Holt Considers Replacing Holt Central

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Brandon Chelf is a senior at Holt Central High School. He came there when he started falling behind in school.

"The biggest thing about Holt Central is the teachers care more than you can imagine," said Chelf. "It's not just like a one on one... It's like a best friend."

Chelf is scheduled to graduate on time, but the numbers show that Chelf may be more the exception and not the rule. The district says just 34 percent of Holt Central students graduate within six years.

That's one of the reasons teachers were informed in December that the school district was looking at other options.

Even though it's a school for students that have fallen behind academically for one reason or another, those numbers aren't good enough for Holt Superintendent Dr. Johnny Scott.

"We've evaluated Holt Central and we think there's another option here in Ingham County that's proven to be succesful," said Scott.

That option is the Ombudsman program. It's a tech-heavy alternative program that Waverly switched to 3 years ago when it was having a problem with its alternative schools. Ombudsman's Waverly location is in a strip mall off of Saginaw Highway on the west side of Lansing and serves 70 students.

Ombudsman students attend class for 4.5 hours, most of which is spent at a computer workstation.

Ingham Intermediate Superintendent Stan Kogut says Ombudsman has made a big difference for Waverly.

"Prior to Ombudsman in '07-'08 we had a rate under 20 percent," said Kogut. "In the first year of the program those numbers jumped up to 85 percent. The second year those dropped to 70 percent, so a little bit of a backslide but still a big improvement."

Ombudsman says it has a national graduation rate of 85 percent.

Superintendent Scott says the program will also cost the district less, though he doesn't know how much less yet.

But Holt Central's teachers and students are skeptical that the program would work for Holt Central's 120 student population.

"I believe that it'd just be a complete failure because none of the kids I know and that's all the kids at [Holt] Central would be able to do it," said Chelf.

"I worry that the Ombudsman program is more of a factory program." said Michelle Beerbower, who has been a teacher at Holt Central for more than a decade. "We punch in, we use the computer, we punch out, we go home.

Another teacher concern was that the increase in computer time would be a challenge for alternative students, many of whom teachers say are kinesthetically-oriented learners.

The school board could be presented with a recommendation as early as Feb. 14, and could authorize a switch to Ombudsman as early as Feb. 24.

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