Newberry to weigh charter governing board nominees

Newberry Elementary School sign
The Newberry City Commission is expected to vote on a budget and a governing board ordinance on June 10 as part of its application to convert Newberry Elementary School to a charter school.
Photo by Suzette Cook

A list of nominees for Newberry Elementary School’s potential governing board was included in an update to the Newberry City Commission on Tuesday. 

The city is applying to convert the school to charter status, and staff provided the commission with an update at a special meeting. Meeting documents, not part of the presentation, included governing board nominees from Education First for Newberry (EFN), the nonprofit that ran the conversion campaign. 

City Manager Mike New said staff has begun developing language for an ordinance establishing the charter school, makeup of a governing board for the school, and the city’s responsibilities and limitations in the process. 

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Staff has also started reviewing the charter application and solicited proposals from law firms with the right expertise to complete the application by August and submit it in September. 

The Florida Charter School Review Commission will evaluate the application, which is 70 pages long with 22 parts. 

The city’s attorneys also are working on two agreements between the city and the yet-to-be-formed 501(c)3 organization that would run the school if the state approves the charter application. The first agreement covers the application period, and the second operating agreement covers day-to-day operations. 

EFN has also amended its charter budget to cover a single converted school, instead of the three for which it had campaigned. New said the updated budget is still in review, but will be ready to present at the commission’s June 10 meeting, along with the ordinance to establish the governing board. 

Staff’s timeline places the ordinance’s second reading, and appointment of governing board members, at the commission’s June 24 meeting. 

The governing board, with four members appointed by the city commission and one appointed by EFN, would have its first meeting on July 15. 

Tuesday’s meeting packet came with a list of governing board nominees, submitted for consideration by EFN. 

Chelsea Leming, Newberry High School graduate, NES parent and one of EFN’s founders, is the nominee for board chair. 

Other board member nominees include UF compliance analyst Derek Danne, Florida Virtual School teacher Leslie McGehee, human resources professional Leslie Hayes-Morrison, speech pathologist Veronica Kadala, and Family Promise Executive Director Shari Jones. 

EFN also nominated David Essex, an information technology professional with an interest in Exceptional Student Education (ESE), as captain of the ESE Task Force. 

More information about the nominees can be found at the end of the May 28 meeting packet. 

Although EFN’s campaign originally included plans to convert Newberry High School, Oak View Middle School and Newberry Elementary School into charters, both the high and middle schools voted the initiative down.  

NES parents voted the conversion through 149 to 125, but the 22-21 vote out of 44 eligible teachers in favor of the conversion has been contested territory. State Board of Education rules require a majority of teachers to vote “yes,” and state statute only requires a minimum of 50%. 

Though Alachua County Public Schools still does not acknowledge the conversion as valid, the city and EFN are proceeding with the application and conversion plans since a DOE email said 50% was enough to submit an application. 

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Newberry sucks

The vote failed at all 3 schools