SOS Newberry condemns Marlowe, Clemons 

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

SOS Newberry issued a statement on Thursday calling for Mayor Jordan Marlowe and State Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, to “end their divisive campaign that has torn our community apart for too long now and respect the will of their own constituents.” 

The nonprofit organization sprang up earlier this year in opposition to an initiative to convert Newberry Elementary School (NES), Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School into charter schools. 

Parents and teachers finished voting on the initiative on April 12, and Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton counted the votes on Wednesday. She announced that all three schools had failed to pass the initiative, but supporters of the conversion took issue with Barton’s reading of the Newberry Elementary teacher vote. 

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The NES parent vote succeeded with 149 “yes” votes and 125 “no” votes, but the conversion requires both teachers and parents to pass the initiative. 

The NES teacher vote was more complicated, with 21 “no” votes, four of which were non-votes that automatically count as negatives. Barton counted 22 “yes” votes and rejected one “yes” vote because it was submitted on a parent ballot, though in a teacher envelope. 

Questions still surround the voting results as proponents on both sides argue about whether 22 out of 44 votes can be considered a majority, and whether the 23rd “yes” vote should be counted, though it was submitted on the wrong ballot. 

Education First for Newberry, the nonprofit organization that called for the three conversion votes, issued a statement shortly after the vote was counted, saying it was “not prepared to concede the final outcome of the Elementary School.” 

Later that day, Marlowe wrote on Facebook that both parents and teachers at NES had voted to pass the conversion initiative, 

“There is a State Statute issue, and the supervisor of elections office made a mistake on one teacher ballot at NES,” Marlowe wrote. “So, we are waiting for those two issues to be resolved before NES can be determined.” 

Clemons sent a letter Wednesday to Florida’s secretary of state and education commissioner asking them to intervene in the certification of the vote.  

Clemons cited a state law that says, “at least 50 percent of the teachers employed at the school” must support the conversion for it to pass.  

“[T]he numbers of votes in favor of charter status was clearly sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the statute,” Clemons wrote. 

As of Friday afternoon, Clemons told Mainstreet he had not yet heard back from the state. 

Tyler Foerst, co-chair of SOS Newberry, said Clemons and Marlowe were spreading “misinformation” by claiming the 22 votes constituted a majority vote. 

An SOS press release says between the three schools, 80% of parents either abstained or voted against the initiative. 

“This shows the complete and total lack of public support for the conversion,” the release reads. 

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Bill Whitten

It would be interesting to see if Clemons and Marlowe would have the same opinion about the one disputed ballot if it had been marked as a No vote. Having this whole thing come down to a single vote just demonstrates the absurdity of the process.

Myrna Neims

Nice article! We can’t overlook how closely those involved with passing this are also involved with Spring Coubty movement


More and more the idea of “I don’t like what you do, so we should destroy you” is appearing on the strangest things.

Real Gainesville Citizen and Voter

“but supporters of the conversion took issue with Barton’s reading of the Newberry Elementary teacher vote. ”
Apparently this tactic has become the new norm for right-wingers who have lost a vote: challenge the legitimacy of the process. What a waste of time and money.

Bill Boe

Hope this is not another failed attempt to strengthen pubic education in Alachua County when there is a dramatic need to do so; there is a reason private schools, charter schools, religious schools and home schooling are soaring in Alachua County…we have a totally dysfunctional school board and not the needed accountability in the classrooms.