Alternative program considered a success in Westwood

Thirty-nine seniors graduate in first year

After its first full school year in operation, the Westwood Ombudsman program for at-risk students has announced that 39 students, or 100 percent of its senior class, graduated this year, and the program will expand to accommodate more Wayne County students next year.

The Westwood program was featured in an article in the Winter 2007 issue of Michigan Education Report ("District hires company to provide alternative education"). Westwood Community Schools had just contracted with Ombudsman Educational Services, a private company based in Illinois, to provide computer-assisted alternative education to a consortium of area public school districts. During the initial year, the program enrolled 60 students in grades nine through 12 who were at risk of dropping out or not graduating.

The program will expand next year to offer alternative education to 30 additional students throughout Wayne County. Currently, the Westwood Ombudsman program serves students attending Westwood High School, Annapolis High School, Crestwood High School, Dearborn Public Schools and South Redford School District.

"These students would probably not have graduated this year except for the support of the Ombudsman program," Ernando F. Minghine, Westwood superintendent, was quoted in a press release announcing the graduation. "Partnering with Ombudsman has provided outstanding results for our students who now have the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning to achieve great success."

The Westwood partnership was Ombudsman’s first foray into the Michigan education Market. In an arrangement among the various districts involved, all of the Ombudsman students enrolled at Westwood, and Westwood used the state aid it received for those students to pay Ombudsman. The students complete computer-based classes at their own pace in core academic subjects. Teachers are available for assistance and also for initial assessment of each student, as well as guiding students in certain off-computer projects.

Ombudsman is a division of Educational Services of America, a national provider of special and alternative education programs. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, it cites an 85 percent success rate among its student body, with success defined as: graduating from Ombudsman or from a local school district, successfully re-entering a local school program; advancing to the next level in the Ombudsman program.

"Students drop out of school for a variety of reasons," Mark Claypool, president and CEO of ESA, said. "Some students have to work to support their families. Some feel they are too far behind academically to catch up and others feel they just don’t fit in at their school."

"Ombudsman Educational Services provides students an alternate route to earn a high school diploma in a learning environment that’s right for them," Claypool said. "For many students, the right environment includes personalized instruction in a small classroom with flexible schedules that accommodate their family and work responsibilities."

Ombudsman has partnerships with more than 120 school districts across the country. Its learning centers are typically located within the school districts they serve, but away from the campuses.


Lorie Shane is the managing editor of the Michigan Education Report, the Mackinac Center’s education policy journal. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that Michigan Education Report is properly cited.