Middletown and Newport residents got their first official sampling of regionalization between the two school districts Monday and Tuesday, June 20 and 21. Consultants presented high-level financial analysis and engaged attendees in small-group discussions to gather feedback on educational programs the community would like to see included in the new regionalized school district. Presenters emphasized that the regionalization process is just beginning--pending voter approval--and many decisions may not be made for years. Residents in both communities are expected to vote on the proposal on Election Day, Nov. 8.

Approximately 80 community members attended the two informational sessions at the Wyndham Newport Hotel in Middletown. Attendees were asked to discuss in small groups regarding the future education of Middletown and Newport students, as well as, an opportunity to voice concerns. Overall the feedback indicated the residents of Middletown and Newport want to maximize on available opportunities to benefit their students.

Monday’s meetings were the first of several planned this summer to provide information and gather feedback from the community about the regionalization. Future meetings are planned for July 25 and 26th and August 22nd and 23rd. Virtual meetings are also available; links for those meetings may be accessed on the events tab above.

According to legislation now being considered by the State General Assembly, the district would be run by a combined school committee, finance committee, and school administration.

Recently, a steering committee of representatives from each community was named to guide the process. Representing Newport on the committee are City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr., School Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain, City Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie, and School Committeewoman Rebecca Bolan. Middletown is represented by Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown, School Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger, Town Councilwoman Barbara A. VonVillas, and School Committee Chairwoman Theresa Spengler.

The steering committee has also engaged the Annenberg Institute at Brown University to advise on financial, educational, and community impacts.

The data-gathering stage of possible financial and educational opportunities for a Middletown-Newport regionalization is just beginning. More details will be forthcoming, but Monday’s attendees were able to examine some of the opportunities and financial benefits that might be available in future public meetings in July and August.

From the beginning, officials from Middletown and Newport have said improving the quality of education should be the main driver behind regionalization. That could include expanded Advanced Placement classes, career tech programs, and extracurricular activities. Both communities could also create pre-kindergarten for younger students by a new regionalized school district that would be elected in 2023.

Five Big Reasons to Regionalize

1. More Options for Students

High school students in the combined district will have double the career tech programs and more AP opportunities and course choices. The regional school board will have more options to add more new programs.

2. More Money for Classrooms

Middletown and Newport spend $5 million annually on separate services like attendance tracking and purchasing. Creating a combined administration would lower these costs, allowing them to use the savings to improve teaching and learning.

3. Higher State Funding for Schools

Both communities would receive up to 80% state reimbursement for schools they build as part of the plan (up from just 35% without it). The state would provide an additional $45 million in Housing Aid for Newport school projects already approved by voters. It would allow Middletown to build all-new schools for the same net price as health-and-safety repairs to current buildings. Middletown’s school building plan is also on the ballot in November.

4. More Free Pre-K

Both communities would be able to send more young learners to new Pre-K facilities, helping families give their children a chance to learn at the most important age in their development.

5. A Greener Island

During the 2020-2021 school year, Middletown spent $700,000 on building utilities (electricity, heat, and water). New, net-zero energy facilities would cut these costs and provide long-term savings for the new district.