Sioux Falls School District cuts ties with alternative education program


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since 2011, the Sioux Falls School District has been working with a company called Ombudsman. The district is paying over $1 million a year for this group to oversee the curriculum for students at Joe Foss and Presidents’ Academy.  Now, they’re cutting ties to cut costs.

For the last eight years, students who the district defines as “significantly off-pace” have been offered an alternative path to earn their high school diploma.

“Really what we’re doing is moving away from a vendor to what we believe will be a more cost-effective scenario,” Sioux Falls Superintendent Brian Maher said.

Now to save money and offer a better system for the students, the Sioux Falls School District will be building its own curriculum and starting a new program for the 2019-2020 school year.

“In terms of the kids going to the program, our best hope is that it is seamless and they don’t even notice a change. So we’ll still have the program and still take care of those students,” Maher said.

The kids will not be moving locations. 

What’s not decided yet is who will be teaching them. Currently the staff working with the students are employees of Ombudsman. Those teachers and the District will have some choices to make in the coming months.

“Those opportunities will be in the Sioux Falls School District. So just like anyone else, if they’re interested and it meets their desire for continued employment, they can apply and we’ll fill those positions,” Teresa Boysen, Assistant Superintendent of Academic Achievement, said.

The District hopes by removing Ombudsman as the middle-man, the new program will be more streamlined and help students have access to other opportunities.

“Can we connect them with CTE, our academy, a little bit more closely? So that way then we can get them back on track and get them into a career path too moving forward,” Boysen said.  

There are more than 300 students in the Ombudsman program right now. The current contract with the school district is $1.2 million a year.

Boysen says they have been great partners, but it came down to a matter of efficiency and cost.

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