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Op-Ed: That Time of Year When Newport Schools are Attacked

The following op-ed is written by Dr. Alexis J. Miller of Newport.

To the challengers of the Newport Board of Education,

I think it was about this time last year when I said, oh yay!  It’s that time of year again when the weather cools down, the leaves start to change colors, and some East Row resident attack Newport Schools for failing our children. 

I moved to the East Row of Newport in 2008 with my then college enrolled daughter and 4 year old daughter.  What’s shocking to many is I chose Newport because of the school system. I moved here from Tennessee and was looking for an Independent School District with an economically and racially diverse school population.  I knew our state standardized test scores were low, but that didn’t concern me.  I could have moved to Fort Thomas. Many of the houses in Fort Thomas were and still are less expensive than house in the East Row. I chose Newport!

I enrolled my daughter in pre K at 4th Street Elementary that fall. Currently, she is in the 11th grade at Newport High School.  Since enrolling Addie, I have maintained an active involvement with the schools from attending and facilitating the PTO for years and serving on SBDM committees. As such, I am always shocked by school board candidates that run on a platform that focuses their attention on East Row families that opted out of our local schools for tuition driven schools instead of the families that opted to send their children to Newport schools.  This year there was even a claim that ALL East Row families either move from Newport or send their kids to tuition driven schools.  Why don’t candidates believe they also need to serve the families that chose Newport? Why is their attention focused on families who do not send their kids to Newport?

Families who opt out often do so citing low standardized test scores.  

As a Newport student, my daughter has completed Map Testing and KPrep tests and scored proficient or distinguished year after year.  I’ve always wondered why East Row parents who opt out of Newport assume their children will not have access to an education that will provide their child with what they need to score well on standardized tests?  Maybe their choice to leave the district was based on other variables but citing state test scores as the reason is more socially acceptable?

I will say I appreciate it when those who criticize Newport for low test scores say it is not the teachers’ fault. Newport has fantastic teachers.  I know this because my kid is enrolled in Newport and has had these fantastic teachers.  How do families that opted out of Newport know to not blame the teachers?

And, whose fault is it then?   My belief has always been there is no one person to blame, but a collective group of people who often have their fingers extended, blaming someone else.  Honestly, because those of us who chose Newport are not worried about the district’s  Mean standardized test scores.  Just like parents in other districts, our concern is our child’s progress.  Sure, I can imagine the self-esteem boost one gets from their school being ranked 1st or 10th by the state, but does that really matter if my kid’s test scores are not proficient or distinguished?  I wonder if it’s kinda like if my daughter’s school has the best football team?  I get to brag about it, even though my daughter doesn’t play football?

But, I digress. My point:

Is it so hard to see how insulting it is to those of us who CHOSE Newport to be overlooked by school board candidates for those families that opted out?  Is it so hard to see why we would question their true intentions?  

Just like myself, there are parents in the East Row that believe a school is much more than standardized test scores.  Just like myself, there are parents in the East Row that truly value a school with a diverse population.  While we wish every kid would score in the proficient and distinguished category, we recognize that there is so MUCH more to a school and a child than their test scores.  I sure would hate for my employer to judge my progress based on one day each year instead of the collective work I do in a year. 

In some way or another every public school has room for improvement and I’m sure those who opted out of Newport would not like someone who opted out of their chosen school  to claim it was a ‘failing school’ because of something that isn’t a top priority to them and why they chose their school.  For instance, many opt out of Newport and pay tuition for their children to attend Fort Thomas.  How would they feel if someone in Fort Thomas who opted out of the Fort Thomas public schools decided to run for Fort Thomas school board citing that Fort Thomas is failing because of the lack of diversity in their schools?  How would they feel if this person argued that a school cannot fully or properly educate a child in a district that is almost 99% white and middle/upper class when the world that doesn’t mirror those demographics?  Would they be put in a defensive position, kinda like we are, year after year?

I am the parent of a child that chose Newport.  I am the parent that is often overlooked by challengers to the incumbents of the Newport School Board because I’m deemed as ‘bad’ parent or a parent that could not afford to make a ‘better’ choice. That cannot be further from the truth!

Some of us value the education that Newport offers our children despite the choices of our neighbors.  I think what we wish is that our choices would be respected in the same way they have demanded respect for their choices.

Sincerely, 

Dr. Alexis J. Miller, an East Row resident who sends their child to Newport Schools

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