Newberry school families, teachers to vote on charter option 

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the purpose of the campaign is to put children first.
Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the purpose of the campaign is to put children first.
Photo by Glory Reitz

A group of parents in a 501(c)(4) organization called Newberry Education First has announced a campaign to convert all three of the town’s schools into public charter schools.  

A press conference on Monday kicked off a 60-day window to campaign before parents and teachers will be called to a vote on whether to proceed in the transition. 

Naim Erched said charter schools could help ensure Newberry students get the education they deserve.
Photo by Glory Reitz Naim Erched said charter schools could help ensure Newberry students get the education they deserve.

“This change will ensure our kids get the great public education we all know they deserve, maintain state education standards and funding, and preserve our athletics activities and think the Panther way. And that is why we’re here,” Naim Erched, a parent and Newberry Planning & Zoning Board member, said at the press conference. 

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.

On Tuesday morning, parents belonging to the group will deliver letters to Newberry Elementary School, Oak View Middle School and Newberry High School, requesting a vote for conversion at each school. The schools are required by state statute to conduct the vote, which will fall in April. Each household gets one vote for each school in which they have a student, and each teacher also gets one vote. 

If at least half of teachers and half of parents vote in favor of the conversion, the schools and city of Newberry will seek approval from the Florida Charter Review Commission, then negotiate terms and collateral with the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC). If the school board were to deny the application, it would need to supply specific reasons with documentation. 

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, who is also a teacher at Newberry High School, said at the press conference that “keeping our schools great” has become a challenge as the school board becomes more disconnected and focused on needs outside of Newberry. 

Caroline Anderson (right) hands a yard sign to an attendee.
Photo by Glory Reitz Caroline Anderson (right) hands a yard sign to an attendee.

“These parents behind me… alongside many other community leaders, are bringing that solution forward for your choice. For your voice,” Marlowe said. “This solution will let Newberry parents and teachers decide what they believe is best for creating great schools for our children in Newberry.” 

Marlowe said a local, community-based leadership would listen to the needs of students and families to both “preserve what is great about Newberry schools” and innovate new, creative ideas with fiscal responsibility and flexibility on school policies. 

If all goes according to Newberry Education First’s plan, the charter schools would take effect in the 2025-26 school year. All currently enrolled students would retain their enrollment status, including magnet students and others who live outside of Newberry. 

Students residing within the geographic areas of the schools would be automatically eligible for the charter schools, according to Joel Searby, who emceed the press conference. Those geographic areas include Archer and Newberry. 

Searby also said that because the schools would be public charters, they would have no impact on taxes, and would not require tuition. Charter schools are funded in the same way as Florida’s public schools, according to the FDOE website. The schools receive funds from the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) based on full-time enrollment (FTE). 

Over 60 people attended the press conference on Monday as Newberry Education First announced a campaign to convert all three of the town's schools into public charter schools.
Photo by Glory Reitz Over 60 people attended the press conference on Monday as Newberry Education First announced a campaign to convert all three of the town’s schools into public charter schools.

Teachers will also be retained, Searby said, with an immediate 3% raise and the same or improved benefits compared to what they currently receive. 

Jessica Bounds, one of over 60 people who showed up to the press conference, said she used to teach at Newberry Elementary School. After 18 years, she left because she did not feel supported by the district. Now, her concern is that of a mother, that her students’ needs are not being provided for. 

Bounds said she has heard stories of behavioral issues that teachers do not know what to do about because of a continued lack of support. She said making the schools into charters would take out the “middlemen” by putting those invested in the community directly in charge. 

“The district doesn’t have an investment nor are they trying to do so,” Bounds said. “They have one goal, and that goal is not meeting the needs of anybody.” 

Newberry Education First has planned three town hall meetings to inform parents and teachers on the campaign. The meetings will all be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23, March 6 and March 26 in the Newberry municipal building.

Newberry Education First has also created a website with multiple Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages. 

According to an Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) press release sent out later the same day, the district has “begun reviewing the potential impact of the conversion of the three schools to charters on students, families and staff both in and outside of the City of Newberry.” The district plans to have discussions with Newberry Education First, the Newberry City Commission and others involved with the initiative. 

