Welcome Back!

Wow! I can’t believe we are almost finished with the first two weeks of school.  I am having such a wonderful time getting to know all our students.  We are moving right along and students should have received their first week’s grades.  If you have not already received your Parent Powerschool Login information via email you will be receiving it within the next few days. If you have not received it by the end of the week, please email Jenny, jhoshor@optionsined.org, our Options-Carmel Administrative Assistant.

We are still enrolling students for the 2019-20 school year!  We have an Open House every other Wednesday from 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (August 21 & Sept. 4). Please feel free to refer families that would like to become a part of our Options family.  You can email our Director of Marketing Andrew Piper at apiper@optionsined.org.

The Chromebooks are a key tool in our classrooms.  Please remind your student to charge their Chromebooks each night before coming back to school.  It is difficult to participate in class when they are dead.

Finally, please place the following events on your calendar:

  • Wednesday, August 21 — Early Dismissal for students, Dismissal at 11:45
  • Wednesday, August 28 — Early Dismissal for students, Dismissal at 11:45
  • Monday, September 3 — Labor Day (NO School)

Looking forward to a great school year!

– Dunagan –

 

Options Schools Unveils ‘Options @ BACA’ Pilot Program

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

NOBLESVILLE – A new partnership between Options Schools and The Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (BACA) will now provide families with the opportunity to have access to Applied Behavior Analysis therapy and an accredited public education in one convenient location.

Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville, that specialize in providing students with an individualized approach and small class sizes. Founded in 2002, Options strives to serve all students needing an alternative to traditional education with innovative platforms that meet their specific needs.

The Behavior Analysis Center for Autism specializes in providing the most efficacious applied behavior analysis services to children and young adults with autism while utilizing Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior. BACA is also known for improving the quality of life for every client by ensuring staff receive and apply intensive, on-going training.

Known as ‘Options @ BACA,’ the program will offer diploma, certificate and functional academic tracks based on the individual needs of each student. Options’ highly-qualified team will be co-located within BACA Prep in Fishers. This blended model will provide students with an optimal learning environment to receive both their education and therapy services.

“I have to begin by expressing my appreciation and respect for (BACA Co-Founder & Chief Clinician/President) Dr. Carl Sundberg with everything he has done at BACA to help so many people and impact so many lives,” said Options President/CEO Dr. Mike Gustin. “I speak for everyone on the Options team when I say that we are ecstatic to partner with BACA and serve students that previously were limited in their educational opportunities.”

“We at the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism are very excited about our partnership with Options,” said BACA Co-Founder Dr. Carl Sundberg. “We believe that the two organizations working together will produce the best possible outcomes for our students. We are looking forward to following the growth of our clients as they move through this program.”

Students attending the ‘Options at BACA’ program will participate in the educational program for three hours each day, either during the AM or PM session. In addition, families may choose to enroll with BACA for clinical services to be provided during the opposite session from education. Students do not need to be receiving BACA services in order to enroll in the ‘Options @ BACA’ educational program.

Lisa Chandler will serve as the Program Director for ‘Options @ BACA,’ with her office based in BACA’s Fishers location. Lisa is experienced working in public education and clinical environments but has spent the last 10 years in an alternative educational setting. During this time, Lisa played a key role in the development, implementation, and growth of multiple educational and ABA programs for individuals on the spectrum. Lisa is highly skilled in classroom design, integrating sensory, therapeutic and academic needs to create environments for multiple learning styles and her background includes extensive curriculum and assessment development. A 2006 graduate of Indiana University, Lisa holds an Indiana teaching license in Mild Interventions P-12 and is currently pursuing her M. Ed. in Educational Leadership.

The ‘Options @ BACA’ program will maintain a 3:1 student-to-teacher ratio and will also cap enrollment at 12 for the 2019-20 pilot year. The first day of the academic year for ‘Options @ BACA’ will be Tuesday, Sept. 3.

To secure a seat in ‘Options @ BACA,’ interested applicants can visit OptionsSchools.org/enroll-now to submit an application.

 

Friday Feature – Gretchen

My name is Gretchen Taylor, and I’m starting my 14th year as the English teacher at Options-Carmel. The benefit of teaching here for so many years is having developed relationships with a ton of students over the years. Since we started school this year, we’ve had visits from several former students. On back to school night, two graduates from 2015 stopped by because they were driving by the school, saw cars in the parking lot, and assumed that the teachers would be getting ready for a new school year. Another student who was in my class during my first year of teaching at Options stopped by during the school day because he was in the area and wanted to catch up. These are the kinds of relationships that Options inspires!

Those relationships begin on the first day of the school year. In my advising class, I have a mix of returning students and students who are new to Options, but you would never know it if you walked into my room. The students have spent the first few days talking, getting to know each other, and learning to play Scrabble, which is pretty much every English teacher’s dream! While they don’t play by all of the rules – they tell me they’ll work up to it by the end of the year – they are forming relationships.

In the English classes this week, we wrote and shared their opinions with each other. The topics included why they want to earn their high school diplomas; what makes a helpful classmate or an effective teacher; their areas of strength and weakness in English classes; what they need in order to produce their best writing or to understand a challenging story; and, most importantly, what they plan to achieve by the end of the year. Each student was heard by their classmates in the first week of school, which seems like the start of some great relationships.

Quote Of The Week: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” -David Augsburger

 

The growth of Options

The start of the 2019-20 school year is here! Students are returning to school with their hope of gaining more ground towards graduation and their plans for a bright future. This year is especially exciting for me as it represents some significant milestones in the history of the organization. One of the most important milestones is our organizational goal to serve more students throughout Indiana with the same high-quality service that our past students have enjoyed. When I took over as President in 2008, Options Charter Schools was serving 270 students in two brick-and-mortar locations. This year we will serve more than 550 students throughout the state!

