Op-Ed: Newport Schools Improving with Help of Dedicated Board
The following op-ed is written by Kelly Middleton, superintendent of Newport Independent Schools
The word “achievement” is used often in public education. We say it quite a bit - and strive for it even more - in the Newport Independent Schools. Helping students achieve at their highest level is a daily task and an overriding goal that is practiced and followed by every one of our teachers, staff, and administrators.
Another group also needs to be recognized for its achievements as well as its leadership, fortitude, and unwavering support of our students, teachers, and staff – the Newport Board of Education.
Five years ago was a difficult time for our school district, particularly Newport High School, where a graduation rate of less than 68 percent caused a local media outlet to label the school “a dropout factory.” It was a label that hurt, made our teachers, staff, and kids look bad, and conjured up negative and unfair stereotypes of an underachieving urban school system.
But in the true and real character of Newport - where a tradition of resiliency teaches that when you get knocked down, you get back up – the Board led us to a place few thought we could go.
When the Kentucky Department of Education released new data on public schools in late September 2016 – Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning Assessment and Accountability System - Newport Schools had achieved what it had set out to do five years earlier.
A surge of nearly 30 points in the graduation rate to almost 95 percent graduate rate.
A steady rise in test scores.
A college-career readiness score for Newport High School that grew by more than 30 points and is one of the strongest in Northern Kentucky.
And all three of the district’s schools – Newport High School, Middle School, and Intermediate School – increased the percentage of students ranked as Proficient/Distinguished in both reading and math.
But possibly most satisfying accomplishment was the state’s classification of Newport High School as a “Proficient” and “High Progress School,” meaning the school has met all of its goals and is in the top 10 percent of schools that made improvements.
Much credit for our district’s achievements must go to our outstanding teachers, staff, and students, who have worked so hard to move the district forward and who continue to push for more improvement every day in the classroom.
But success starts at the top, and our current Board of Education – Julie Smith Morrow, Ramona Malone, Melissa Sheffel, Theresa Miller and Matt Scott – have set a tone, established goals, and built a culture that led to our recent achievements. They individually and collectively maintain a focus and foster the dedication for continued progress in a district that confronts and rises to the unique challenges it faces.
The school board is continually seeking ways for our teachers to be on top of the latest education techniques, research, and trends and has a deep and proven commitment to professional development and hiring the very best teachers available. And it recognizes the very real situations our teachers and staff face each year, such as transitional students.
Every year, we lose 25 percent of our kids when their families move out of our district or make other education choices, and just about an equal number of our students are new to the district. That takes a lot of adjustment, not just in the classroom, but in the district as a whole. And our recent test scores and other state data clearly show that our board has risen to these challenges by leading the way and delivering strong results.
January is “School Board Recognition Month” in Kentucky. In Newport, we recognize the commitment, dedication, and success of our school board. We have had a lot of success knowing we still have a long way to go. With the leadership of our current board members, the opportunities for success in the Newport public schools are limitless.
Kelly Middleton is the superintendent of the Newport Independent Schools
Photo: Kelly Middleton (RCN file)