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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Newberry Elementary School’s future charter status in contention after close vote

Teachers voted 22-21 in charter school conversion

Newberry High School pictured on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Newberry High School pictured on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

UPDATE: The Alligator previously reported Newberry Elementary School passed a vote to convert to a charter school. As of Tuesday evening, the status of the vote remains in contention, and the Alachua County Public School district maintains it failed.

Proponents of the Yes Newberry initiative announced Newberry Elementary School may become a public charter school after a close vote; however, Alachua County Public Schools maintains the vote failed.

The Yes Newberry initiative hoped to convert three schools, including Newberry Elementary,  to charter schools. As a charter, the schools would no longer be a part of Alachua County Public Schools. 

The initiative seeks to address problems such as large class sizes and teacher pay through the guidance of community leaders in Newberry. 

Parents and teachers began casting their votes at each school April 5. The polls closed April 12, and by April 17 election results were announced. 

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton announced 23 Newberry Elementary teachers voted yes, 17 voted no and four abstained from the election. The abstentions were counted as no votes, and one yes vote was ineligible due to the use of a parent ballot instead of one designated for teachers. 

Barton announced the final result to be 22 in favor and 21 opposed. 

Following the decision, Yes Newberry wrote in a Facebook statement the final teacher vote is yet to be determined. 

“We are not prepared to concede the final outcome of the Elementary School and are evaluating the appropriate options for ensuring the election was conducted with integrity, that all teacher intentions were properly accounted for and that parents and teachers can have confidence in the final results,” the statement read. 

More than three weeks after teacher votes were counted, Newberry Elementary School was confirmed to meet the threshold for conversion by the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida Department of Education confirmed a state statute requires 50% of teachers to vote in favor of charter conversion. If the initiative reaches the required approval, an application can be submitted, wrote Florida Department of Education Senior Chancellor Adam Miller in an email to Yes Newberry leadership.

“If a conversion charter school application is submitted to either the Alachua County School Board or the Charter School Review Commission, and the application can successfully demonstrate that at least half of the teachers voted for the conversion, then the applicant has met that threshold requirement,” Miller wrote. 

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However, the statute still mandates a majority of parents vote in favor of conversion. Out of the 274 parent ballots cast for Newberry Elementary School, 149 indicated support, meeting the transition requirements. 

Yes Newberry will begin the charter application process, which will be submitted to the state’s Charter School Review Commission

“In the coming months we look forward to working along side all partners and the citizens of Newberry to bring to life the vision of a community based charter school,” Education First for Newberry (EFN), the not-for-profit sponsoring Yes Newberry, wrote in an email. 

However, ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said it hasn’t heard from the Florida Department of Education as of Tuesday afternoon. Additionally, EFN spokesperson Joel Searby regularly said the majority requirement to win an election was 50% plus one vote. 

Contact Megan Howard at mhoward@alligator.org. Follow her on X @meganmhxward.

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Megan Howard

Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the K-12 Education reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing, you can find her rewatching the Eras Tour movie or reading The Hunger Games series.


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