The growth of Options Charter Schools has allowed us to build a stronger infrastructure of programs and staff. We are better serving our students by offering such programs as a comprehensive lunch program, a broader-based counseling program, partnering with the Hamilton-Boone-Madison County Special Education Cooperative to provide more extensive special education support, and hiring safety personnel for both of our brick-and-mortar locations to better improve school safety. Beyond those program changes, we continue to identify strong leaders both inside and outside the organization. In July, we promoted former Options-Carmel Principal Camille Scott-Tolliver to the position of Director of Curriculum and Instruction. To replace Camille at Carmel, we hired Mike Dunagan, formerly a principal with Charter Schools U.S.A.

The development or implementation of new programs and our commitment to find and hire high-quality candidates demonstrates our commitment to make Options Charter Schools a high- quality educational option for students. The Options’ board and leadership team continue to work together to build and execute a vision for Options Charter Schools that begins with students and teachers in mind. The future is certainly bright for Options Charter Schools.

I hope that every student and family have a very positive and safe school year. Please take full advantage of all of our programs and take time to get reacquainted with returning staff and get to know the new staff. At Options, we are all family – Belong, Believe, Achieve!

Dr. Mike Gustin, President
Options Charter Schools

Team Tales – Melanie Martin-Terrell

If you ask Melanie Martin-Terrell how she feels about a career in education, today’s response would evoke a much more positive result than 20 years ago.

The daughter of two educators, Melanie set her sights on a career in social work and social services. With limited job opportunities in her desired field and pressure from her parents to gain employment after graduating from college, Melanie decided to try her hand at education.

“As much as I tried to resist a career in education, it just happened. I was often told that I would be a great teacher and educator and I just never thought that was my thing, but that is how things turned out.”

After having spent time as an Instructional Assistant and doing social work for a non-profit, the year was 2002 and the Charter School Movement had begun. With two children, one of which was headed to first grade, Melanie and her husband were faced with multiple opportunities for their daughter’s education.

“We looked at the different school choices for our daughter and tried to consider everything,” said Martin-Terrell. “Charter schools sounded great with how they cater to education in a way that helps each child learn and thrive. I wanted my child to have a setting that allowed for enhanced learning opportunities.”

While making an employment transition, Melanie stayed busy by being an involved and engaged parent at her daughter’s school. The staff took notice of Melanie’s initiative and offered her a job to start working immediately at 21st Century Charter School. From 2002 until 2007, Melanie served as a member of the teaching team, but after her family relocated to Noblesville she began searching for a position closer to home.

“Our kids began attending school in Hamilton County and I was just growing tired of the commute into Indianapolis,” said Martin-Terrell. “I was ready for a change and I remembered having heard about Options Charter School.”

In 2007, she interviewed for an Instructional Assistant position with Options Co-Founder Kevin Davis and was later hired to join the team at Options-Noblesville.

While the IA position was gratifying for Melanie, it wasn’t where she wanted to end up. Having aspired to obtain her master’s degree in social work, Melanie saw an opportunity to bring her passion into education as a School Counselor.

“I’m so thankful to Kevin Davis and Mike Gustin for having supported me to attend graduate school for school counseling,” said Martin-Terrell. “In 2008, I was able to earn my master’s degree while still working as an IA at Options.”

From 2007 up until 2017, Melanie not only served as an IA at Options, but also as a teaching instructor, school counselor, and Ivy Tech adjunct faculty, while building relationships with the students at Options-Noblesville.

In 2017, Melanie accepted a new role as the Counselor for an online school, but eventually realized that she missed having opportunities for the personal connections that she had while at Options.

In search of a new position, the stars aligned for Melanie as Options-Carmel was searching for a full-time School Counselor. While at a different campus, Melanie was still able to fill what is an invaluable role to so many students.

When looking back on her winding journey, Melanie sees how often she was able to help students beyond their coursework.

“Coming here allowed me to pull from social work background and help provide assistance to students so they can thrive,” said Martin-Terrell. “Students spend a good amount of time in a school setting, so it is important to help them in any way that is needed.”

There is plenty of evidence that the approach of Melanie and the rest of the Options team has helped hundreds of students live out the Options motto of “Belong. Believe. Achieve.”

“The alternative setting is fantastic because we give a place for students who need something different,” said Martin-Terrell. “I have always made a point that everyone feels comfortable and welcome. That isn’t commonplace. To be able to build relationships with students and connect with them is a major part of our motto. If you don’t feel like you belong, how are you able to be successful and feel at home? Once they belong, they can believe that they are capable and able to then achieve and accomplish goals as they move forward in life.”

 

Options is now accepting applications for the 2019-20 school year, but space is limited so interested applicants should apply ASAP in order to secure a seat.

About Options Schools

As free, public charter schools, Options Schools are designed to support the academic and social needs of students that haven’t found success in the traditional public school environment. At Options, students are encouraged to explore and embrace their individuality in a caring, supportive, and inclusive environment.

Through small class sizes and an individualized academic approach, the outstanding and highly trained instructors and staff of Options propel students to achieving academic success both in high school and their future endeavors.

 

 

Welcome, Michael Dunagan!

Join us in welcoming Michael Dunagan to the Options family as he was recently named the Principal of Options-Carmel! He fills the role previously held by Camille Scott Tolliver, who is now the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Options.

With years of experience rooted in working with students struggling at school, Dunagan brings a plethora of knowledge to the Options team. For his first Principal Blog, Dunagan answered a few questions to provide some background into who he is, what attracted him to Options & more!

