It is what I've been working for. It validates all the work I've been doing and all the hours I've been away from my family.

"It means that athletes at both schools will have the protection they deserve. It makes me feel good that I've helped create it."

Ann Reed, a parent of two Petaluma students, was the driving force behind bringing the issue to the school board and getting the program formalized at both high schools. She said she became concerned and then motivated when her son accidentally caused a Petaluma High School teammate to suffer a concussion during a football practice session. She had already arranged with Campbell to have a baseline test of her equestrian daughter.

The baseline testing, a procedure pioneered by Campbell in Petaluma, cognitive profile that allows medical professionals to assess possible concussions and other brain injuries. It is an important component of the new school district program.

The Santa Rosa School District earlier this year approved a similar program, and Reed said Petaluma based much of its program on the Santa Rosa model. "Santa Rosa officials were very kind and helpful," she said. "They had already invented the wheel.

Petaluma City Schools Superintendent Steve Bolman said student athletes' well being was the primary concern for the school district. "We're looking at it as a student safety issue," he said. "We have a significant number of students who will benefit from this program."

A big advantage to the program is that the trainer will be available not just for games, but also for practices.

Reed said that, for her, there were two big benefits to the program. One is the protection it provides the students. The other is the way parents from both high schools rallied to back the plan.

"Watching the community come together to support this was one of the most beautiful things I could imagine," she said.

Among other qualifications, the position requires it to be filled by a certified athletic trainer.

Campbell will almost certainly fill the position at Casa Grande, making official what she has been doing for the last several years. For the position at Petaluma High, the district is looking toward the master's program at Sonoma State University for candidates.

"We would like to fill the spot immediately," said Reed. "We want someone in the position so we can get started on the baseline testing as soon as possible."

"It's huge," said Campbell about having trainers available for practice. "About 70 percent of the injuries I deal with in football happen during practice. Now the injuries can be treated immediately."

Campbell said she is available to help Petaluma set up its program, especially the baseline testing, but said whoever has the Petaluma position needs to make sure it is appropriate for that school.

"They need to run it (the program) in a way that works for them," Campbell said.