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.

 

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!

Charter Schools by the Numbers

The following information was provided by the Indiana Charter School Network

For the fourth year in a row, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) ranked Indiana 1st in the nation for the strongest state charter school law.

The Center for Education Reform rated Indiana as an “A” for our charter school law in their 17th Edition of its National Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard. Arizona and the District of Columbia were the only others to receive an A rating.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) ranked Indiana first in the country for our laws on authorizer accountability.

State law requires that every charter agreement must include a requirement that the charter school cannot remain an F rated school for 4 consecutive years. If an authorizer fails to close a school after 4 consecutive F ratings, the State Board of Education may intervene and close the school as well as penalize the authorizer.

15 out of 16 independent studies found that students attending charter schools do better academically than their traditional school peers.

 

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.

About the Indiana Charter School Network
The Indiana Charter School Network serves as Indiana’s charter school association. A great majority of Hoosier charter schools are dues-paying members. ICSN works closely with the IQE policy team in the development of policy positions to be shared with policymakers, to ensure our charter school members are represented well at the state level. ICSN provides member schools with communications on policy issues, grant opportunities, charter-related research, events of interest, and other relevant information. ICSN provides professional development opportunities for charter school staff and connects member schools to vendor partners offering our schools exceptional service or discounts.

 

Learn About Charter Schools

Courtesy of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, we have constructed this page to provide general information on public charter schools. This page contains answers the question “What Is A Charter School?” and also provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions about charter schools.

Reimagining Education: One school, one classroom, one student at a time

Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have the freedom to design classrooms that meet their students’ needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.” It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who wanted to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and apply those lessons to an entire school.

Each of the more than 7,000 charter schools is unique – both inside and out. Some focus on college prep, some follow a STEM curriculum, and others integrate the arts into each subject. Most charter schools are located in cities, but there are charter schools in suburban and rural areas as well. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the public school that best fits their child.

The reasons that parents choose charter schools for their children are just as unique as the students themselves. They choose charter schools because of the strong, dedicated teachers, because the school’s focus matches their child’s needs, or simply because their child was struggling in their assigned public school and needed to try something new. Charter schools provide families with options in public education, allowing parents to take a more active role in their child’s education.

How do charter schools work?

Charter schools are public schools operating under an independent contract or “charter” with an authorizing agency—typically a non-profit organization, government agency or university.  The charter provides the school with operational autonomy to pursue specific educational objectives regarding curriculum, staff, and budget. It also holds them accountable to the same (often higher) standards of their district public school peers.

Are charter schools public schools?

Yes, charter schools are independently-operated, public schools. Charter schools provide a high-quality education option to public school students, upholding high standards that meet and often exceed the district and state metrics.

How do I enroll my child in a charter school?

Most charter schools have an enrollment period when parents can submit applications for the school. If there are more applications submitted than seats available, they will hold a randomized blind lottery. To learn more about applying to a charter school in your state, visit your state’s charter support organization website.

Do charter schools have attendance boundaries?

Charter schools do not have traditional school boundaries like district schools, which allows many charter schools to attract a diverse student body. Charter schools are restricted by state limits and some have city limits as well. Visit your state’s charter support organization website for more information about charter schools in your area.

Are charter schools nonprofit?

Yes, the overwhelming majority of charter schools are nonprofit organizations. Some states allow for-profit organizations to manage charter schools, but that accounts for less than 15% of charter schools across the country. Regardless, all charter schools are free to attend.

How can I start a charter school?

Charter schools can be started by any interested party, including parents, community members, and teachers.  It is common to see charter schools led by former teachers who wanted to take the lessons they learned in the classroom and scale to an entire school community. It is helpful to first identify a unique need in the community that the charter school would serve and connect with a local charter school authorizer. You can learn more about the charter school authorizers in your state on the National Association of Charter School Authorizers website.

How can I teach at a charter school?

A great place to start your search is on our Charter School Job Board! You can also learn more by from your state’s charter organization.

Do charter schools have admission requirements?

No, charter schools do not have admission requirements or entrance exams. Though many charter schools are in high demand and when that demand exceeds the spaces available in the school, a charter school may hold a randomized, blind lottery to determine which students are admitted or may preference students by need or location.

What are some questions to ask when I’m choosing a charter school?