 

What is your background in education?
I graduated from Ball State University where I studied Secondary Education in Social Studies and a minor in Multicultural Education. After graduating I took a position at Lawrence Early College High School, later renamed Stonegate Early College High School, and began the process of opening Indiana’s first Early College Charter School. The first two years I served as a social studies teacher and as assistant dean of discipline. I continued to work at Stonegate helping 6 students graduate from high school with an associates degree from Ivy Tech.

 

In 2012 I took a position at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School as a Social Studies Teacher. I also completed my Elementary level Principal’s internship at Oaklandon School of Environmental Studies. In May of 2012, I graduated from Ball State University with a MAE in Educational Administration and Supervision. In July of 2012, I took an administrative position at Emma Donnan Middle School overseeing all instruction. As a CRT I hosted professional development, coordinated testing and school data, observed staff, and supervised all aspects of Instruction. In 2013, I took a summer position as Director of Summer School and became the Assistant Principal of EDMS. In 2014, I became the Principal of EDMS. In 2015, EDMS was expanded to K-8 school in partnership with IPS as an innovation school. EDMS is now Emma Donnan Elementary and Middle School. At Emma Donnan the Elementary has earned the A letter grade the past two years and the Turnaround Middle School was removed from the failing schools list earning a C. 

 

My experience has constantly centered around students who are behind or in danger of not graduating or dropping out of school.  As a teacher I worked with students as the senior advisor and running graduation. It was my role to help support our seniors to stay on track to graduation. Stonegate was a school for students who did not fit into the traditional public schools around them or who wanted something different. I worked with several students who had been expelled or who we were their last option to stay in school. I know I can continue helping students graduate high school. At Stonegate we also were one of the first schools to offer dual credit classes. This is now commonplace, but I have a lot of experience supporting students in these efforts.

 

As an administrator I worked with predominantly middle school and then added elementary students.  I am use to having students enter our school years behind their peers and working to help them catch up to grade level. I know that I will have a lot of learn about Options-Carmel, but I am excited for the opportunity to serve the students, families, and staff.

 

How familiar are you with Hamilton County and Carmel?
My Wife and I moved to the area just south of Pendleton, IN back in 2007. We have lived on the far north side the past 12 years and are very familiar with north from Pendleton to Zionsville. My wife has worked at Primrose of WestClay for the past 12 years and has been the director of the school for the last 10. Our oldest son attended Primrose thru Kindergarten and our youngest is still at the school.  We have spent a lot of time in the Carmel area and plan to continue to be part of the community for a very long time.

 

What attracted you to Options Schools?
I have worked in charter schools and schools of choice during my entire education career. I have worked to serve families that wanted a better option for their student. I saw Options as an opportunity to continue that work in an organization that believes all students could be successful and that understood the importance of family and community. I want to be part of a family as a school. I see the Options team treat each other and their students as family. I had to be a part of that type of culture and help continue their legacy of making a difference in students’ lives each day.

 

Is there anybody you’d like to recognize as you move into this role?
There are so many people who have helped and supported me along the way. I wanted to thank my family for supporting me. My parents for teaching me what it meant to work hard and to always do my best.  My wife, Kendra, for being my rock and believing I can do anything I put myself into. I want to thank my two boys for being the best kids a father could ask for. I would like to thank Dr. Scott Syverson for supporting as a mentor getting me started as an administrator. Thank you to all the students, teachers, and staff members I have had an opportunity to work with so far. You have all shaped me. I hope that the Options family will be as impactful in my life.

 

Interesting Facts:

  • Married to my wonderful wife, Kendra, and have to boys, Hudson and Maddox.
  • I am an avid Disney fan. Our family visits Disney parks often. We collect, watch, listen, and experience as much Disney as we can as a family.
  • I enjoy running, I have completed several half marathons and enjoy running regularly.
  • I am a big Indianapolis Colts fan, and try to meet as many of the players as possible.

 

About Options Schools
As free, public charter schools, Options Schools are designed to support the academic and social needs of students that haven’t found success in the traditional public school environment. At Options, students are encouraged to explore and embrace their individuality in a caring, supportive, and inclusive environment.

Through small class sizes and an individualized academic approach, the outstanding and highly trained instructors and staff of Options propel students to achieving academic success in middle school, high school and their future endeavors. Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-20 school year, but space is limited so interested applicants should apply ASAP in order to secure a seat.


#OptionsGrad Spotlight – Isabella Isenberg

For Isabella Isenberg, her Options journey began in August 2018 and that journey has turned out to be one with life-altering results.

Having previously attended a traditional, public high school in Fishers, IN, Isabella reached a point where she needed a change and that change was made possible at 530 W Carmel Drive in Carmel, IN.

“When I first walked into Options, I was unsure and nervous,” said Isabella. “Then, the second I met (Principal) Camille, I knew I was going to school here.”

From the first day of school, Isabella was amazed by many of the things she experienced in the hallways of Options.

“I didn’t believe Camille when she told me it was a family environment, until I experienced it for myself,” said Isabella. “All of the teachers knew me, even though I wasn’t in all of their classes. They also showed that they believed in me.”

Once Isabella noticed the impact Options was having on her, she took it upon herself to convince her brother to enroll. For Isabella, a ripple effect could be seen throughout.

“Everything turned around for us and we were doing really good,” Isabella said. “It just changed everything for our entire family and helped improve our mindsets, too.”

Active in the community, Isabella prides herself on giving back and was able to do just that on multiple occasions. Two instances include working with the House of Representatives Page Program for Advocacy Day and serving as a member of the Walk Out of The Darkness committee with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In each of those roles, Isabella was able to spread awareness surrounding mental health and also advocate for those that are unable to have their voices heard on the subject.

