ACPS maintains Newberry Elementary charter vote failed 

Newberry Elementary School sign
Newberry Elementary School.
Photo by Suzette Cook

A day after charter conversion proponents announced that the Florida Department of Education (DOE) stated they only needed 50% support from teachers to convert Newberry Elementary School, Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) maintains the vote failed. 

While the parent portion of the vote clearly passed, 149-125, the teacher portion was disputed after a rejected ballot left the tally 22-21 in favor of converting, out of 44 teachers. 

State statute requires at least 50% of eligible teachers to vote in favor, and State Board of Education rules require a majority. 

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“It’s not at all clear that an email from the Florida Department of Education gives us the authority to overlook the state board rule and overturn the election,” ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said in a Tuesday email to Mainstreet.  

Supporters of the conversion said 22 votes, or 50% of teachers, was enough to convert the school, while ACPS and SOS Newberry, a group working against the conversion, said one more vote was needed—23—to make a majority. 

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton, who counted the vote, maintained that she was acting purely as an arbitrator and did not have the authority to make a ruling on the charter school votes. 

State Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, sent a letter to Florida’s secretary of state and education commissioner, asking for intervention in the situation, after the vote was counted. 

On Monday, Adam Miller, senior chancellor at the DOE, sent Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe an email stating that, in order to submit an application, the law requires “at least 50%” of the teachers to vote in favor of the conversion.  

“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 conversion, then the applicant has met that threshold requirement,” Miller wrote.  

Johnson said as of Tuesday afternoon the district still has not heard from DOE and does not recognize Miller’s email as a state ruling. 

Johnson pointed out that EFN and its spokesperson, Joel Searby, consistently stated during the two-month campaign that 50% plus one vote would be needed for a conversion vote to succeed. 

“We followed the law and the rule exactly as Mr. Searby and EFN said many times that we should,” Johnson wrote. “Now, because the vote failed, they want us to ignore both, which we can’t legally do.” 

Marlowe said Tuesday that everyone—the school board, proponents and opponents alike—misunderstood the law and were corrected on the day of the count by Braxton Padgett, an attorney for EFN, who said the statute only required a 50% vote.  

“The rule cannot supersede the statute,” Marlowe said. “When there is a conflict between the rule and the statute, the statute prevails.”  

Marlowe said the Newberry City Commission will vote to take the next steps at its Monday meeting and that the school district will not be able to stop it.  

“This application is never going before the school board,” Marlowe said. “They will not have an opportunity to vote it down.” 

Marlowe said the application will instead go before the Charter School Review Commission, where proponents plan to use the Monday letter from Miller as proof that they met the necessary requirements to submit the application.  

He said the commission also has the authority to accept the yes vote that was nullified because it was submitted on a parent ballot instead of a teacher ballot.  

“We’re going to put forward the best application the Charter School Review Commission has ever seen. It’s going to be a slam dunk in every category that they are looking at,” Marlowe said. “We welcome the school board to sit down and work with us, but we also recognize that to this point they have been unwilling to do that and we no longer need them in order to move forward.”  

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Mart

Glad it failed. Charter schools are rich people scamming poor people to pay for better schools for THEIR kids and no one else. It steals funds from public schools. Stop falling for rich people scams. Rich people spend OPM (Other People’s Money). Don’t believe me? Check out who pays for the sports facilities in your town. (Psst! It’s you, not the team owners making BILLIONS.) And check out a little con artist named Donald Trump. Poor people pay for all he has and ALL his crimes.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mart
Celtiegirl

Charter schools are for anyone’s kids. Wow, such vitriol you’re spewing!

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

Point well taken.

Dan

Statute says at least 50%, implementing rule says majority. Majority is more, not less, than 50% so there is no conflict.

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

I just don’t get it: why did all this happen in the first place? Why the desire to convert the public schools to “charter schools”? Public schools are part of the warp and woof of the history of the United States. After the American Revolution, this new experiment, American democracy, was fragile (many would say it still is, especially now!) and its survival, its success would depend on the competency of its citizens. Our ancestors voted to tax themselves in order to create schools that would prepare them and us, their children, for democratic citizenship. And over the years the evidence has been: they’ve done a pretty darned good job.
(That’s PUBLIC schools, not charter schools, which is a concept that originated from UC Berkeley in 1971.)