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Superintendent condemns task force report citing problems in Newport Independent Schools

Posted at 7:23 PM, Feb 05, 2020

NEWPORT, Ky. — The superintendent of Newport Independent Schools is condemning a task force report that cites low test scores, low teacher retention and low salary as just a few problems within the district.

The independent citizen task force said the report wasn’t intended to tear down the district but to make it better.

“We have members of our community that do not want to send their children to our schools,” said Ed Davis, a task force member.

Davis said the task force is trying to change that.

“If this doesn’t happen, we will lose residents,” Davis said. “We will lose the students who love the city. We will lose people who can make a difference in our city.”

But Superintendent Kelly Middleton said their intent was to “slam” the school system, and that nothing in the report is helpful.

“I’m not so sure the report is frankly there to help Newport Independent Schools. It seems more like a slam, or to make Newport Independent Schools look bad,” Middleton said.

The task force was appointed by the mayor, school board chair and ReNewport citizen group board president. It spent the last few months studying the district and found that “something needs to be done, “ Davis said.

The report points to:

  • high teacher turnover.
  • a 33% poverty rate.
  • low teacher pay, yet high salaries for administrators.

It also says district leadership “appears to lack the mentality and capacity to effect such necessary changes.”

Information is cited to reports by the district and state.

“They are published, established numbers from the state or the school system,” Davis said.

But Middleton said the information in the report is outdated and inaccurate.

“The data was kind of cherry picked for the most negative pieces,” Middleton said, “because there’s a lot of good survey results that are out there, but those didn’t seem to make it in the report.”

The superintendent said most of the issues the report points to, including teacher salaries and incentives, have been addressed.

Middleton said the district has invested $3 million in teacher salaries over the next 10 years.

He’s also questioning those behind the report.

“The people responsible for the most negative reporting in that report have never been in Newport schools, have never sent their children to Newport schools and never will send their children to Newport schools,” the superintendent said.

Davis said some people may start to push to dissolve the district in the next few years if nothing is done. But he said nobody wants that to happen.

“Anything we have done is not a negative toward the schools,” Davis said. “This is all about being positive.”

The task force wants to push for change. Some recommendations listed in the report include:

• Increase support for teachers, specifically to address a 29% turnover and poor climate by increasing teacher compensation, classroom aides, and cultural initiatives.
• Reduce central office salaries/staff, and recruit leaders with the skills to execute the needed turnaround.
• Increase expectations for leadership and educator performance with accountability measures.
• Provide more advanced program options for accelerated learning.
• Set high expectations and accountability for student performance and conduct with unwavering support by leadership.
• Engage the community more in key decisions, board elections, and appointed positions.
READ the full report.