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Newport School Board Rejects Proposed Charter School

The Newport Board of Education on Thursday unanimously rejected a proposal to create a charter school in the district.

The proposed River Cities Academy would also welcome students from Covington, Ludlow, Bellevue, Dayton, and Fort Thomas in addition to Newport.

Because the school would have been located in Newport, the independent board of education must give its blessing first.

In 2017, the Kentucky General Assembly approved the formation of charter schools but did not include a funding mechanism, a deficiency in the process that still exists.

The founders of the academy have thirty days to appeal to the Kentucky Department of Education, whose commissioner was recently ousted by the new state board of education, which was fully replaced by Democratic Governor Steve Beshear shortly after he was sworn in earlier this month.

Beshear narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin with the support of educators in the state.

The River Cities Academy submitted a 1,062-page application for consideration by the Newport school board. It was vetted by a review committee made up of representatives from local public school districts, Northern Kentucky University, the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services, and others.

“The applicant lacked specificity and provided unfinished planning in multiple areas that leave significant question as to whether or not the school will be able to launch successfully for a proposed August 2020 start date,” Newport Superintendent Kelly Middleton told the Board of Education as he listed a number of major concerns expressed by the review committee. “The applicant does not provide data to support the complexities of the population to be served and relies on generalized notions of what the applicant believes should be good for all children.”

“This was a serious responsibility charged to the board of education,” said Newport Board of Education Chairwoman Ramona Malone. “The board decision must be based on clear and objective evidence. The district brought in an unbiased panel of experts to make this recommendation.” 

River Cities Academy proposed attracting up to 200 students from neighboring independent school districts. Some of those districts' superintendents voiced opposition to the proposed charter school at a public forum hosted in Newport last week.

The review committee also found that the application failed to meet seven criteria established by state law. 

The River City News contributor Patricia A. Scheyer attended Thursday's meeting and will have more to add to this story later.

-Staff report

Photo: Newport Primary School (file)