Updated: USD 373 finds $1 million in unpaid insurance claims, 'Something was missed'

Chad Frey
The Kansan

It came as good news — more than $1.1 million in funds headed to Newton USD 373 from insurance companies from an insurance claim filed in 2016. 

USD 373

"That money is, of course, all earmarked," said David Decker, director of business services. "This is real damage that needs to be repaired. What we are happy about is this is something that will impact nearly all of our schools." 

The insurance claim had gone dormant, and the claim had gone uninvestigated. Earlier this school year Chris Schaeffer, Director of Facilities, brought the dormant claim to the attention of district administration — who reopened the claim. 

While the amount has not been finalized, the district is expecting more than a $1 million settlement. 

Buildings affected by the storm included Newton High School, Cooper Early Education Center, Chisholm Middle School, Northridge Elementary, Slate Creek Elementary, Santa Fe 5/6 Center and the Educational Technology Center. 

"That money will impact nearly all of our schools," said David Decker, director of business services. ".... We will want to touch those buildings to get them upgrades and the fixes that they need. That is going to be money, again, that will help our facilities and give us some breathing room in our capital outlay."

Current administration is not sure why the claim was not approved in 2016, or why the claim was not moved forward by the school district at that time. 

"I have done some checking and it is unclear to me hy the claim dating back to 2016 was not pursued," said Deb Hamm, former superintendent of schools for the district. "It is very unusual given all of the claims I know we did file." 

Hamm told the Kansan she has not "dug back into my archives" as she is traveling at this time. She also stated that the maintence director owuld have been in charge of working through the insurance process. 

"Obviously something was missed," Hamm said. "I am glad that the district is pursuing it now. Any dollars will be beneficial to the district."

Hamm and district administration did pursue a pair of bond issues — both of which would have renovated Newton High School and others — that failed, The most recent in 2019.  

"That is incredibly disappointing to hear," said board member Mallory Morton. "... This is a huge amount, prior to both bond issues we put out. What happened with it? Why did this go dormant? ... I am grateful this was discovered and handled appropriately this time. We need all that we can get at this time."