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Company ready to run Central Alternative School

Published 12:12am Sunday, June 23, 2013

NATCHEZ — A Chicago-based company is finalizing its plans to operate the Central Alternative School with hopes of decreasing drop out rates, increasing graduation rates and saving the Natchez-Adams School District money.

The district approved a contract in late May to outsource the operation of the school to Ombudsman Educational Services.

The company will operate its program within the school — hiring its own faculty and staff and providing all technological and learning materials.

The contract will save approximately $150,000 with the district not having to staff or operate the facility.

Ombudsman Vice President Lisa Chitty said she and other representatives visited the school last week and are excited about the opportunity to operate the facility.

“We looked at the current alternative school and determined what spaces we would use, how we would renovate and how we could design our program to fit in the current building,” Chitty said. “We’ll be sharing our plan with the district and be back in Natchez in another week to meet with potential contractors to bid on the work.”

Chitty said improvements included painting inside the building, purchasing additional furniture and adding wiring to setup computers and other technological equipment.

“The facility looks fine, and we’ll certainly be able to adapt our program to work in the district’s site,” Chitty said. “When we were there we took pictures of the school and looked at all the equipment, so our team is now designing and laying out our instruction plan.”

The company will hire nine staff members — including a director — to operate the school. The district must provide a custodian as well as pay utilities for the building, per its contract.

Chitty said the company is currently advertising for the positions and will soon begin interviews to fill the open positions.

“We’d like to interview staff in the community because that’s all part of bringing the community into the program,” Chitty said.

The program uses a blended learning model, which combines one-on-one classroom instruction with online content and instruction.

“All students starting the program would have an assessment, so we can determine where they are and match that with the required work necessary to get the credits they need,” Chitty said. “The blending learning model allows the instructor to implement the curriculum on the computer, hands on with just that student or in a large group.

“There’s a combination of teaching methods used for what’s best for that student.”

The curriculum the company uses is aligned to Mississippi state standards, Chitty said, as well as Common Core standards, which are nationally adopted standards the district must implement by the 2014-2015 school year.

The program also offers students an opportunity to earn an accredited Ombudsman diploma if they choose not to graduate from the school district.

With the district’s approval, students can earn an accredited Ombudsman diploma they can present when enrolling in community college, trade school, technical programs, university, enlisting in the military or applying for a job.

“By offering either track for students through a personalized program, each student can work at their own pace and time that’s convenient for them,” Chitty said. “That way the students can embrace the subject area they need to work on and get as much assistance and help if they’re struggling.”

The company is accredited by AdvancED, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools through the U.S. and internationally. The organization was formerly known as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is the same company that accredits the district.

Students, parents and community members will be invited to an informative meeting before school starts to learn more about the program and take a tour of the building.