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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS)

The results of contract approvals by Jefferson City Public Schools' Board of Education on Monday night include a new partnership with MERS Missouri Goodwill, and that JCPS' middle and high school students will have their portraits taken by a different photography studio in the coming school year.

The memorandum of understanding that the board approved between JCPS and MERS Missouri Goodwill is about Project SEARCH.

Project SEARCH is a program designed to help young people with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities to gain competitive employment, usually young people in their last year of high school and who are on an Individual Education Program.

The program considers the people it serves to have gained competitive employment if they find a job that has co-workers with and without disabilities; is a year-round, non-seasonal job; is 16 hours or more a week; and pays a prevailing wage, according to Project SEARCH's website.

Missouri has several Project SEARCH program sites, but the closest one after Jefferson City's is in Sedalia, according to Project SEARCH's online listings.

Lincoln University had been the local host for the program, and JCPS' chief financial and operating officer Jason Hoffman did not immediately know what the reason was for the switch to MERS Missouri Goodwill — he was presenting contracts to the board in place of Bridget Frank, JCPS' director of special services.

The partnership with LU was in its third year in the 2016-17 school year, when the News Tribune spoke with a student in Project SEARCH.

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As part of the new Project SEARCH agreement with MERS Missouri Goodwill, JCPS will compensate Goodwill for the work of a skills trainer employee, at a rate of $13-$20 an hour. The rate for the coming 2019-20 school year will be $14 an hour — an annual wage of $16,835 — and the agreement may be renewed annually with mutual written consent.

JCPS will also provide a flat annual fee of $2,392 to help cover administrative costs.

MERS Missouri Goodwill will provide liability insurance for the skills trainer, and keep written documentation of time spent on activities in support of Project SEARCH that will then be invoiced to JCPS at the beginning of each month.

Hoffman said four JCPS students will use the Project SEARCH program in the coming school year.

All students at JCPS' middle and high school buildings will have their portraits taken for the next four years by Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co., of Sedalia, after the school board approved a portrait booking agreement with that company Monday night.

JCPS' director of secondary education Gary Verslues said the previous four-year agreement on middle and high school students' portraits with Wagner Portrait Group, of St. Louis, ended in June — though he added Thomas Jefferson Middle School's students were already having their portraits taken by Inter-State, as were elementary students.

Verslues said the contract for the other schools was put out to bid, and the approval of the portrait booking agreement with Inter-State on Monday means that JCPS will utilize that company for its students' portraits from kindergarten through graduation from high school.

The high school buildings included in addition to Jefferson City High School are Capital City High School, Nichols Career Center and Jefferson City Academic Center, along with special events such as prom, graduation and yearbooks.

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