While Isabella graduated from Options on May 29, 2019, she hopes to bring things full circle with her career path.

Having been accepted into Ivy Tech-Downtown Indianapolis, with plans to transfer to Indiana University Bloomington, Isabella intends to major in Special Education so that she can return to Options as an employee.

“Because of everything Options provided for me, I just want to be able to give back to future Options students and help them in the way that I was helped,” she said.” It was a really great experience and I just can’t express how grateful I am for it.”

 

Options expands 2019 Open House schedule

In order to continue the efforts of serving as many students as possible within the state of Indiana, Options Charter Schools will be hosting six additional Open Houses from July until September.

Each Open House will run from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. and attendees will be able to tour the respective campus and speak with Options Principals, teachers and other team members.

After hosting six well-attended Open Houses in the spring, Options is adding dates to provide more students with the opportunity to see what can be accomplished with a small, personalized approach to education.

Open House Schedule
Wednesday, July 24 (Noblesville)
Wednesday, July 31 (Carmel)
Wednesday, August 14 (Noblesville)
Wednesday, August 21 (Carmel)
Wednesday, August 28 (Noblesville)
Wednesday, Sept. 4 (Carmel)

The addresses for each campus can be found here. 

Unable to attend an Open House? Visit OptionsSchools.org to schedule a private campus tour and you’ll also have a chance to have any questions answered by an Options team member.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-20 school year, but space is limited so interested applicants should apply ASAP in order to secure a seat.

About Options Schools
As free, public charter schools, Options Schools are designed to support the academic and social needs of students that haven’t found success in the traditional public school environment. At Options, students are encouraged to explore and embrace their individuality in a caring, supportive, and inclusive environment.

Through small class sizes and an individualized academic approach, the outstanding and highly trained instructors and staff of Options propel students to achieving academic success both in high school and their future endeavors.


With diploma in hand, DE student looks to the future

Pictured in the photo with Larry, from left to right, are: Debbie Beddow, Collaborative Care Supervisor, Indiana Department of Child Services; Ashley, Larry’s sister; Jessica Thompson, Case Manager, Older Youth Services, The Villages; Justin Maloney, Collaborative Care Manager, Indiana Department of Child Services.



This article was originally published in the Community Stories page of The Villages website on June 5

It’s graduation season across Indiana, and we are celebrating our older youth who have earned their high school diplomas – with many students preparing to continue their education in the fall at colleges, universities, and trade schools.

In 2018 96% of Villages students in The Villages’ Older Youth Services Program attained a high school diploma or equivalency. This is a great accomplishment for older youth in foster care who often overcome significant challenges to pursue their education. Several of the youth graduating this year earned college scholarships.

“We are so proud of every single graduate this year at The Villages,” said Millie McDonald, Director of Older Youth Services at The Villages. “These outstanding young men and women are great reminders for all of us that nothing is impossible with hard work, commitment and a strong support system to help you soar.”

Among this year’s graduates is Larry, 20, who lives in the Terre Haute area and earned his diploma from Options Charter School in Carmel as a distance learning student. After a few years of personal struggles, Larry, with the support of teachers at Options and the team at The Villages, is not only a high school graduate, but a future college student. He plans to enroll at Ivy Tech to pursue a career in video game design.

“I’m more focused now,” Larry says. “A lot of people have helped me through some difficult times.”

“Completing assignments was challenging for Larry because he didn’t have adequate internet service where he lived”, said Jessica Thompson, a Case Manager for older youth at The Villages in Terre Haute. As a distance learning student, robust internet access is critical. Thompson met with Larry at least once a week to ensure he had all the proper resources to complete assignments and tests.

“Larry had so much support from Options school staff, including creating an IEP that provided accommodations Larry needed to succeed,” Thompson says. “They even had a math tutor drive from Indianapolis and work with him for two days until he was able to get all his algebra assignments complete.”

Larry has become much more committed to his future over the past few years, says Tiffany Elkins, a Direct Support Lead at ResCare Supportive Living Services. Larry has lived at the facility since 2017.

“Emotionally, he’s in a very different place. He has learned ways to manage his moods and walk away when he feels his actions could lead to trouble,” Elkins says. “He knows how to come to us to talk about how he’s feeling.”

In addition to starting at Ivy Tech this fall, Larry will move closer to his sister this month.

“I’m feeling pretty good about my future,” he says.

 

Continued Growth

Over the last four months, I have had the privilege of serving as the Interim Principal of Options-Noblesville and have learned a lot in the role. While the time has opened my eyes to what it takes to succeed in the role, I have also been able to utilize my position to build stronger relationships with our students and teachers. Since taking over in February, I have most enjoyed the ability to effect change and growth throughout the entire building.

When I look back at the 2018-19 school year, I am very proud of our 2019 graduates. It has been so rewarding to see those students go through the process of wrapping up their high school careers, and also working through their Senior Institute projects and presentations.

Since I joined the Options team in 2016 as a Health & Physical Education teacher at Options-Carmel, it has been a fast-paced journey. Midway through year two, I became the Assistant Principal and Director of Middle School at Options-Noblesville and after starting year three as Assistant Principal, I am ending the year as Principal.

It definitely has been a whirlwind of changes over the past three years, but I am very proud of where I ended up. I love my team of teachers, students and being able to serve as the Principal of Options Charter Schools-Noblesville.

As I look to the 2019-20 school year, I am excited to continue my journey as a member of the team as the Principal of Options-Noblesville. I really enjoy being a part of all the growth that can be seen within the students that walk through our doors. Students enroll at Options for various reasons, but they stay with us because they become a part of our family.

