‘Tis The Season! (Dunagan’s Blog)


Hello families,

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration prior to the start of the break, and I wanted to personally thank all of the students & families that participated and helped make it a really nice event.

We are now in the final stretch of the first semester, with finals and final projects are quickly approaching. Winter Break isn’t too far away either!

With the holiday season upon us, we are taking part in a campus-wide community service project with Foster Fairies Inc. to benefit local children. The project involves Options-Carmel advising groups serving as sponsors for a child who will receive gifts that the child has listed on their “wish list.” We believe once our students see the needs and wants on their peers’ wish lists they will be humbled and want to continue to help those in need in the future. For more information about the program, or to get involved, email Jenny.

I also wanted to share a reminder about the bridge program that we will be starting at Options-Carmel in January, as we will be expanding to serve students in grades 8-12 for the spring 2020 semester. As we look to the future and the opening of the Options-Westfield location in August 2021, we are excited to welcome new families into the Options Family!

Please see the list of important dates below:
December 2-12: Foster Fairies, Inc. donation collection
December 13: Delivering gifts to Foster Fairies, Inc.
December 18: Full E-Learning Day

December 23-January 6: Winter Break (Students return on Tuesday, January 7)

I am so excited to finish our first semester together here at Options!

Happy Holidays!

— Dunagan

 

Students of the Month – Nov. 2019

In celebration of our November Students of the Month, get to know the four students that were selected! Each student was selected by their program’s Principal and teachers.

 

Kyleigh Brownell
(Options-Carmel)

Grade: 9th

When did you enroll at Options?
I started in the beginning of September 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I really enjoy playing video games, mainly Overwatch, and I also like drawing objects and putting my own twist on art. I also play the piano, rugby and soccer.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
The flexibility really helps because you can work at your own pace and you don’t feel like you’re buried under homework and super stressed.

What is your favorite subject in school?
History & Language Arts

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers are more laid back, but they also care more. They are invested in how I am doing outside of school as well.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I have wanted to be a Paramedic since I was in the Civil Air Patrol and learned more about the medical side of things. I like the freedom of being outside of the hospital. I also enjoy the technical stuff, so I might go into computer science.

 

Zachary Kramer
(Options-Distance Education)

Grade: 12
Hometown: Yorktown

When did you enroll at Options?
September 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to play video games, especially Fortnite. I also am passionate about trains.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like that I was able to catch up on all of the credits I was behind on and that I was able to learn at my pace.

What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject is science. I love being able to learn about space the most.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Not only with academics, but overall. I have improved in math more than anything, but I also have improved my self-esteem some.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
Options teachers don’t make me feel like they have to help me, they make me feel like they want to help me.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I would like to go to a trade school for mechanics, but ultimately, I would like to work in the railroad industry.

 

Dalton Hart
(Options-Noblesville Middle School)

Grade: 6th

When did you enroll at Options?
October 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I enjoy playing Xbox and football, I like playing Madden the most. My favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys, so I always play with them on Madden. When I play football, I like to either play with my friends or even just play catch.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like that the teachers aren’t always pushing us about things, and they work with us. I like that everyone is connected, and conversations are open.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Last year I realized I was good at Math, so that would be my favorite.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’m better in History and English. I used to just get a stack of papers to complete, but now I’m learning the material and I’m not loaded with work all the time.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers are really nice, and you just feel like they are also your friend, in addition to being your teacher.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I want to play football as a running back.

 

Chris Mullins
(Options-Noblesville High School)

Grade: 11 

When did you enroll at Options?
I started a couple of years ago when I was a Freshman.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I just like to play soccer or be at home. I went to Switzerland a few years ago and lived there for a year, so I have been hooked on soccer ever since. I like to play any position except for goalkeeper, and I play travel soccer for Indy Premier.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like that it is small. The teachers will offer to help any time of the day, no matter what. I also like that it just feels like a family and everyone is treated the same.

