Letter: MIddleton Says Goodbye to Newport
The following letter is written by Kelly Middleton, who is retiring as superintendent of Newport Independent Schools after nearly eight years.
To the Newport Independent Schools community,
As a look back on my nearly eight years as superintendent the Newport Independent Schools, I am filled with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and gratitude. Our administration, board of education, teachers, staff, students, families, and community have worked together as a team, making strides, and achieving great success in providing opportunities for our kids to learn and grow. I am eternally grateful for the chance I was given to work with and lead this outstanding organization.
I want to take a moment to reflect on some of the board's more notable accomplishments:
- Newport was honored by the Kentucky Department of Education in 2016 for increasing the rate of College and Career Readiness graduates by more than 50 percent from 2010 to 2015. The high school also received the CTE Career Readiness Gold Standard Award.
- Managed finances extremely well and now have a $6 million contingency fund.
- Sold facilities - including Fourth Street Elementary School and the former U.S. Post Office building - to generate revenue and efficiently manage resources while reconfiguring three schools.
- Funded Project Lead the Way, which allows students in kindergarten through graduation to experience classes, programs and projects focused on science, engineering, biomedical, robotics and computer science.
- Became a regional and state leader in technology by providing every student in kindergarten through eighth grade with an iPad and every student in grades nine through 12 with a laptop computer. And the 1-1 Apple program helped the district prepare for and handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Launched the pandemic proof Newport School of Innovation, a largely online school that has proven to be the way of the future
- Enhanced and improved safety at all schools through the installation of new cameras, equipment, and technology.
- The District has not taken the four percent annual property tax increase allowed under Kentucky law for eight consecutive years. The Board did utilize the so-called "recallable nickel" that generated millions of dollars in bonding for school and facility improvements.
- Revived the District's drama program and developed a state-of-the-art theater/auditorium.
- Launched the award-winning and nationally recognized Home Visit Day, which features teachers visiting every student at their home prior to the opening of school.
- Provided staff with outstanding professional development and training.
- Increased certified and classified salaries, making the district more competitive in attracting and retaining teachers and staff regionally and statewide.
- Board enacted tuition reimbursement of teachers pursuing master's degree and Rank One and National Board certifications.
- Vastly enhanced and increased services for students with special needs and those with English as a second language.
- Formed partnerships with the City of Newport. The city and school district share a mechanic – which provides savings to both – and have an agreement for a Newport Police School Resource Officers to staff the school buildings.
- Worked with the city by supporting an economic tool known as Industrial Revenue Bonds, or IRB's, that have resulted in more than $150 million in new development in the District.
- Built new playgrounds at both elementary schools and installed new turf on the field at Newport High School.
- Added career pathways programs, which now include: Accounting; Administrative Support; Management Entrepreneurship; Marketing; Logistics; Construction; Graphic Design; Consumer & Family Management; Early Childhood Education; Printing & Finishing; Residential Carpenter Assistant; PLTW Biomedical Sciences.
- Established a program that basically allows any Newport graduate eligible for Pell grants to receive free tuition to Northern Kentucky University and Gateway Community and Technical College and launched a scholarship program that awards students for every year they complete in Newport schools.
- Revamped the food service program for all students K-12th grade.
- Developed a new state-of-the-art high school cafeteria and an outside area for students that are best in the state.
- In 2011, Newport High School was labeled a "drop out" factory by a local media outlet. In the last eight years, Newport has consistently met the state graduation, averaging 95 percent.
- Refurbished libraries to better offer resources for a 21st century education.
- Established the Newport Athletic Hall of Fame and the Hall of Distinguished Alumni.
- Established a District Facebook page.
- Made customer service a district focus by training staff and responding to every question and inquiry by the public.
- Recruited, hired, and developed a talented staff of exceptional teachers, leaders, and administrators.
Finally, I want to wish the best for incoming Superintendent Tony Watts. I have worked with Mr. Watts and know firsthand that he is a tremendously talented educator and administrator and a fine person. He will do an outstanding job leading the district and I applaud the board for choosing Tony as my successor.
As for me, I am looking forward to retirement but still may have another act or two left in my career. I will always remember my time in Newport as one of the highlights of my 32 years in public service. We accomplished much and worked hard to bring people together while moving the district forward.
Again, I am forever grateful for being part of the Wildcat family. Thanks for everything. It was a great run.