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After a successful eight years, Kelly Middleton to step down as Newport schools superintendent

Superintendent Kelly Middleton – who over nearly eight years has led the Newport Independent Schools district to increased graduation rates, college and career readiness and the number of career pathways available to students – has announced that he will retire after more than 30 years in public education.
Middleton will remain with the district until June of 2020, which will give the Newport Board of Education adequate time to hire a replacement.
“I’m extremely proud of what our board, our administration, our teachers, our staff and our students have accomplished,” said Middleton, a Maysville native who was named superintendent in 2012. “Everything is really great between the board and myself and we work well together but given I am 55, in the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System, it is more conducive for me to retire.”

Kelly Middleton

“Today’s superintendent in Kentucky averages a little less than four years on the job,” he said. “I stayed on one year beyond the time when I could have retired and given that it is at least a six-month process to find a new superintendent,  I wanted to give our Board a head start on recruiting the very best superintendent possible because our students and staff deserve the very best.”
When he was hired in 2012, Middleton encountered splintered relationships between the Kentucky Department of Education and Newport High School; the City of Newport and the school district; and the teachers union and the district’s administration.
“We all worked hard to bring people together,” he said. “And we were able to come together and begin moving forward in a very short period of time.”
Middleton said among his proudest achievements was increasing the Newport High School graduation rate to more than 95 percent.
“I remember shortly before I arrived in Newport, a local media outlet dubbed Newport ‘a dropout factory.’ That was a very hurtful label that conjured up a negative stereotype that everyone in the district vowed and worked to change,” Middleton said. “And by everyone working together – the Board of Education, our teachers, staff and administrators – we did. We are now graduating more than 95 percent of our students.”

Middleton has been superintendent for nearly eight years

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. These accomplishments go back to the mission and vision of the board to have students prepared for the 21st Century. 
“Our main job as educators is preparing our kids for the future, and the recognition from the state shows we are getting the job done,” Middleton said. “And with the recent addition of a logistics pathway in conjunction with the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Newport now has 14 different career pathways for its students, which is quite a number for a small school district.”
Newport’s Fine Arts Program has also thrived in recent years, highlighted by construction of a multi-million-dollar state-of-the-art theater and an elementary art teacher, Hannah Hofstetter, who received the Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching and leadership.
“I am extremely proud that we have been able to bring back theater to our students,” Middleton said. “Besides building a new theater, we have exposed our students to drama by taking them to watch major productions at the Arnoff Theater in downtown Cincinnati, which has truly impacted many of our students.”

Middleton with Samaritan’s Feet representative at event at Newport Elementary last year.

The District has also managed their finances extremely well, with more than $6 million in reserves. While Newport did enact a tax increase – known as the “nickel” tax – to generate millions of dollars in bonding for school and facility improvements, the District has not taken the four percent annual property tax increase allowed under Kentucky law for eight consecutive years.  Any new superintendent should appreciate the fact that Newport Independent Schools are in great financial shape. 
Newport has also forged 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.
Students and staff also regularly volunteer and participate in community events and activities such as the East Row Christmas Tour, the restoration of the historic Southgate School – which once served the city’s African American community, The Taste of Newport – and the Beauty of the East Row Through Photography project featuring photos taken by students of the historic East Row in conjunction with the Newport Historic Society. 
Among the Newport schools’ other accomplishments, achievements and accolades under Middleton and the current board, administration, teachers and staff are:

One of Kelly Middleton’s books

• 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;

• Provided every student in kindergarten through eighth grade with an iPad and every student in grades nine through 12 with a laptop computer;

• Enhanced and improved safety at all schools through the installation of new cameras, equipment and technology;

• Aesthetically improved the entrance to Newport High School, as well as improving the safety and security to the entrance of all schools;

Serving breakfast at school.

• Reduced the number of buildings owned and operated by the district from five to three, resulting in less property to maintain while bringing in revenue through the sale of two buildings;

• Made improvements throughout the schools with heating and air conditioning systems, Maker Spaces and completely renovated libraries, playgrounds, lighting systems, roofs, athletic facilities and the high school cafeteria;

• Major improvements in technology for classrooms;

• Attracted millions of dollars of federal and state grant money;

• Improved communications between the district and parents, including enhancing social platforms that allow more direct interaction between the district and the community;

• Move-up day – every student meets next year’s teacher(s) prior to the end of the school year.

• 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;

• Scholarship program that awards students for every year they complete in Newport schools;

• Revised and improved Newport Primary School curriculum, including implementing a school-wide reading intervention program focused on phonemic awareness, fluency and comprehension;

• Provided an onsite nurse practitioner through an agreement with The Christ Hospital;

• Established the Newport Athletic Hall of Fame; Newport also honors remarkable athletes by retiring their jerseys. 

• Established the Hall of Distinguished Alumni;

Middleton: ‘We all worked hard to bring people together.’

• Increased salaries to retain teachers and staff;

• 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;

• Worked closely with the City of Newport on attracting economic development, investment, residents and jobs to the city through the Board of Education’s approval of Industrial Revenue Bonds;

• Having more than $6 million in financial reserves;

• Upgraded the district’s wireless networking and internet bandwidth;

• Improved the district’s transportation system, including adding school buses and utilizing TANK public transit buses;

• Enhanced and added additional services to special needs students;

• Revamped the food service program for all students K-12th grade.  The high school has a new state-of-the-art cafeteria and an outside area for students that is second to none.

• Provided food service, human resources and financial services to Southgate Independent Schools, which Middleton calls a “win, win,” for both school districts as well as taxpayers because the services save Southgate money while generating revenue for Newport.

• Improved internal communication with weekly cabinet meetings, formed a classified advisory group, and Kelly’s Kids student advisory group.

Newport Independent Schools 

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