President of Options Schools – Mike Gustin’s Blog

  • Options partners with Growing Minds Educational Services

    NOBLESVILLE – In order to continue serving students across the state of Indiana, Options Schools have formed a partnership with Growing Minds Educational Services that will provide a hybrid school model for students in grades 9-12, located in and around Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    Known as ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ the hybrid program will offer students the relationship-based educational approach unique to the Options Schools, partnered with the wrap-around services that Growing Minds offers its clients.

    Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville, along with a Distance Education program, 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.

    Founded in 2010, Growing Minds is a Fort Wayne-owned, for-profit educational business, that provides educational support services including academic tutoring, life skills, mentoring, and coaching with a desire to partner with a like-missioned school such as Options in order to provide the credit-earning supports for their clients that are eligible for alternative education under IC 20-20-22.

    ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ students will report to the Growing Minds campus (3320 Fairfield Ave.) for a minimum of three hours of Options educational instruction per day. Growing Minds will provide students with a myriad of wrap-around services that include life skills, mentoring and coaching.

    “After having visited Growing Minds a few weeks ago with Options COO Michelle Walden, it was easy to see how they make a major impact on students in the Fort Wayne area,” said Options President/CEO Dr. Mike Gustin. “The mission of Options has always been to serve students throughout the state of Indiana that are at-risk of not graduating high school and this new partnership allows us to continue doing that.”

    “This program is exactly what the children of Fort Wayne need as it provides a true alternative education program that is free and available to the public,” said Growing Minds Director of Education Beth Hodges. “We are excited for this new partnership and everything that it will do for students in and around Allen County.”

    Those in the Fort Wayne area that are interested in learning more about ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ are invited to attend an upcoming Open House on Monday, Sept. 9 or Tuesday, Sept. 10. Both events will run from 6-8 p.m. and will take place at Growing Minds (3320 Fairfield Ave. Fort Wayne, IN 46807).

    Enrollment is now open for those interested in ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ and interested applicants can visit to secure a seat. Applicants should also mention ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ within their online submission.

    For additional information about ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ email Growing Minds Director of Education Beth Hodges.


    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.

    About Growing Minds
    Established in 2010, Growing Minds provides educational services to all students. Growing Minds goes beyond academics, by providing life skills, mentoring, and coaching. Growing Minds believes that with guidance in a safe, caring learning environment all students can and will succeed.


  • 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 to submit an application.


  • 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

  • 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 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.

  • An open letter from President Mike Gustin

    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.

    Mike Gustin

  • The immediate and distant future

    In case you haven’t yet heard our great news from a couple of weeks ago, our Board of Directors approved the motion to purchase land in Westfield that will become our new location for Options-Carmel.

    This is a monumental achievement for Options that has been seven years in the making and will allow us to expand our middle school reach and serve more students in Indiana. We are fortunate to have so many people on our side that are extremely dedicated to our cause and I am forever grateful to those who helped lead the way for this next step.

    While that news makes our future even brighter, so does recent changes to our Options team that will help our organization grow and improve in several ways.

    An Options team member since 2006, Jacob Brandau has been promoted to the role of Chief Financial Officer after having served as a teacher and Principal at Options-Noblesville. I am confident in Jacob’s abilities and know he will thrive in this position.

    Adam Barr, our most recent Options-Noblesville Assistant Principal, is taking over as Interim Principal and has been with Options since 2016. Adam and Jacob have worked very closely together leading up to their title changes in order to ensure seamless transitions for everyone involved.

    I am also excited to announce the addition of Eric Walden as our Director of School Safety, which is a newly-created position at Options. Skilled in communication and organization, Eric is mission-focused and has a strong understanding of school safety goals. He will help ensure a safe and secure learning environment for every person in each campus.

    We have also had the pleasure of adding some experienced and talented teachers to our team, which will only continue to raise the level of service we provide to our students.

    Whether you look at the immediate or distant future, there are plenty of bright spots surrounding Options.

    Know someone who could thrive at Options? They can learn more information and schedule a tour at I can also be reached directly through email at

    – Mike

  • Board of Directors Approve Westfield Land Purchase

    For Immediate Release

    January 15, 2019

    NOBLESVILLE – Last night, the Options Charter School Board of Directors took a historic step by a fulfilling a promise that was seven years in the making. By voting unanimously to purchase land in the Westfield area for a future campus location that will serve grades 6-12, Options is moving towards a more stable and secure future.