— Adam

 

An Amazing Journey

Although I am saying goodbye as the Principal of Options Charter School-Carmel, I am actually saying hello to a lifelong dream of coaching our teaching staff and providing them with the necessary tools to meet our students’ academic, behavior, and social-emotional needs as the new Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

There are several innovative methods of instructing our students who have struggled in the classroom for most of their school years. I will be able to work with teachers in and outside of the classroom and provide them with resources, tools, curriculum, and professional development that will in turn increase the academic rigor of Options Charter Schools.   

I cannot thank my direct supervisor, Michelle Walden, enough for coaching me and helping me adapt to the Options family. Working with at-risk students can be extremely challenging at times, but I have learned to love with logic, to set high academic and behavioral  expectations, and to come alongside my students to help them meet those expectations. I have also had the opportunity to be a part of hundreds of students’ success stories and have been blessed to have worked with an awesome administrative and teaching staff at Carmel.

I would like to give a special “thank you” to all of the Options-Carmel students and staff.  You have given me courage, strength, and constructive criticism that have made me into the leader I am today.  To the wonderful families that have trusted me with your students, I say “thank you” as well. We have partnered together to ensure your students received a holistic education where we not only focused on their academics, but also their public and private struggles that have hindered their progress in the classroom.  I am so honored to be a part of an organization that focuses on building relationships with students so they can be apart of a family that genuinely cares about their well being.

To the Class of 2019, we started together in the fall of 2016 and I am so proud of you all!  You persevered through extremely challenging obstacles and you have proven to your underclassmen that you can succeed if you continue to work hard, accept redirection, and learn from your mistakes.

Finally, please continue to share your Options stories with others.  There are so many youth who would benefit from our relational approach to instructing students. We would be happy to welcome them into our Options family where all students can:  Belong, Believe, and Achieve!

~ Camille ~

 

Valedictorian Spotlight: Joshua Swisher

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Noblesville
Enrollment Date: August 2017

How did you hear about Options?
I found it online when I was searching for some other schools. My mom works with exchange students, so she also knows of a lot of local schools.

What were you thinking when you first stepped on campus?
Initially, I wasn’t sure about it working. I was shy just like for starting at any new school.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I have a passion for shuffling playing cards. This summer, I’m traveling to Portland to attend a conference for creatively shuffling playing cards. I also enjoy solving rubix cube puzzles and playing board games. I also know how to play the drums and have been playing for almost seven years. I am totally self-taught and used to play at my church.

What did you enjoy most about Options?
The best part was just the opportunity to have a flexible schedule and learn at my own pace. That helped by giving me a big advantage going into college since I already have 12 hours of college credits.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
I always enjoyed math because it comes naturally to me since I am detail-oriented and meticulous. It is easy for me to wrap my mind around things because I am systematic and enjoy working with patterns.

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I have certainly improved my self-esteem and my outlook on things. I approach everything with a more positive mindset and have been more social.

How are Options teachers different than teachers you’ve had at other schools?
Because there are less students, they can get to know students better and they try to be more personal. They make sure to cater to what the students need to succeed.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I am going to attend Anderson University and study finance as a student in the honors program.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I found out when Adam called me to let me know and I was surprised, but excited. Right now, I’m mostly nervous for the speech.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
It is a flexible, non-traditional environment with teachers that truly care about their students.

How has Options helped you prepare for life after high school?
I took a College Readiness & Careers course earlier this year that had us read a book that was really informative. It was even helpful in preparing me for the college courses I took this year and was a good foundation for me moving forward.

 

Valedictorian Spotlight: Elizabeth Ty

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Carmel
Enrollment Date: October 2016

How did you hear about Options?
Through a friend.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I really enjoy cosmetology and hanging out with my friends.

What did you enjoy most about Options?
The teachers are just great. They’re really invested and really care, which is different than usual. It was a new experience to have teachers come to you with interest in helping make sure you can be successful.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
Science

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I am definitely more outgoing and have become more confident and comfortable when it comes to talking to people. I felt comfortable here, so that allowed me to grow.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I want to go into a career in either fashion design or something with young children. I have always had an interest in fashion and being around kids. I will be enrolling at Ivy Tech in Bloomington and plan to transfer to Indiana University. I am excited to move to Bloomington because my sister goes to IU.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I knew I was going to be close to being named Valedictorian, but I was really excited when I found out because I never expected that I could have accomplished that a couple years ago.

How are you doing with writing your graduation speech?
I actually already have it all written and just need to revise it. Lauren (Bangs) and Gretchen (Taylor) helped me with it and it took me about a week total.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
You definitely get a lot more help from teachers. Everyone knows everyone at this school, and it is just one big family. It sounds kind of corny, but it is true.

How has Options helped you prepare for life after high school?
I am more self-confident, and I never really wanted to go to college before I came to Options, but I started to think more about it and became more interested. I even thought about taking a year off of school, but now I’m going straight to college. My family is all very happy about my success and so am I.


Salutatorian Spotlight: Emily Campbell

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Carmel
Enrollment Date: August 2017

How did you hear about Options?
My step sister was actually a student at Options, so I heard about it from her. Having here at Options with me just makes things even better because we have a close group, which is nice.

What were you thinking when you first stepped on campus?
At first it was an experiment because I was used to the public-school system where it isn’t easy to build a relationship with your teachers. I soon realized there was always someone to talk to at Options and it was different. I felt very accepted and understood and the teachers showed interest in each individual student. I knew that I wouldn’t be going back to my previous school and this would be the best for me.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I enjoy drawing. A little bit of everything, mostly with markers and pencils because I’m not much of a painter. I also enjoy reading and writing a lot. I enjoy poetry and really love motivational books because they have had a positive impact on me in tough times. I also enjoy making album art as a side hustle.

