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Incumbents Face Challengers in Newport School Board Race

Five people are running for two seats on the Newport Board of Education, including two incumbents.

Ramona Malone and Matthew Scott hope to be re-elected, while Shane Gosney, Chris Maloney, and Slyvia Covington hope to earn a seat on the board for the first time.

Malone is from Cincinnati, but moved to Newport when she married her husband, George "Mike" Malone. She said that she also adopted his love for his hometown, especially when she was warmly received by neighbors.

Malone has served on the board for ten years, and has been its chair since 2012.

Superintendent Kelly Middleton was hired during that time, and Malone said that he has made significant improvements in culture, academic achievement, and business and community relationships.

Malone said that she lives by the philosophy that relationships are important to successful partnerships, and noted academic and career programs as 1-to-1 technology, which provides an electronic device to all students, Project Lead the Way, and Navigo River Cities Hub Training Network, as part of that.

"If I am elected, my goal in collaboration with the board and district leadership is to stabilize our teaching staff, expand and strengthen programs like Project Lead the Way, project-based learning, and our partnership with neighboring day cares and preschools to ensure that all Newport children are kindergarten ready," Malone said.

Malone said that over her ten-year period on the board, test scores have increased, graduation rates have risen, graduates have earned higher-paying jobs, and the city has seen a decrease in poverty.

Scott is finishing his first four-year term. He and his wife, Amy, have three daughters, two of whom are in school, and one that will start kindergarten soon. They have lived in Newport all their lives, and graduated from Newport High School.

Scott noted the upgrades to the school buildings that have happened in recent years, and said that the work contributes to safer, brighter learning environments. He also pointed out the five-star rated preschool program.

"I am proud that several years ago we were considered a drop-out factory, and since that time we have been able to turn that around and were recognized by the Commissioner of Education for our high percentage of graduates that are college- and career-ready," Scott said.

Scott said that he excited about the future for the school district, noting that the board is exploring a virtual school option for students, as well as vocational and manufacturing programs. 

Because the district has a problem with teacher turnover, Scott said, the board must look into salary structures and other programs to remain competitive with other districts.

If re-elected, Scott wants to improve parent/guardian communication and participation in the schools. 

Maloney is a native of Cincinnati who was raised in Nebraska before returning to this area and graduating from Bellevue High School. After college and serving in the military, he settled in Newport.

Maloney is looking for a spot on the Newport board of education because he sees a need for change.

"I have never been in public office," Maloney said, "but even parents who have never been to a board meeting are probably doing more for their kid's education than the current board."

Maloney said he is not happy with the vision laid out by the district, and said the board needs to demand accountability from faculty and parents, something that won't be accomplished by throwing money at the problems, he said.

If elected, Maloney said that he would institute a thorough examination of the district budget, and to demand accountability.

Gosney is a Florence native and graduate of Boone County High School. He served six years in the Army National Guard, and then earned an engineering degree from the University of Kentucky. He and his brother eventually purchased an engineering firm. He and his wife live in Newport with their two young sons.

Gosney argues that the school district in Newport is becoming less effective, a trend for several years, he said. Gosney points to declining teacher satisfaction, student enrollment, and test scores, and notes that all three Newport schools are identified as ranking among the bottom five-percent in the state.

The district, Gosney said, must address systemic problems by streamlining administration, and refocusing on the fundamentals of education.

That would include across-the-board raises for teachers, and making policies and procedures in the district structured around teachers' needs.

Gosney would also like to see expanded vocational/technical training programs that partner with businesses. He also wants to start a comprehensive advanced placement program to make sure all students are challenged every step of the way.

Covington could not be reached for this story.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor