My name is Dr. Mike Gustin and I am the President of Options Charter Schools. Options has been serving Indiana students in grades 6-12 who are at-risk of not graduating high school since 2002. We are a small grassroots charter organization. For a while, it was nice to be known as one of the “best-kept secrets in Hamilton County,” but we are working to become more well known in order to carry out our mission and serve as many Indiana students in need as possible.
As one of the five original charter schools in Indiana, we have seen the charter movement grow in our state and nationally. In fact, the first few years that Options operated as a charter school, we served only about 100 students. The great need for high quality alternative education, however, continues to drive our growth. When I took over as the president in 2012, Options served about 300 students in and around Hamilton County. Since that time, we have grown our programming to serve about 550 students across Indiana. The students access Options programming in a variety of formats: brick-and-mortar, credit recovery, virtual, hybrid, vocational training and dual enrollment.
Options leadership and staff focuses on two primary objectives to achieve our mission: (1) By Intentionally building strong and positive relationships with students and parents we can begin to rebuild the trust that is necessary for students to graduate high school. It is part of our Options’ motto: Belong, Believe, Achieve. Our belief is that once a student and family have developed strong and positive relationships, the Options staff can use those relationships to help the student realign their beliefs about themselves, identify professional and personal growth goals, and begin to achieve academically. (2) By intentionally building strong and positive relationships with area traditional public school leaders, teachers, and counselors we are able to provide a stronger support across educational programming choices that promote better outcomes and reduce the “cracks” that students often slip into.
Because of the strong political support the state’s charter schools have received and because we have been able to build several positive relationships with area traditional school superintendents, Options Charter School’s future is looking brighter than ever. We have plans to open a new Options campus in Westfield by the fall of 2021 and we continue to serve an ever-growing student population each year. Our strategic plan includes eventually having the capacity to enroll any student in grades 6-12 in Indiana that is at-risk of not graduating high school.
Our growth in student enrollment and in the quality of services we can provide is possible because of the leadership offered by the National Alliance of Charter Schools and the National Alternative Education Association. It is also possible because of the support we receive from colleagues associated with our local special education cooperative, state alternative education association, state principals association, and several key employees of the Indiana Department of Education. We are very thankful to the National Alliance of Charter Schools for being the first of all these partnerships to lead in the fight for high quality charter school options.