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Ombudsman in, Sharp out
Board of Education votes 4-1 for alternative provider
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The Newton County Board of Education voted 4-1 Tuesday to contract with Ombudsman to provide the county's alternative education. The decision will save $1.9 million but will also eliminate Sharp Learning Center.

"We have looked at the data over and over again, not just from last year, but since 2005," said Superintendent Gary Mathews to a large crowd of Sharp staff, including several teachers who spoke about their love for the school and its students.

Sharp falls short of Ombudsman in graduation rate, student achievement, attendance rate and conduct. The school system spends $23,000 per Sharp student in a school year versus the $7,000 spent on the average school system student.

"Spending for the Sharp program in the school system is three times more than the per pupil spending for the district as a whole," according to a board memorandum. "At a cost of approximately $6,228 per pupil and positive student indicators in Ombudsman programs around the nation, Ombudsman portends to be most ‘cost effective’ for NCSS in the truest sense of the term."

The board has discussed a switch to Ombudsman for several months. They visited Ombudsman sites in nearby counties and Ombudsman representatives spoke with board members at a meeting. It was also discussed at parent forums, voted on in an online pole and in a called meeting of the board prior to the vote.

Sharp teachers will have priority status in job interviews at Ombudsman, but there is no requirement for the business to hire them. Ombudsman employs far fewer teachers in its sites than a traditional school.

Chairman Almond Turner on Tuesday thanked the Sharp teachers, noting that Sharp had a number of good teachers and that he did not take that for granted. Board member Shakila Henderson-Baker abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest. She works for the company that provides a grant to Sharp.