Students who couldn’t behave in a regular classroom or dropped out are returning to the classroom and doing well at a new privately run school, according to a Clarke County School District graduation adviser. “It seems to be working pretty well – pretty dog-gone good,” said Rick Dunn, the school district’s graduation coach coordinator. “Students seem to be adapting to the environment and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of behavior issues from what I can tell.”
Students who couldn’t behave in a regular classroom or dropped out are returning to the classroom and doing well at a new privately run school, according to a Clarke County School District graduation adviser.
“It seems to be working pretty well – pretty dog-gone good,” said Rick Dunn, the school district’s graduation coach coordinator. “Students seem to be adapting to the environment and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of behavior issues from what I can tell.”
Over the summer, a handful of students enrolled in an Ombudsman school – privately run credit-recovery programs that will replace the punitive alternative school the district ran for students who had discipline problems.
This fall, the company added two more sites, and so far has enrolled 80 students.
Superintendent Philip Lanoue first proposed the plan to contract with Ombudsman in February when he recommended the district close SOAR academy and hire Nashville-based Ombudsman Educational Services to run a program.
Until SOAR closed, students were assigned to the school if they broke certain rules like fighting or bringing a weapon or drugs to school.
While those students now may attend Ombudsman, the school also is open to students who don’t want a traditional school environment.
Of the 80 students at the school today, 51 are returning SOAR students assigned for disciplinary reasons. The remainder either are returning dropouts or have decided to change schools.
“Parents are requesting that their children be sent there, that’s the greatest surprise,” Dunn said.
A lot of students also are motivated to do well because they eventually may be placed in jobs to work 15 hours a week and earn $7.50 an hour.
“It’s pumped up those kids about going to school,” Dunn said. “A lot of those kids are excited about going to work.”
Before students can go to work, they must take a career inventory assessment to find jobs that match their interests and pass a workforce readiness course. They also must maintain good behavior and at least a C in each of their classes.
School officials set aside $250,000 to pay high school age students to work a maximum of 30 weeks and to hire a school-to-work coordinator who would continue to find jobs for students and monitor them periodically.
The school district also partnered with the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Commission to lead work-skills training, cover workers’ compensation liabilities for employers, and document and distribute paystubs for students.
So far this year, two students have been placed in jobs at a hair salon.
“Our goal is to place every child that’s a high school student at Ombudsman with a job,” said Lynn Reich/Johns, director of applied learning for the school district.
“Right now we’re saying to them, ‘While you’re here, this is like a job interview and what you do here is going to reflect out on the work site,’ ” she said.
Some students need the money as well as the experience, school district counselors and social workers said.
While the work-based program will motivate and give students an opportunity to make money, administrators hope students will return from the experience more determined to graduate and go on to post-secondary schools, Reich/Johns said.
“It’s good money, but it’s an intervention – that’s the thing,” she said. “We want children to see that their academics is related to real-world situations, and the only way you can do that is to place them in a real-world situation so that that light bulb goes on. Our hope is our students come back and take school with a totally different attitude.”