What is your favorite subject in school?
I like Science because of how it is hands-on.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’ve become more mature, especially with going to class and making sure I do my work. Matt Petersen has always been there to help me out and make sure I’m taking care of what I need to.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The level of teaching is different because they make sure everyone understands it and they don’t just move on to a new topic. They make sure everyone in the class is on the same page.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I want to do a number of things right now, so I might either go into IT, business, accounting or play soccer professionally.

 

Coming Full-Circle

When receiving any form of assistance, it isn’t out of the ordinary for someone to want to give back to the source of that assistance.

In that respect, Holyn Hallman is no different. The 2015 Options graduate is now in a place to give back to Options Schools through its students as a Pre-Employment Transition Services Coordinator at The Arc of Greater Boone County.

Also known as a Career Coach, Hallman works with students on preparing for the world outside of school, whether it be workplace readiness, job exploration, postsecondary self advocacy and more.

“I’ve been seeing students genuinely more excited for their future,” said Hallman. “Some students are just so overwhelmed by the future and I like seeing them bounce ideas off of me and just talk. Then they are able to see if this is something that actually want to do, look into it and if they are passionate about it, we’ll look more into it.”

The stars aligned to make a dream job, a reality. When looking at job openings after graduating from Ball State University in July, Hallman came across an open position that would allow her to work with a number of schools. When learning that one of those schools would be Options, the position was one Hallman couldn’t resist.

“I naturally gravitated towards a field that consisted of helping people and I just fell in love with social work,” Hallman said. “I wanted to come back and work with Options because it’s always kind of felt like a home for me. You’ll often see former students coming back to visit because everyone at Options is kind of like family, we all love each other and we all want to help each other. That support system remains after graduation.”

Having enrolled at Options as a freshman, Hallman reflected on how things were different than where she previously attended.

“At Options, they really just valued independence in students and as students, we knew that the teachers really cared about us as individuals,” said Hallman. “The staff just sees the good in students and I don’t think I would have graduated high school if it weren’t for coming to Options..”

Now married to her then-high school sweetheart, everything has come full circle for Hallman in the best way imaginable. She worked hard for the opportunity to give back and takes pride in that opportunity every day.

 

Charter School Accountability

Curious about how Options Schools & other charter schools are held accountable? We’re here to share some info!

Not just anyone can authorize a charter school. A charter school authorizer may only be one of the following:

– Mayor of Indianapolis
– Four-year state university (Options Schools are authorized by Ball State University)
– Any traditional public school board
– The Indiana Charter School Board (a state agency existing solely to act as a statewide authorizer) – Non-profit college or university that offers a four-year educational program, where the board of trustees is ultimately the responsible party and may be granted a charter.

The State Board of Education has a rigorous accountability framework for authorizers, which includes the ability to close charter schools and end the authorizers’ ability to sponsor schools. Not just anyone and definitely not a for-profit organization may be a charter school “organizer”.

An organizer must receive approval from an authorizer to start a charter school. The organizer is accountable to the authorizer to meet the terms of the agreement. It typically takes up to two years for a charter school to go from an idea to opening its doors.

Charter schools are subjected to the same state testing and accountability requirements as traditional public schools.

All charter school agreements must include a requirement that the charter school close after four consecutive years of F ratings. If an authorizer chooses not to close a charter school after four consecutive F ratings, they must request and receive approval from the State Board of Education (SBOE) to renew the charter agreement. After a hearing, the SBOE must implement one or more of the following: grant the renewal request (and determine length and conditions of renewal), order the closure of the school, and/or reduce the amount of administrative fees the authorizer can collect.

Charter schools are required to have an independent financial audit completed every year, unlike traditional public schools which are only audited by the State Board of Accounts every other year.

Unlike some traditional public schools, no student is forced to attend a charter school. Parents make the decision to send their child to a charter because they believe it will be the best educational environment for their student. A lottery must be held if the number of students who wish to attend the charter school is greater than the number of available seats in the school.