What have you enjoyed most about Options?
The flexibility has been amazing. I love how teachers want to know us as people so they can tach to our strengths and individualize whatever the lesson is. They are happy to take extra time to make sure we understand.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
I just love literature, so I enjoy all of the language arts and English classes. I like when I can write about the things I enjoy, and it is easy to express your thoughts at Options. When I was younger, being pressured to read made me hate it, but once I have it another try, I just really enjoyed reading and writing.

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to have open communication and I’ve improved my my social skills, even little things. I am just more comfortable and having been around people that genuinely care has made me want to be that way to others.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I want to have a project-based career where I can be my own boss. I have a passion for overseeing photoshoots, doing makeup, photography and special effects, but I want to be a part of fashion and self-expression. I am going to travel to the west coast in June so I can utilize my current connections and network with people in those careers.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I have the most supportive parents in the entire world, and they were so excited and I was really excited too. I feel proud because I was able to come through some things and stay strong in school. It wasn’t easy, but that was my goal. I knew I wanted to raise my GPA, so I worked really hard and it all just worked out for me.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
I loved the small class sizes because it made me feel important and I didn’t just feel like a number here. It is nice that we can talk to teachers and they are interested because they want to know you for you. They know how to help us succeed because they know us as people. You also get to know every student.

 

Salutatorian Spotlight: Kerria Lytle

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Noblesville
Enrollment Date: August 2017

How did you hear about Options?
A friend at my church was a student at Options, so she was the person to tell me all about it. We both were used to small towns and didn’t like being at a big school.

What were you thinking when you first stepped on campus?
I remember being really excited when I was driving to campus for the first visit and I was surprised with how the environment was as small as they said. After meeting Jake (Brandau) and Adam (Barr), I just loved everything they said and knew I was going to enroll there.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I really love art and music. I enjoy making cartoon-type drawing and I just love classic rock, it just puts me in the best mood. I also used to sing at church.

What did you enjoy most about Options?
The atmosphere was just so unique and enjoyable. By calling teachers by their first name, things were so much more personal and teachers are able to get to know students for more than just a number in their class.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
I really enjoyed taking math classes with Ryan because I have always been good with numbers.

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I was able to grow up a lot and become a better decision maker.

What makes Options teachers different than previous teachers you had?
They are all just so invested in the students and they just feel more personal because there is always a mutual respect. The teachers are all great at getting to know the students so they can learn how to relate to them and get the most out of them.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I am starting at Tricoci University of Beauty Culture on May 21. I have always been into makeup and special effects, including hair and beauty makeup, so I want to eventually move to Covington, Georgia where they film a lot of shows and movies. I want to work on special effects on the sets.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I worked hard so I know I earned it. It is cool to think about and I am definitely happy that it happened.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
Everyone is really, really close because it is a small community and because of that, everyone is just cool with each other.

 

2019 #CharterSchoolsWeek Recap

As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options shared stories and news about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions and be aware of what can be provided through an individualized approach.

Monday (School Leaders)

Tuesday (Teachers)

Wednesday (Appointed Officials)

Thursday (Supporters & Advocates)

Friday (Alumni & Students)

 

Ask an Alum: Kim Sams

As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options is sharing stories about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions.

We sat down with 2004 Options graduate Kim Sams to talk about her experience as a charter school student at the start of the charter school movement in Indiana.

How did you first hear about Options?

I knew about it when it was initially The Matrix School and was tied in with Carmel Clay schools. Once the charter school law passed, my mom went to a city meeting to hear more about Options and we decided it would be a good fit.

What was it about Options that attracted you to it?

Carmel High School was just so large. I had 1,000 kids in my graduating class and if you weren’t involved in something like sports or band, you kind of just fell by the wayside. I had a good group of friends at Carmel, but I just felt like a number and not like a person.

What was your path to enrolling at Options?

I had lived in Carmel since the age of two, so I had attended Carmel Clay schools all the way up until my sophomore year of high school when I started at Options-Carmel in 2002. I ended up enrolling with a couple of close friends (Jessica Davis and Michelle Funkhouser) and we all transferred together during the first year of Options.

What was the public perception like with students going to a charter school?

It was just an entirely new concept. At the time, it was either public school or private school and nothing else. This was a huge deal because we were the kids that were doing something new and different. It was a new frontier. The perception of Options was it was where the “bad kids” went, but that wasn’t the case at all and it still isn’t the case.

What was the environment like as a student at Options from early on?

Classes were held based out of an office complex and they converted different rooms into classrooms. There were 12 students in each class, if that, and my graduating class in 2004 was made up of 28 students.

What were some of the major differences between Options and your former schools?

It was fun. We called teachers by their first name, which was new and different. It is easy to forget that teachers are people when using formal names, but using the first names made it a lot easier to talk to teachers about what was going on in our lives. Without all of the formalities, the teachers were much more approachable. At Options, they treated you like an adult just like it would be in the real world. The teachers just supported us so much and in any way we needed to be successful. I don’t know how to explain it, we just had fun. You could tell the teachers were having fun because they were doing something different and were making a difference for the students.

What is something you’re most proud of from your time as a student?

For our Senior Institute project, me and Michelle Funkhouser worked with the NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital. We were able to raise over $2,500 and held a banquet at the Ritz Charles in Carmel where we presented a big check and everything. It was a big deal as a senior in high school to have to plan out every aspect of a major project, but it taught us a lot. I even remember what I wore to the banquet. It was a black pants suit with pink stipes and its crazy that I even remember that.

What is your current position with Options?

