Newberry staff to assist with charter conversion application

Commissioner Ricky Coleman made the motion to direct staff to help EFN.
Commissioner Ricky Coleman made the motion to direct staff to help EFN.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Newberry City Commission voted unanimously on Monday to direct city staff to assist the nonprofit Education First for Newberry (EFN) in its application to the state Charter Review Commission to convert Newberry Elementary School (NES) into a charter school. 

If the application is successful, the school would open as a charter in August 2025. 

“We are disappointed that Alachua County Public Schools chose to announce the NES results so hastily when all parties knew it was being contested,” EFN board member Chelsea Leming told the board. “We know this has led to some confusion among parents and the public. We will do our best to communicate this now-final outcome to the school stakeholders, and we hope that ACPS will partner with us to ensure administrators, staff, teachers and parents have the correct information. 

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City staff’s work with EFN will include, but is not limited to, helping establish a governing board, developing operating agreements between the city and EFN and/or subsequently-created entities, contracting other “persons or entities,” hiring staff as necessary and developing budgets as necessary for the charter school. 

The direction comes after a contentious 22-21 teacher vote to convert the school. 

The parent portion of the vote passed without dispute, 149-125, but if either vote failed, the entire conversion would fail. Newberry High School and Oak View Middle School went through similar votes, but both failed to gain the support needed to submit an application to the state. 

Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) and SOS Newberry, a nonprofit that opposes the charter conversion initiative, both maintain that NES’s vote also failed. They point to the State Board of Education rules, which statute also points to, and which requires a majority of eligible teachers to vote in favor. 

Though the 22-21 vote may look like a clear majority, one additional teacher vote was rejected because it was submitted in the wrong envelope, so there is a total of 44 eligible teachers. Twenty-two of those 44 submitted valid “yes” votes, which a recent email from the DOE confirmed met the 50% requirement listed in state statute and required to submit an application. 

Brandy Oldman speaks to the Newberry City Commission.
Photo by Glory Retiz Brandy Oldman speaks to the Newberry City Commission.

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said he had forwarded the email to Superintendent Shane Andrew and asked him to share it with the School Board of Alachua County. As of Monday morning, ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson said the district has not heard anything from the Department of Education, and she has previously stated that the district needs direct instruction from DOE to overturn a vote. 

“I think at this point in time, [the superintendent’s] refusal and [the district’s] refusal to understand that Department of Education has weighed in on this and answered the only question that was out, is what is perpetuated the confusion,” Marlowe said. 

Marlowe said if the district offered supporting “clarity” on the vote, it would help the community move on and unify to get work done on moving the application through. 

Brandy Oldman, parent and member of SOS Newberry, which opposes the charter conversion initiative, said both SOS’s and the school board’s attorney have said the NES teacher vote did not pass, and the DOE email has no legal effect. 

“Y’all did not pass the vote,” Oldman said during public comment. “You may be able to submit your application, but you did not pass the vote, just to make that clear.” 

Marlowe said Oldman’s comments were factually incorrect, and Oldman countered that she was simply reading from state statute. 

Joel Searby, EFN spokesman, told the commission that the entire application process would likely take 7-9 months, but that he hopes to be through the immediate next steps within a few weeks. 

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Newberry Parent

Ugh. They must all be Republicans, they can’t stand losing and will try to twist the rules to make it work.


What makes you think “they” are all republicans? Was the vote rigged in some way? By whom? Be specific when you insinuate things you may not be knowledgeable about…your turn “Newberry parent”…

Yeah, it's me.

Charter schools are OPM scams. OPM = Other People’s Money. <– That's what rich people spend. Other people's money. Want to know the biggest OPM scammer in American history? See: Trump.


These are the same people who want to split the county in half because they want more power for themselves. They don’t care about anyone below a certain income level.


Please elaborate what “income level” you are referring to, please And who are the “same people”? Be specific so we understand what you are attempting to articulate…

Yeah, it's me.

Charter schools are OPM scams rich people pull. OPM = Other People’s Money.

Yeah, it's me.

Charter schools is how rich people take money from poor schools to pay for their own kids’ better educations. It’s an OPM scam. Rich people spend OPM (Other People’s Money). Stop falling for OPM scams by the rich.


No! charter schools are what happen when elected school boards don’t act in students best interests. If the citizens would vote in a board more focused on quality education for all you wouldn’t see moves to succeed.