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Alternative school move blasted
Educators, parents want program off campus
interin sup Harley Grove
Harley Grove - photo by Courier file photo
About 20 teachers, administrators and parents protested having the alternative middle school program at Snelson-Golden Middle School during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
The board had decided earlier this year to move the middle school portion of the program, which is run by the private Ombudsman Educational Services under contract, in an effort to save money. Previously, the middle school Ombudsman program was housed off campus, instructing students four hours a day. The high school part of the program still operates like that.
Currently, middle school students attend half a day of Ombudsman instruction and then go into a classroom for a half day of course work on computers supervised by a district teacher.
The protestors’ main concerns were behavioral problems among Ombudsman students that they believe are endangering other students and staff member. Many also believe the distractions hurt the education of all the students.
Board members agreed the program was not faring well on campus.
“We realize this is a crisis situation and we need to do something,” board member Becky Carter said. “We could go back to what we started with, having the students off-campus.”
No board members suggested keeping the Ombudsman at Snelson-Golden, but several said they don’t think the students should return to four-hour days.
“I disagree with four hours,” Charlie Frasier said. “They should be in school all day long.”
Chairwoman Lily Baker said she agreed the Ombudsman students needed
to be away from other students because they were put in the alternative-school program for acting out in regular school. She also suggested a path to a solution.
“I’m going to ask the board, the middle school principals and [superintendent] Dr. [Judy] Scherer to sit down and talk about what is best,” Baker said.
There was concern the discussion would take too long so Scherer recommended the board approve a second instructor be immediately placed into the extension classrooms to help supervise students until a permanent solution is found.
Harley Grove, system administrator for Obudsman, also expressed concerned, but said some of the problem could be from the longer hours for students.
In a letter to Scherer and the board, he wrote, “Since the implementation of a full day program, students have had difficulty maintaining appropriate behavior and academic success. These problems have continued this year and have escalated, even to include poor attendance.”
He wrote attendance had dropped to 55 percent at one point this year.
He continued that if the program remained on-campus, cutting it to four-hours and having two sessions (7:15-11:15 a.m. and 12:15-4:15 p.m.) could ease the behavioral problems.
“This schedule would put students in their classroom before the other middle school students arrive, would not require them to leave the classroom until ready to exit the campus at the end of their session while the other students are in classrooms.
“At the end of the day, the last session would end well after the other students have left the campus…[this would] eliminate problems of interaction that occur during class change, extension time, physical education, and lunch.”
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