I’m the Human Recourses & Payroll Specialist and have had that position since 2016. I returned to Options in 2013 as the Administrative Assistant for our Options-Noblesville campus. I graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a B.S. in Journalism.

What is it like to have the perspective of a student and now as an employee?

It is kind of crazy to think about, especially now being on the administrative side of things with more of a bird’s eye view. Options helped me and it is just insane how connected I am to this school. They were able to hone in on what you care about and your passions and they worked so hard to help students pursue that.

How do you view what Co-Founders Kevin Davis and Barabara Maschino did by starting Options?

It is just amazing what they did and what they created. Back then, nobody really knew what ‘charter school’ meant. It was just very wild, wild west. I just felt so supported in ways that I didn’t even know I needed. We were like a family. It was what I needed and it has helped so many kids. I owe a lot of who I am today to the Options staff and Kevin and Barbara, honestly. They put their hearts out there.


Options Co-Founder Kevin Davis shares his story

Circa 2005: Special Education Director Michelle Olsen (left) with Kevin Davis (right)



As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options is sharing stories about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions.

When Options was founded in 2002, there were three important figures who each played an integral role. One of those three not only remains active in the charter school movement, but also remains involved in Options Schools to this day.

The son of a superintendent of schools, Kevin Davis always had his eyes on a career in education and he has made the most of that career, every step of the way. That career began in 1981 as he served as a teacher and coach for football, wrestling and baseball at Carmel Junior High.

After having worked his way up to the Principal role at Speedway and later Carmel Junior High, the largest middle school in Indiana at the time, Davis was presented with an opportunity in the late 1990s.

“I was asked to help grow an alternative school for Carmel Clay schools,” said Davis. “They had brought in Barbara Maschino from Colorado because she had experience with alternative school programming.  We worked together to help develop the program. They also brought in Debi Morris who was a social worker in Carmel.  So the three of us worked together on the unique educational philosophy.”

Known as The Matrix School at the time, the first class consisted of six students for the 1999-2000 school year and provided an alternative for students in need of something different. With aspirations of doing things differently, the trio was able to find success and grow to serve 45 students. Courtesy of new legislation, Davis, Maschino and Morris had a chance to expand their mission further.

“The charter school law was passed in 2001 and we decided as a group that it would be the best way to continue pursuing the purpose and dream,” Davis said. “Then in 2002, Options became one of the first 11 charter schools to open in the state.”

How did Co-Founders Davis and Maschino settle on the name ‘Options?’

“We talked through the fact that what we wanted to do was treat students individually,” Davis said. “There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all school, so we wanted to give students different ways to get from where they were to where they wanted to be. That is how we chose the name”

Backed by supportive legislators, that group of 11 schools was able to help students succeed without having to worry about traditional constraints and regulations.

Having witnessed a steady and consistent climb in enrollment during the first few years, with students from Noblesville and Fishers expressing interest, an expansion opportunity presented itself. The result? Options-Noblesville opened its doors in August 2006.

“We knew during the 2003-04 school year that what we developed was working,” said Davis. “There was never a fear of it not working because we were always in a position to grow.”

In 2012, Davis decided to step away from his role as President of Options Schools. His tenure at Options also happened to be the longest of his career in education.

“We made some enemies along the way, but we had to be firm in our beliefs at times or else it could ruin the dream,” Davis said. “That is the dream, that you get things to a place where you can leave and everything will still be standing strong.”

After vacating his position at Options, Davis still remained active as an advocate and supporter of charter schools. By virtue of being part of a small group to form charter schools in 2002, he was frequently asked to assist newer charter schools with building a strong foundation for sustained success.

Initially with the Indiana Public Charters Association from 2012 until 2014, Davis has founded his own company, Indiana Charters, which assists charter schools in the state with numerous operational processes including star-up support and back-office services.

Having been in the thick of the charter school movement from the beginning, Davis has seen the landscape of education shift to include charter schools as they break the traditional, cookie-cutter approach.

“I have always seen it as a partnership because charter schools are a piece of public education system,” said Davis. “I think we’re all involved in a continued fight for the autonomy of charter schools so teaching can be done in a different way.”

For Davis, the journey through the charter school movement all began with a goal – to help struggling students find success. Since August 2015, Davis has also served as the Director of Technology for Options. In that role, he helps manage the school technology and networking services. Davis is also a valuable resource for consultation regarding operational services and school development.

Maschino now serves as a Board Member for Dynamic Minds Academy in Indianapolis, while Morris serves as a Substitute Teacher at Options on a regular basis.

 

Beyond the Board

As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options is sharing stories about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions.

For Stacy Segal, the road to the role of Board Chair on the Board of Directors for Options Charter Schools began back in 2013, unbeknownst to her at the time.

After a persistent approach from former Board Member, Scott Bova, Segal joined the board without much background information about Options Schools and how it fit into the educational landscape. That soon changed when she was presented with the opportunity to serve on a committee for the Options In Education Foundation.

That opportunity provided Segal with additional ownership and responsibility over different areas within Options and served as the turning point for her tenure on the board.

“It took me some time to fully understand the mission and the potential of Options Schools, but everything became clearer after having served on the foundation committee,” said Segal. “By being involved beyond the board, I was able to learn more about the students we were serving and how we were serving them.”

While her involvement on the committee played a pivotal role on her level of understanding, her attendance at an annual event opened her eyes even further to the difference made by Options.

“When I attended graduation for the first time, it left a strong impression on me,” said Segal. “After hearing students speak about how their lives were changed by enrolling at Options, I was truly able to understand that we are making an enormous difference for a population that was previously underserved.”

Segal’s understanding of the impact made by Options only increased as she was appointed to a new position. Following four years as a general board member, she was elevated to the role of Vice Board Chair in 2016.