“To have a city like Newberry stand up and say yes, this is going to be difficult,” State Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, said at the press conference. “This is going to be, maybe, expensive. This is going to be something out of the norm. Then yeah, but they’ve stepped up. And I think it’s time for the residents and the parents and the grandparents to step up and say yes, this alternative is there, provided by law for us if we just choose to take advantage of it.” 

Rep. Chuck Clemons said Newberry could break the status quo to create its best future.
Photo by Glory Reitz Rep. Chuck Clemons said Newberry could break the status quo to create its best future.

If the vote goes through, the Newberry City Commission would temporarily fill the school board’s role for, effectively, a new, smaller school district. The commission would hire a “superintendent” and seek public input for ongoing structure, with either an appointed or elected local school board, or continuing under the city model. 

Jason McGehee, a former Newberry commissioner and president of Newberry schools, said he has heard many people ask why Newberry has not built more schools to keep up with the new housing being built—an issue the town cannot currently address because it is in the school board’s hands. 

“I’ve always believed that the closer government is to you, the more effective it will be,” McGehee said. “This proposal puts our school board parallel with our state.” 

Archer resident Tameshia Walker, who has two children in Newberry schools, said she is concerned to see the city commission getting involved in education, and that charter schools sound like a set-up for segregation. She said she would rather see charter schools open alongside public schools, without replacing them. 

“Let it be an option,” Walker said. 

Walker also expressed concern that Archer students are being excluded and that transportation would become difficult for them without the support of ACPS. She said most Archer parents were not informed of the press conference, and if the effort was meant to include them, they should have been contacted. 

Newberry resident Sheron Cheesborough agreed that the secrecy before the press conference was disturbing to her. She said if Newberry Education First has been talking about it for over a year, they should have included others in the process before the 60-day period. 

“How did it get to this level?” Cheesborough said. 

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bob J

Please make sure to attend the upcoming information meeting on Friday night. One of the major long-term challenges that Alachua County Schools face is maintaining discipline and student accountability. It is crucial to lend an ear to those brave Teachers who have not allowed themselves to be silenced. The concept of Charter Schools has the potential to completely transform the education landscape by empowering the Adults and prioritizing learning as the main objective.


What will a charter school do differently on discipline? Is ACSB blocking this discipline practice at the current schools?


Out from undet the control of ACSB it will actively promote and enforce disciple. The DEI mindset in Gainesville is contrary to dealing with behavior problems that are spread unevenly among the diverse student population.

Lack of discipline has killed our school and destroyed our teacher base. The DEI folks ignore the right of kids to learn in face of chaos.


Secrecy ? Some parents are as clueless as the Shocked, Failed , obviously over challenged School Board members, that do not understand ,enough is enough. It is not rocket science on how to fix the schools and get serious about education. Anyone critical of a Community making Education and Safety a priority should seek other alternatives. Not the other way around.


Anyone paying any attention would know the County School Board is incapable to improve and oversee our school system


I’m hoping this isn’t a back door way to bring religion into these schools. For the record, I am completely in favor of religion in schools. Sunday schools!



Sick of Regressives

Great job by Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature to put power over the kids’ education back in the hands of the parents. It’s about time the authoritarian, regressive teachers’ union and school board got a good reminder that government is by and for the citizens. Of course, they’re pretty busy trying to force age-inappropriate books on elementary school kids and books with blowjob scenes in other schools, so they probably won’t notice.


The facilities that you are proposing become charter schools were and are paid for by all Alachua County. If you want charter schools, great! just not INSTEAD of public school in public buildings.


We citizens paid for these facilities. Since the school board has proved incapable to operate them for good benefit it is time to legally take control of the facilities and use them effectively.

Sick of Regressives

I’m sorry, exactly where did I propose that existing schools become charter schools? Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to take over the buildings for free if they took them over at all. Where did you come up with such a ridiculous comment? And why would you try to insert meaning into my comment that isn’t there? Come on, be better than that.


I was responding to Lynn’s comment directly above mine

Your comment is exactly right

Sorry for the confusion


Get the kindergarten level county school board out of the lives on Newberry children. Create eduction rather than chaos