    The opportunity to purchase land provides the organization with the ability to shift from leasing its facilities to owning, therefore cementing Options even further in the landscape of Hamilton County and the Indiana education system.

    “I am so thankful to all of our board members for everything they do for Options on a daily basis and everyone in the Options family is excited about last night’s news,” said Options President Mike Gustin. “Since we were founded in 2002, there are many people that helped put us on the path to success that we are on now. This is another step in the right direction as we continue to work towards our goal of providing high-quality, alternative education to more students across Indiana.”

  • The growth of Options continues
    Options – Noblesville

    With 2018 now complete, I am excited that the second semester is underway as we work towards making 2019 the best it can be.

    Discussions for the future of Options Schools are always exciting to be a part of, whether they take place with the Options staff, students, families or members of our great community.

    One of our biggest current focuses is on helping Options continue to grow across Hamilton County and throughout the state of Indiana with the development of programs such as our distance education alternative.

    As we grow the group of students we serve, we are also growing our staff in multiple areas, which will allow us to grow successfully and positively by having a strong foundation cemented by a high-quality staff that supports everything we do.

    While we work on setting ourselves up to improve the current quality of services we provide, we are also actively targeting additional growth in the programs we offer.

    Our eyes remain forward as we look to replicate our successful programs in new communities as we work towards our goal of doubling our current number of students served in the next five years.

    Know of a friend or classmate that might be interested in Options? They can email me at or learn more by visiting

    — Mike

  • President’s Blog

    President’s Blog

    Options Charter Schools is an exciting place to work or attend school! There is an excitement for staff and students as information about new and growing programs and potential facility changes are just on our horizon. We currently have two pilot programs operating that, if successful, will necessitate facility changes to accommodate increased student population. The first is our Distance Education (DE) pilot. For years, Options has worked with students to provide students with DE choices when their life circumstance would not allow them to attend the brick-and-mortar school all day. In fall of 2016, Options implemented a one-to-one Chromebook program that allowed our distance education choices to become far more supportive for distance education. The DE pilot program is to test the quality of our programming in a virtual setting.


    The second is a middle school pilot program. After speaking with several Hamilton and Madison County superintendents and their leadership teams it became very clear that having another school choice for some middle school student is critical. The middle school pilot began in January, 2017 and, if successful, a full middle school option will be available in the fall of 2017. If these two program options are successful and become part of our program choices for students it will certainly impact the overall number of students Options Charter Schools will serve.

    The future for Options is bright and we are very excited!

    Mike Gustin

  • President’s Blog

    There are so many exciting events happening at Options High School this fall! This is a truly wonderful place to work and an even better place to earn your high school diploma. I encourage any parent or student who is seeking a great place to earn a high school diploma to call or email our leadership team for more information! Please hurry there are only a few student spots still available.


    We are completing our third week of the fall 2016 semester and the students have responded very enthusiastically to the extensive building renovations and to the new Chromebooks. Our fall picnic, located at Dillon Park near the corner of 146th and Hazel Dell, is scheduled for Friday September 9, 2016. The picnic is great day for our staff and students to bond while eating some good food and playing games! Please take a moment to check out our school calendar for other upcoming events like open house. Open house allows prospective parents and students the opportunity to learn more about Options, tour our facilities, and meet some of the staff.


    If you have not graduated high school and are currently not enrolled in school or not earning credits towards graduation then take a look at the website, come to an event, and email or call us. Make 2016-17 the year you finally finish your high school diploma!



  • President’s Blog

    The summer of 2016 went by so quickly! The start of the 2016-2017 school year is just around the corner- August 1st for teachers and August 3rd for students. The staff has been very busy this summer preparing for what will be a great school year! This summer each building underwent renovations that included: upgraded school security, upgraded science classrooms, new paint, new P.E. equipment, and much more.

    In addition to the renovation, more than 300 Chrome-books were purchased to improve our communication and curriculum delivery for every student. The school renovation and technology updates are only a few items, on a rather lengthy summer to-do list, that will allow us to better serve our students and their families. All staff and students should return to school excited and ready to work together to help our students move closer to graduation.

    Looking forward to a great year!