“When I was appointed to the Vice Chair position, I became even more aware of the ins and outs of day-to-day operations and also developed an even greater appreciation for everyone on the Options team,” said Segal. “In that position, I was able to gather more details and became more involved in the daily conversations that were happening.”

For her, serving on the board provides a chance to make a positive impact in an area that she had not previously been involved. Segal’s community outreach is rooted in non-profit work, involvement in the Jewish community and sorority board membership that began during her time as a student at the University of Georgia.

In Spring 2018, Segal was appointed to serve as the Board Chair for Options.

“It has been really exciting to see first-hand the growth Options has made,” said Segal. “As we grow, we are focused on serving one more student at a time in order to make a difference in their lives and keep them from getting lost in the shuffle. At times, it has been challenging to pinpoint how we make a difference, but the evidence is found within every student who enrolls. We are able to serve students in a way that is rarely seen, through our ability to specialize in what each individual student needs to be successful in the classroom and in life.”

Outside of her role as Options Board Chair and additional community involvement, Segal works as a human resources professional, overseeing employee relations and payroll for American Health Network that spans Indiana and Ohio. Segal is also currently serving as the International President of Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, Secretary for the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis and Executive Board Member for Hooverwood, Indianapolis Jewish Home.

 

Teacher Spotlight: Stacie (Noblesville)

As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options is sharing stories about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions.

For Stacie O’Flaherty, the path to teaching wasn’t traditional, but it provides her with a chance to make an impact in a way she had always hoped.

Having always wanted to do something in science due to her passion for the experiments, she found her calling when she was one of just three girls in her ninth-grade science class.

“That experience made me want to make science a more approachable subject for girls,” said O’Flaherty. “I guess being a child of the 70’s just made me that way, but I didn’t like that people easily dismissed science because it was viewed as too difficult.”

Her passion for science led her to study environmental studies in college, followed by a position in an environmental lab where she assisted with work related to the Environmental Protection Agency.

After taking time away from work to raise her children, the landscape of environmental labs changed, but O’Flaherty’s mission remained the same.

“I wanted to finish my professional career by helping break down negative stigmas around science and be part of the solution for students,” O’Flaherty said. “I completed a transition to teaching program and became certified by the Department of Education.”

Her first experience in the classroom came as an Instructional Aid and soon after, she heard about an alternative charter school in Noblesville.

“I interviewed with Michelle (Walden) and Linda (Cunningham) in August 2013 and the next thing I knew, I was in the classroom for the first day of school,” O’Flaherty said. “That first year was such a blur because I was learning so much each day about Options, the students and being a teacher.”

Fast forward to today and there’s been a great deal of growth by Options and by O’Flaherty, all of which is made possible by a team dedicated to serving students.

“We’ve come a long way in five years,” O’Flaherty said. “It is a mission to help as many kids as you can while you’re still on this earth and we have the support to do that. I know we back up the talk because I’m surrounded by people that have the best interest of the students at heart.”

For O’Flaherty, her role of science teacher stretches far beyond with her mission-minded approach to life. Over the years, she has seen numerous students come through the doors and exit them with a strong foundation for future success and a high school diploma in hand.

“This is a really special place and we have so many successes,” said O’Flaherty. “We are able to get to know the students as people and that helps us connect with them on a different level. This truly is a school that has every type of student and we come together to form a great environment.”


Teacher Spotlight: Gretchen (Carmel)

As part of National #CharterSchoolsWeek (May 12-18), Options is sharing stories about its teachers, students, supporters and more in an effort to help more people #ExploreOptions.

Now in her 13th year as an English teacher at Options Charter School – Carmel, Gretchen Taylor isn’t afraid to admit that she wasn’t quite sure what she was signing up for in the fall of 2006, but everything has worked out along the way.

Having grown up in Carmel and attended Carmel High School, Taylor attended Hope College in Michigan because it provided her with a chance to attend a smaller school than she experienced in high school.

After teaching English at multiple levels in a traditional high school, she was presented with an opportunity in her hometown.

“I was actually late to my interview because I couldn’t find the building,” said Taylor. “When I was in high school, I knew what ‘The Matrix School’ was doing before it was changed and named ‘Options,’ but now I had the chance to work with a cross-section of students that I didn’t know existed when I was in school.”

By teaching at a charter school, Taylor was able to teach the subjects in the way that she felt was best. For a young teacher, that ability was new and somewhat daunting.

“I wasn’t used to being able to create the curriculum, but now I embrace that control and use it to make the classes the best they can be,” Taylor explained. “It is great to be able to customize the coursework to include student interests and what is popular because it is more engaging.”

As Taylor became more familiar with how to structure her courses, she also became more familiar with the faces and the people that were taking those classes.

“I really enjoy being able to get to know the kids,” Taylor said. “I can honestly say I know every student in the building by name and that is an awesome feeling. The staff are able to form relationships with them and truly get to know them; it is a really cool thing to watch these kids grow and evolve.”

It took nearly four years for Taylor to fully understand the impact made by her, and all Options teachers, on students.

“Once I saw the first class that I taught  as freshman  go on to graduate, I realized how cool what we were doing truly was,” Taylor said. “Being able to see those students persevere and improve was so rewarding, and it is the same for every graduating class. The longer I’m here, the more I fall in love with what we’re doing here.”

While Taylor’s 13-year career has made her well aware of how Options Schools fit into the educational landscape, some of the general public isn’t so fortunate.

“It has also been interesting to listen to people try to figure out what  ‘charter school’ means,” Taylor said. “Some people view it as competition, but we’re here to help serve students that need it. We’re a public school that welcomes students from all walks of life.”