Newberry residents vote down charter conversion 

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton explains the counting procedure on Wednesday.
Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton explains the counting procedure on April 17.
Photo by Glory Reitz

An initiative to convert three Newberry schools into charter schools failed on all three counts after the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections tallied votes in a seven-hour public meeting on Wednesday. 

The new nonprofit Education First for Newberry (EFN) announced in February its call for votes at Newberry Elementary School, Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School on whether to convert each school into charter schools. 

The next day, parents turned in official calls for the vote at each school. Forty-four days later, voting began under the direction of the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office. 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

Each household with a student in a school got one vote for that school, and teachers also got one vote for the school in which they work. 

The parent vote required that at least half of the parents at each school vote, or else the conversion would automatically fail. The teacher vote did not have the same minimum, but each teacher who failed to vote was counted as a “no.” 

The Newberry Elementary School (NES) reached 23 counted votes in favor of the conversion, out of 44 eligible teachers. Seventeen teachers voted “no,” and four more chose not to vote, so they were automatically counted as “no” votes, as dictated by state law. 

The teacher vote for NES failed, as conversion requires half, plus one, of eligible voters to vote in favor, meaning the initiative required 23 teachers to vote “yes.” 

Of the 23 “yes” votes, one was submitted to the teacher vote in a blue teacher envelope, but the ballot inside was a parent ballot. Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton, after receiving legal counsel, rejected the vote. 

The rejected vote did not count as a “no” because it was submitted by a teacher, meaning the teacher did not choose not to vote. 

Newberry residents turned out to watch votes tabulated for the charter school conversion.
Photo by Glory Reitz Newberry residents turned out to watch votes tabulated for the charter school conversion.

The parent vote for NES succeeded with 149 “yes” votes and 125 “no” votes, out of 520 total eligible households, but because the teacher vote failed, the conversion did as well. 

Education First for Newberry issued the following statement on Facebook shortly after the vote was counted: 

“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.” 

Oak View Middle School teachers voted down the conversion initiative 40-9, with only two of the “no” votes being teachers who chose not to vote. 

The Oak View parents also killed the conversion, with 244 “no” votes and 134 “yes” votes. 

Newberry High School, where Mayor Jordan Marlowe is a teacher, was the only school to successfully pass the teacher vote, with 17 “yes” votes and 12 “no” votes. Six of the “no” votes were created by abstention. 

However, the high school vote failed on the parent front. Out of 626 NHS households, 149 voted “no,” and only 114 voted “yes.” 

Over the last two months, the conversion vote raised sharp division in the community as an opposition nonprofit, SOS Newberry, appeared with concerns about EFN’s budget and transparency. Alachua County Public Schools also called the budget’s feasibility into question. 

In March, the city of Archer issued an official opposition to the conversion plan, with multiple commissioners saying citizens had reached out to them in fear that Archer residents and rural residents would eventually be pushed out of the schools. 

Though EFN had originally planned to reduce overcrowding at the schools by enforcing enrollment caps for incoming classes at the youngest level, the organization shifted its approach to addressing citizen concerns. An updated plan expanded to include more students, though those opposed to the conversion questioned whether the schools would have the funding for significant expansions. 

At the beginning of April, SOS Newberry also announced it was filing ethics complaints against Marlowe and Commissioner Ricky Coleman for communications related to the charter initiative. 

Yes Newberry posted on Facebook: “We are grateful to Supervisor Barton and her deputy Mr. Delesdernier who spoke with our team at the conclusion of the day. We requested and she approved some additional time to offer our review and interpretation of the process used to determine the final teacher vote outcome, and their willingness to hold off on issuing any final official determination until we have mutually reviewed those questions.”

Separately, a Newberry parent filed an ethics complaint against Alachua County School Board Member Tina Certain for advocating against the conversion, but the Florida Commission on Ethics dismissed the complaint.  

Editor’s note: This story was updated with Yes Newberry’s post on Facebook.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Good job, Newberry!
Stop the evil attempting to steal funds from and degrade public schools! They are attempting to make all of America stupid!

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter



Apathy won the day


Too many people are accustomed to being unable to trust others.
Especially when it comes to things involving ‘authority figures’.