Seneca, Mo. — Board members approved superintendent Steve Wilmoth’s
recommendation that the Seneca R-7 school district partner with the
Ombudsman Alternative School Program to provide a new option for at-risk
students in the district.
In a 6-0 vote at the school
board meeting Thursday night, board members approved the alternative
school, which could be available to students as early as Jan. 2012. The
program would cost the school district $6,000.
Chitty spoke to the board on behalf of the Ombudsman Educational
Program. She said she and Wilmoth had looked at an empty theater on
Cherokee Ave. as a potential location for the alternative school.
Ombudsman program would pay to fix up the location and for supplies,
meaning the school district would have no upfront costs for the site.
alternative school operates in terms of slots, as opposed to number of
students enrolled, meaning the school district would pay for the one
slot in the program even if one student left that slot vacant and
another took it. This allows the students to return to mainstream
without costing the school extra per person. The school would pay $200
per slot as opposed to per student. The minimum number of slots a branch
can have is 30, the amount Seneca elected to start with.
can come and go, you’re literally paying for the seat,” Chitty said.
“So a student could come a semester, get caught up and be where they
need to be and go back to the district, then another student could come
take that spot.”
With only 30 slots, the alternative school staff would consist of two teachers.
school would be a partnership between the Ombudsman program and the
district. Students who graduate from the program would earn a normal
high school diploma, and would remain enrolled in the Seneca school
Chitty said the alternative school would serve
as a last option for students who are not on path to graduate on time,
or are likely to drop out.
“The data speaks for itself,”
Chitty said. “100 percent of students that are referred to Ombudsman are
at risk of dropping out. So every single one of those kids, for
whatever reason, could potentially be a drop out. Presently our data
says that 85 percent of our students have graduated, successfully
returned to their school district, and/or completed their enrollment
period with our organization.”
Ombudsman is an
organization based out of the Chicago, Ill. area. They offer at-risk
students an alternative route to earn a high school diploma by
partnering with school districts throughout the country. Currently they
have locations in 20 states and are accredited through AdvancED, a
unified organization of accreditation outlets.
attending the alternative school would still work to meet the same
Missouri requirements that their peers in the mainstream school system
Chitty pointed out that the program benefits
students reading far below grade level. For example, if a tenth grade
student is reading at a sixth grade level, that tenth grade student
would still receive the same assignments as his peers, however, the
reading for that assignment would be lowered to his level. Chitty said
teachers would then work with that student to bring them back up to
their correct reading level.
Several administrators from
the Seneca district recently visited the Ombudsman site in Ponca City,
Okla. to observe the program. Beth James, director of special services
at Seneca, was one of those who visited the Ponca City location. She
said the students working at their individual reading level, yet working
on the same curriculum as their peers is an advantage she noticed.
of the kids that I actually talked to was a special ed. kid and they
did share that with me,” James said. “Whenever they were in special ed.
in a class, they had been pulled out from the regular students and
everybody knew they were special ed. And in this program they didn’t
know they were special ed. They felt good about that because they were
Willie Ng, high school principal, said the flexibility of the program is appealing both to administrators and students.
run it the way we want to run it,” Ng said. “The one place we’ve seen
is one giant room with teachers moving around and students working at
their own rate on art, science, whatever. It is very impressive.”
attending the alternative school would go for only four hours per day.
There would be two sessions offered, morning and afternoon. Chitty said
in some cases where there is need for it, they can also offer night
classes. She also pointed out that the hour requirements students in
mainstream have to meet are not applicable to the alternative school.
at the alternative school would manage their own schedule by creating a
syllabus each day listing the order in which they want to approach the
Chitty said decisions such as bus
transportation, providing lunches, and setting the eligibility criteria
would be left to the school district.
Britt Burr, school
board president, expressed concern over the school district’s ability to
keep enrollment where it needs to be at the alternative school.
we confident we can fill those 30 slots?” Burr asked. “Cause if we’ve
got 24 kids then all of a sudden that raises our cost per student quite a
Wilmoth said he did not think that would be a
problem and emphasized the need for an alternative school for students.
He said he was aware of nearly 30 students who would use the program.
got a real issue with kids that aren’t being successful, that part of
them are getting a drivers license before they get out of middle
school,” Wilmoth said. “That’s a problem you guys. We’ve let those kids
down somewhere along the line. To be honest, I think that’s our problem
and we can do a better job of educating our kids.”
said those students who have been held back would have the chance at
the alternative school to catch up to their peers faster than through
the normal school.
“We could accelerate them based on
working at their own level and move them up through the system,” Chitty
said. “We’re not rushing kids through but we give them every opportunity
during the time that they’re with us to earn their credits toward their
Contractors have already looked at the
potential school location, and Chitty said they believed they could have
it ready in time for classes to start in January. The contract is for
three years, however, Chitty said there is the opportunity for the
school district to exit the contract at a year and a half if the school
is not working for them.
Currently there is only one other Ombudsman Alternative School in Missouri, located in Potosi.
In other business, the Seneca school board:
- Accepted bids on two vehicles. They voted to purchase a 2012 Dodge Caravan for $22,997 and a 2011 Ford F150 for $23,899.
- Approved 11 semester graduates.
- Approved a list of officials for winter sports.
Original link: http://www.neoshodailynews.com/features/x1944404004/Seneca-R-7-Board-OKs-alternative-school