District mulling increasing Ombudsman program (Ohio)
School officials are considering increasing the district’s participation in the Cuyahoga Ombudsman Center Program from 50 to 60 students.
North Olmsted was one of the initial districts involved in the program, which was established at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, along with the Olmsted Falls and Berea school districts. The program is designed to aid at-risk students who may be in danger of dropping out due to being credit-deficient, over-age, subject to increased truancy or behavior issues or in violation of the school’s code of conduct.
Lisa Ryan, director of pupil services, brought up the proposed increase during a midyear report on the program to the North Olmsted Board of Education at an April 9 work session. She said the program is proving successful for the district and that increasing the number of students would allow the district to aid additional at-risk students.
“The ombudsman program has been very successful in providing students with some additional resources to help them achieve academic and social success,” North Olmsted Superintendent Mike Zalar said. “In addition to having fewer students per classroom, students receive additional academic and counseling support to help with their social and emotional development. Students are now graduating from high school and transitioning into college or the world of work who previously would have dropped out.”
Zalar said the program is already drawing additional interest in North Olmsted.
“We have a waiting list for students to get into the Ombudsman program,” he said. “We are finding that a number of students currently attending charter schools want to get into the program. The program offers a structured academic environment with the flexibility to recover lost credits while building relationships with a caring adult. Increasing the number of available seats is very important so every child has the opportunity for a successful future.”
Ryan said five students in North Olmsted have already completed all district and state graduation requirements and will receive their high school diploma from the North Olmsted City Schools.
In addition to the initial diagnostic assessments, Ryan cited computer-assisted learning as aiding the students.
“The use of computer-assisted and teacher-led instruction has proven to be highly successful for our population of students,” she said. “Staff also differentiates instruction for students through the creation of off-line enrichment activities that supplement each lesson completed on the computer.”
Ryan said the overall attendance percentage for students as of March 20 is 82 percent, with 36 students having an average daily attendance at or above 80 percent.
Current cost estimates for increasing North Olmsted’s student slots from 50 to 60 would mean an increase of $41,625, bringing the cost to $294,000, John Lasko, school board president, said. Lasko said afterward the proposed increase deserves consideration, noting there are many programs and different ways students are educated.
“The reality is that we as a district are in the business of providing educations to students in a variety of situations,” he said. “The program certainly is proving to be effective for students who are involved in it. We have to weigh the benefits to adding additional students against the additional costs involved.”
Ryan said the Berea and Olmsted Falls districts appear ready to increase their number of students from 50 to 60 as well. In addition, Brunswick City Schools has slots for 40 students now as well, she said.
She said some other area districts, such as Bay Village and Westlake, have expressed interest in the program as well.
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