 

About Options Schools
Serving students in grades 6-12, Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville & another campus coming to Westfield. Options also offers a Distance Education program that serves students throughout Indiana. Providing students with an inclusive environment and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1. With a high-quality, individualized approach, Options was founded in 2002.

About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

 

Pen Pal Across The Pond

For Kimberly Massoud, a life-changing friendship began at age 12 with a book of addresses and optimism.

Interested in finding a pen pal, Massoud wrote a letter to every national embassy located in New York City to inquire about a pen pal program through which she could connect with someone in a different part of the world. The only response came from the Japanese Embassy and the result was a collection of letters.

“I started getting letters from all these people in Japan and that just wasn’t what I was looking for,” said Massoud. “I was just disappointed and then I found a book that was my dad’s and it was just full of street addresses all over the world. I just knew that if I wrote enough letters, I was going to receive a response.”

One of Massoud’s letters was delivered to a Lutheran church in the United Kingdom, about 30 miles outside of London in Essex. With not many young people in the churches’ congregation, the letter was given to 11-year-old Stephen Hamp.

“I remember one Sunday, the pastor came to me and gave me this envelope and folded up piece of paper,” said Hamp. “I was the only youngster in the church, so I’m not even sure if there was anyone else to give it to. I was fascinated, intrigued and excited, and all those things you would be. So, I replied and thought about it for a week or two and then a week or two later a letter arrived. It just went from there.”

While means of communication have changed in the 35 years since the first letter, Hamp spoke to everything that comes with a hand-written letter from a friend.

“It’s really hard to explain and we have never really been able to explain it, but there is just something about having an envelope come through the mail slot of your door and land on your doormat,” said Hamp. “Because we had to wait for the letter to be mailed and everything, it just made it unique because there wasn’t that instant gratification, but it was still exciting.”

While the hand-written & mailed letter may be a way of the past, Hamp spoke to what it did for his growth.

It really impacted the way I write and the way I communicate,” Hamp said. “Not many school kids have the opportunity to write at the depth and level that we were writing at. It has had such a positive impact on my life in so many ways and I even notice now that the way I speak was impacted by writing letters.”

Since first connecting over 30 years ago, Massoud and Hamp have each visited the other about every eight years, with the most recent visit being Hamp coming to central Indiana.

Massoud saw the visit as a great opportunity for her students to expand their world view.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Hamp spent the school day at the Noblesville campus of Options Schools and was able to help Options students learn more about life in the United Kingdom.

“Stephen read Shakespeare to our eighth and ninth grade students,” said Massoud. “He works near Buckingham Palace so we did a digital tour of the area to show the students what that part of London is like. We also talked about some different terms in America and the United Kingdom, like ‘trash can’ and ‘rubbish bin.'”

“The students were asking me about my every day life and they were just really engaged in unique aspects of how things are different for us in the UK.,” Hamp said.

But what would a true cultural experience without tea?

During Massoud’s advising period, students were treated to tea and traditional foods like Marmite and egg salad sandwiches.

“It has been a really cool experience,” said one of Massoud’s students. “We already want him to come back.”

A life-long friendship and a cultural experience, all from the determination of Massoud to find a pen pal.

During Tea Time, students enjoyed tea, Marmite, egg salad sandwiches & more

Students of the Month – Oct. 2019

In celebration of our October Students of the Month, get to know the four students that were selected! Each student was selected by their program’s Principal and teachers.

