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Newport Board of Education Votes to Accept State "Turnaround" Team

The Newport Board of Education voted to accept a team from the Kentucky Department of Education to serve as a turnaround team and to conduct an audit of the district's efforts.

Newport rated as in need of a Comprehensive School Improvement (CSI) as part of a new system implemented by KDE after last week's state test results were released.

CSI is the lowest designation for school districts and individual schools. 

Newport Superintendent Kelly Middleton said that the plans implemented by the district to trigger improvement have potential. All three district schools rated among the bottom 5 percent in Kentucky.

Middleton offered the board of education a rundown on the state test scores.

He noted that if the district had two primary schools instead of one primary and one intermediate school, neither would have been classified as CSI. The intermediate school just missed the cut-off from being spared from the low rating. But, because the primary school is a feeder school to the intermediate school, it was classified as CSI, Middleton said.

Similarly, the middle school scores dragged down the high school's classification, Middleton said.

KDE offers the turnaround team at no charge. The school district had the option of selecting its own outside team, but would have to pay for it.

Middleton said that he believes the district will show enough improvement to be removed from the CSI list this year.

In other news at the Newport school board meeting, the working budget for 2018-19 was approved, including the hiring of a part-time grant writer. The district also gave the green light for a three-year contract with Teach For America, and emergency certification for a special education position at the intermediate school.

The high school's civics test plan and assessment were approved. The test is part of new requirements mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly and resemble citizenship tests for immigrants. Students will have to pass the test before being approved for graduation. A passing score is at least 60 percent.

Newport Schools received a Preschool Partnership Grant for $150,000 for each of the next two school years from KDE. The funds will help the district provide educational opportunities for at-risk children.

Colonel Mike Wills, director of pupil personnel and student services told the board that attendance at the district is up about 1.5 percent, at 95.63. The high school's attendance rate of 94.14 is its highest in ten years, Wills said.

 Amber Onkst, from the Family Resource Center, introduced members of the Newport Masonic Lodge, which provides new bicycles for children who have perfect attendance for the year.  Last year, 22 children received bicycles for their efforts, and Superintendent Middleton said their excitement was clear. Initially the Lodge was thinking of providing a certain number of bicycles which would go to the students whose name was picked out of the hat, but the board wanted to reward all of the children who made the effort to be there every day, and had no tardies or early dismissals. 

Colonel Wills said the incentive has made a definite difference in the attendance numbers.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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