Newberry Elementary School loses 14 teachers

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said Alachua County Public Schools is scaring Newberry Elementary School teachers.
Mayor Jordan Marlowe said Alachua County Public Schools is scaring Newberry Elementary School teachers.
Photo by Glory Reitz

An unusually high number of teachers have transferred away from Newberry Elementary School (NES) as the school undergoes a controversial push to convert into a charter school. 

The school has had 14 teachers leave as transfers this year, according to Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) spokesperson Jackie Johnson. Two of those teachers had not begun working at NES yet but had been hired to begin in the fall and have already requested to transfer. 

Last year, Johnson said the school lost three teachers—two transferred, and one resigned. 

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The school has also lost its principal, as Vicki McAlhany has transferred to take over as principal of Terwilliger Elementary School. She is replaced by Emery Bishop, currently assistant principal at High Springs Community School. 

Newberry Elementary School was one of three schools involved in a push to convert from public schools to charter schools that would be run by a charter school governing board and linked to the city of Newberry. 

Votes to convert the other two schools, Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School, failed by clear margins. While proponents say both parents and teachers passed the NES conversion vote, the district maintains that a 50% teacher vote does not constitute a majority. 

Education First for Newberry, the nonprofit that organized the conversion campaign, has continued working with the city of Newberry on preparing a charter application to the state, even after controversy over whether a Department of Education email confirms the vote’s validity, and one of EFN’s leaders being arrested for luring a minor. 

School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) Member Tina Certain told Mainstreet she has spoken with teachers who have told her they are leaving the school because of the charter conversion push. 

“There’s no other explanation for this mass exodus of teachers than Jordan Marlowe and Joel Searby trying to take over the high-performing schools in Newberry,” Certain told TV20. 

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, a vocal proponent of the charter conversion, said he has also spoken to teachers, who have told him the district is urging them to transfer immediately or lose assurance that ACPS will work with them to find a “comparable teaching position in either subject, grade level, or geographical location” if the school converts. 

“It is also confusing since the District continues to claim that the school isn’t going to convert into a community charter,” Marlowe wrote in a statement. “The District could easily help alleviate this situation by clearly communicating to teachers that they will support them and our children.” 

ACPS’s Johnson said the district has not issued any such threats to teachers and said Marlowe may be referring to an annual notification the district is required to send each spring with information on the priority transfer portal, or the fact that the Alachua County Education Association’s collective bargaining agreement would not apply to charter school employees. 

“If he’s suggesting [the priority transfer portal information is] something we’re sending out to scare teachers… that is absolutely false,” Johnson said in a phone interview. 

In March, Johnson said the district had 36 classroom teacher vacancies to fill, though it typically hires about 300 teachers each year. 

There are currently 114 teaching positions listed on the school district’s job portal, 13 of which are at Newberry Elementary School. 

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Teachers have been told by the district and the union they will lose benefits if they stay at Newberry. Although this is not true, this is what they have been led to believe. The author should interview the teachers to confirm this.


I agree that each teacher should be interviewed if they wish to be. It would shed more light on the reasons why they are leaving. Where, or from whom, did they get their information? What reason are they really leaving (teachers transfer every year)? Why couldn’t they stay through this year since it’s not being converted until 2025? Everyone’s situation is different, so it is not fair to assume that what works for one person will work for another. Unless someone has spoken to the teachers themselves (all of them, not some) they can’t assume they know why they are leaving.

Alachua Teacher

That would be very interesting if they didn’t. Charter schools aren’t covered under the union. I taught at a district school, lost my benefits when I taught at a charter school in the area, and then got them back as a union member when I went to teaching at a district school. Those benefits are given as part of the district. As a charter member, I did have an additional 100 dollars and a recommended clinic I could make a 50 dollar payment to in order to subsidize my own insurance.


Tina Certain is joke

Raymond Mellott

What I don’t understand is just what was wrong with those Newberry schools that being changed to Charter schools would fix.


Neither does the woke school board.

Potential meets opportunity

It is standard procedure for a substantial change such as this to lead to a reorganization of personnel. This will allow all team members to play an active role in driving the success of the new vision and direction. If you are not in favor of this change, kindly make way and focus on what is most beneficial for the children’s education. The selection process has been conducted with transparency and equity, and it is crucial to provide ample opportunities for this new school to prosper. Mr. Marlowe has consistently demonstrated his commitment and concern for the Newberry community, and you are truly fortunate to have him involved in your children’s education.


Mainstreet: (1) please write a follow up article clarifying if charter school teachers will no longer receive the same benefits (e.g. health ins, years of service counting towards county years of service, teacher union membership, …) as teachers in Alachua Co public (non-charter) schools.
(2) interview some of the Newberry teachers that are leaving regarding their reasons for leaving. This could be reported anonymously.

Alachua Teacher

I am not main street but I have been both. We lose our blue cross health benefits as a charter school employee. We keep our years of service. We lose our union membership. I was at step 5 when I first moved here and taught at a district school. The next year I taught at a charter and was at step 6 but lost access to benefits. I went back to a district school and I’ve my benefits back and am considered a 7th year teacher. I hope that helps answer your questions.

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

I’m not surprised. The whole process has been messy and suspect, and events since the vote have not been encouraging. Plus, too many times we have seen changes in ownership result in changes for the worst for employees. It’s that way in business, and it’s that way in education.
“Mayor Jordan Marlowe said Alachua County Public Schools is scaring Newberry Elementary School teachers.” Nice try, Mr. Marlowe, but we know that is not the reason for the transfer requests.


What is the norm for other charter schools in the county? What funding and services do the school board and teachers union provide to them? Do the teachers have to decide between being charter school employees or school board employees? Apologies that I have not read up extensively on what the city of Newberry proposed and what supporting precedent does it does not exist in alachua county.


I know of at least one charter school that participates in FRS. The fringe benefits offered vary from school to school. Any teacher that left ACPS would have known about the benefits before leaving for a charter school and still made the decision working at a charter was better. Newberry is going to have benefits equivalent to the ACPS. If working at a charter school is so bad, then why do so many teachers do it, and why are those schools so successful?

drysdale 20

I don’t understand why Newberry didn’t just apply and open a charter school in addition to the public school. Yes, it is expensive, but space could be rented and the charter could grow to cover elementary through high school. If the charter school was truly meant to help the children and families of Newberry, this would have been a path that I think most would have supported and all this bickering and confusion would have been minimized. Give people a choice, not either/or, and I think it would be a successful.

Mary Q

Newberry is an extraordinarily family oriented, closely-knit city and would not embarrass the Alachua Co. System as a charter. What on earth disturbs the principal teachers so?