Following recent approval for USD 373 to participate in Harvey County's Integrated Referral Intake System — aimed at connecting individuals and families with local resource agencies — district administration pushed for a pilot program with a similar resource, CarePortal, to be used at the Cooper Early Education Center this school year.

Brittany Denson, Parents as Teachers coordinator at Cooper, presented a proposal to the Newton Board of Education at its meeting Monday night asking for Cooper to be included as a requesting agency within CarePortal, noting it would be a complementary resource to IRIS while functioning a little differently.

IRIS works to connect individuals and families with local partner agencies that provide the services they need, while CarePortal taps into a system that relies on the support of area churches to address family needs through donations — with both building a support system that Denson sees as a great benefit.

"We know that children thrive in connected, supported families and we know that families thrive in connected, supported communities," Denson said. "This would allow us to connect the families that we work with someone in the community who is willing and wanting to assist."

As a grassroots system that relies on community outreach, CarePortal works through requesting agencies identifying needs of individuals or families, and making those known to partner agencies in the system, where contact would then be facilitated through organizations that reach out with an ability to help.

One example Denson used would be a family with twins who can't afford a double stroller. A request would then be made in CarePortal after consent is given by the family. No personal information is shared through the portal. If a partner agency can help, it would then reach out to Cooper to facilitate a donation through CarePortal.

Potential donations could range from exterminator services to bicycles to small furniture and more, as Denson stated there are a multitude of scenarios in which requests could be made.

Board member Carol Sue Stayrook Hobbs questioned how those donations would be facilitated and what role Cooper would take in that. Denson noted that involvement varies — as CarePortal is set up to make connections between people — but she foresees the school being an active part of the donation process.

"There are different ways of doing that," Denson said. "How we foresee it is being an active member in that exchange."

While there were concerns from the board about the separation of church and state — with CarePortal relying so heavily on local congregations — Denson noted the structure of the system should make that a moot point, with the board ultimately approving Cooper's application to be a requesting agency within CarePortal.

Given how the system is utilized at Cooper, USD 373 Superintendent Deb Hamm said there could be plans to expand this to other Newton schools as well.

"Our intent would be to monitor this carefully during the school year to see how it goes," Hamm said.

In other business, the Newton BOE:

Held a public hearing on the proposed 2019-2020 budget, with no comment from the public.
Heard from Brandon Weeks, vice president of the Newton Baseball Club, during a period of public comment, with Weeks asking the school board for support in efforts to expand field access — through the construction of more fields — in Newton.
Received a report from USD 373 school resource officers Jon Adkins, Gary Littlejohn and Brian Salmans on how they try to positively engage with the student body and the incidents they have responded to in the Newton schools over the past year.
Approved the consent agenda, including an athletic services agreement, Odysseyware licenses, disposal of instructional materials/textbooks and more.
Adopted the 2019-2020 budget as published, with a 2.44 mill decrease in the total mill levy.
Approved the 2019-2020 Santa Fe 5/6 Center staff handbooks.
Approved Resolution 2019-1 regarding a grant application for hazard mitigation plan funds available after local flooding from fall 2018. The current application requests $54,165 in assistance for work on storm shelters at Slate Creek Elementary and Walton Rural Life Center. There will be a second round of applications in October for funding following the more recent flooding from earlier this summer, which Hamm noted the district would also be applying for — seeking closer to the full estimated amount for storm shelter work included in the current bond project.
Approved a gift request of two sousaphone cases (valued at $1,401.72) to the Newton High School music department through DonorsChoose.
Approved the 2019-2020 negotiated agreement with the Newton Education Association.
Approved classified wages for the 2019-2020 school year, increasing the base rate for new maintenance hires from $12.92 to $14, adding $0.25 per hour to transportation employees that hold a CDL and drive a bus regularly, and increasing all classified employees' total hourly rate by four percent.
Approved changes to the salary index for classified directors and administration, including a 2.5 percent increase to the base rates for both.