 

Riley Tynan
(Options-Carmel)

Grade: 11th 

When did you enroll at Options?
In August of 2018. I actually found out about it by accident and liked that it wasn’t a big & stressful environment.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I am really interested in reptiles and have recently become more interested in cosmetology, with makeup and acrylic nails. I also taught myself how to play the ukulele, guitar and piano. I currently have two reptiles, one ball python and one leopard gecko.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
There are a lot of things that I like. The environment is small and personable, which has encouraged me to do more work. The structure creates trust and mutual respect between the student and the teacher. It is always consistent that every teacher is nice.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Last year it was biology, but this year would be history. Having Steve as a teacher makes the subject great because he knows when it is time to be serious and when we can enjoy it.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’m definitely better at math and I’ve become more social. I’m trying harder in school now and I’m a lot more comfortable with talking to people. At this school, students are open about their flaws and are easy to talk to and be around.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers are very understanding, and they will work with us if something happens. They’re always willing to help if I need it and they’re just supportive in every way.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I’m still deciding, but I know I want to graduate from college and become the first person in my family to do that because it will prove it is possible. I am interested in things like herpetology, ornithology, biology and cosmetology.

 

Chloe Keeling
(Options-Distance Education)

Grade: 10th
Hometown: North Salem, Indiana 

When did you enroll at Options?
January 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to workout at the gym with my brothers or do anything that involves physical activity. I also find myself very intrigued in the fashion world.

What is your favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program?
My favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program is the flexibility it gives you. You can work on lessons anytime of the day or night, as well as work at your own pace, which I think is amazing.

What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject would have to be Math. I have always understood math very well, and I think it is cool how the whole world uses it in the same ways. 

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Academically, I have improved. I have been able to not only get my work done, but I actually understand it and can apply it to the real-world. Outside of school, I have improved my relationships with my family, and have been able to experience more real-world situations with the flexibility of my schedule.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers at Options are great! Whenever I need help in a certain subject, all I have to do is message the teacher and I will get a quick response. We discuss why I’m having a hard time over video chat or email. The teachers really take their time in making sure the problem is resolved and I fully understand all of my work.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
Nothing is set in stone regarding my plans after a graduate. However, I’d like to attend college and explore different majors, and I’d also like to travel as much as possible in the future.

 

Bella Ott
(Options-Noblesville Middle School)

Grade: 8th

When did you enroll at Options?
At the start of September of this year.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I have played the clarinet for three years and I like Henna art, but it is the only thing I am good at drawing. I also like to play basketball.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like it a lot. I have become connected to other students and have developed some real friendships. I like that the teachers are genuine, they put in effort and truly care about us and our education.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Right now, it is Family & Consumer Science and Health. I like having Mike as a teacher and the class is just interesting because a lot of it is new to me.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I am just a lot happier and not as stressed about things because I am better about handling things, so I don’t have to always worry about school.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
I feel like I have such a closer connection with my teachers. Calling them by their first name was weird at first, but it really makes a difference in making them more approachable.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I want to graduate from high school during my junior year. I want to attend Purdue and get a degree in Zoology. I want to become an animal rehabilitator for plains animals and I want to make an impact. I don’t want my life to be wasted and I really just want to do something meaningful with it. I am really passionate about saving animals.

 

Leah Beach
(Options-Noblesville High School)

Grade: 12th

When did you enroll at Options?
The first day of the January 2019 semester.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I like to listen to different types of podcasts, but mainly mystery, true crime and paranormal. I also know how to knit, but I don’t really do it. Right now, I’m also busy volunteering at a senior citizen living community as part of my service project for graduation.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I’ve gone to five different schools and this is my favorite. I like that it is small and you can get to know people better. You can also create more personal relationships with the teachers. I also like that it is all built around each student and everyone is supportive.

What is your favorite subject in school?
History because of how much passion and gusto Josh has for the material. I was never really a big fan of history, but I’ve liked exploring world history over time.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Being here has been better for my spirit. My anxiety isn’t as bad, and I don’t get worried about unnecessary things anymore.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They care and have more understanding, plus they really just want to be helpful. You get to know the teachers because the classes are small. They will make accommodations for students that need it and they are willing to work with you.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I have so many interests and I am working on narrowing it down. Right now, there are five different things I am interested in.

 

Want to learn more about Options Schools? Visit “The Options Experience” Blog to see more news about Options students & staff!