A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport School Board denies application for River Cities Academy charter school; ‘lacked specificity’

Following the recommendation of a panel of 32 Kentucky public school educators, administrators and experts, the Newport Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to deny the application for a charter school proposed for the district.

The vote to deny the 1,062-page charter school application by the River Cities Academy followed a rigorous vetting by a review committee that included representatives of public school districts in Northern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services and others that brought more than 700 years of experience to the process, said Newport Independent Schools Superintendent Kelly Middleton.

“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,” Superintendent 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.”

One Newport parent leading River Cities Academy is Lynn Schaber. Schaber is a marketing executive and consultant and President of The Strategy Store. The organization’s website lists the “core team” as Ian Maloney, Evelyn Pence, Jillian Stashak, Sarah Strauss, Sabrina Tinkler and Jeff Weghorst. The website says they are “a small group of NKY parents who organized late in 2016 to look into” a charter school “To realize the full potential of young minds through experiential learning with high expectations for excellence in academics and character.”

“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.” 
The Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation allowing charter schools in 2017 but provided no funding. Since the application was submitted to the Newport schools, the district was required to perform due diligence on the application and make a recommendation to the board.

River Cities Academy proposed attracting up to 200 students from Newport and Northern Kentucky’s other river cities – Covington, Dayton, Bellevue, Fort Thomas and Ludlow. But superintendents from Fort Thomas, Covington and Ludlow spoke in opposition to the charter school during a Dec. 18 public forum on the application.

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

The committee found that the applicant partially completed the Cover Sheet and Enrollment Projection portion of the application but that it did not meet the following criteria:

• School Overview
• Educational Program Design and Capacity
• Operations Plan and Capacity
• Financial Plan and Capacity
• Closure and Dissolution
• Optional Information

The review committee also raised major concerns about the application, including:

• The lack of authentic evidence of community support for the charter school.
• A lack of evidence to support competency and capacity for providing services to students with special needs.
• The lack of a transportation plan for elementary school students and displaying questionable integrity for indicating a partnership with The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) had been secured when no such agreement existed.
• Significant plagiarism in the application process, including the use of external sources without providing proper citation.

“I want to thank the Northern Kentucky public school superintendents as well as Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Martin Pollio for sending us a central office staff person to carefully review each area of the application,” Middleton said. “This outside assistance and expertise made this review much stronger with less bias.”

The applicants have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Newport Independent Schools and Staff report

Related Posts

Leave a Comment