As a parent, make sure you are familiar with the individual objectives and rules affiliated with the specific charter school that you are considering before you enroll your child. The reasons that parents choose charter schools for their children are just as unique as the students themselves. They choose their child’s school for a variety of reasons including strong, dedicated teachers, the school’s focus matches their child’s needs, or simply because their child was struggling in their zoned-public school and needed to try something new. Charter schools provide families with options in public education, allowing parents to take a more active role in their child’s education.

What is a charter school authorizer?

Authorizers are the institutions that decide who can start a new charter school, set expectations and oversee school performance, and decide which schools should continue to serve students or not. Depending on state law, authorizers can be school districts, education agencies, independent boards, universities, mayors and municipalities, and not-for-profits.

Do charter schools charge tuition?

No, charter schools are tuition-free, public schools.

What makes charter schools different than other schools?

Each of the more than 7,000 charter schools is unique – both inside and out. Some may focus on college prep, some follow a Montessori curriculum, and others integrate the arts into each subject. Most charter schools are located in urban areas, but there are charter schools in suburban and rural areas as well. Some charter schools require uniforms, others have longer school days, and some teach their entire curriculum in two languages. The possibilities are endless, but charter schools aim to provide a range of options so that parents can choose the school that best fits their child.

Who supports charter schools?

Charter schools enjoy widespread support from parents, teachers, community leaders, and both Republican and Democrat elected officials across the country. Learn more about some of our strongest supporters here.

 

 

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.

 

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel runs story on ‘Options @ Growing Minds’

(News-Sentinel.com photo by Kevin Leininger)

Via Kevin Leininger / News-Sentinel (Sept. 12, 2019) | The original article that was posted to News-Sentintel.com

What do you get when you combine online education, a brick-and-mortar charter school, and a not-for-profit tutoring and mentoring business?

The answer is in the former Early Childhood Alliance building at 3320 Fairfield, where the partnership between Noblesville-based Options Schools and Growing Minds of Fort Wayne also offers a lesson in how to turn a problem into an opportunity.

“We had been working with Indiana Virtual School, but when it closed we made contact with Options,” said Beth Hodges, who worked for a publishing company and the Fort Wayne Community Schools before founding Growing Minds in 2010. The new hybrid known as “Options @ Growing Minds” will educate students online and in-person while offering tutoring, life-skills coaching, mentoring and other “wrap-around” services through Growing Minds, which occupied the building in May.

In addition to distance learning, the goal is to have 40 students in grades 9-12 on-site by this spring, with middle-school grades added later. While all students are welcome, Hodges said the program is geared toward students who are struggling in a traditional school setting.

But, of course, Indiana Virtual School didn’t merely “close.” In June, following allegations that it had enrolled (and handsomely profited from) thousands of inactive students, the school negotiated a deal to cease operations by the end of this month. Indiana Virtual Academy and its now-closed sister operation, Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, also were criticized for poor academic performance, graduating just 2 percent of seniors.

Options, on the other hand, claims it is “competitive in all grades and subjects and consistently outperforms the norms in many areas . . . (and) both Options brick and mortar campus (in Carmel and Noblesville) perform well above the averages of the nine Indiana alternative schools and the hundreds of alternative schools nationwide.”

“We’re not here to be a competition (to other schools). We’re a complement. Traditional schools can’t serve the entire spectrum. We serve students with no traditional (connections) to school,” Options COO Michelle Walden said. “We’re not opening a new charter school (with all the regulations that would entail). This is an extension of what we were already doing.”

“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,” Hodges said. Options @ Growing Minds students will report to the Fairfield campus for at least three hours of face-to-face instruction per day.

Charter schools are publicly funded but are not bound by many of the regulations governing public schools. Growing minds, meanwhile, also gets much of its funding from the state. The fact that charters and traditional public schools are funded by the Legislature can be a source of tension between the two.

But Options Schools does have support within the public school community.

“We are very supportive of the Noblesville Options Charter School expanding their program to include middle school,” Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer said in a statement. “This is a need that area school districts were struggling with . . . We have a common philosophy that we are all here to serve students well and we recognize the strengths that each us of brings to the partnership.”

Added Bret Bailey of the Hamilton Heights schools: “Students learn in different ways and in different settings. (We have) been thrilled to partner with the newly formed Options Middle School because they provide a unique service and educational model that helps some of our most at-risk students who are struggling to succeed in our educational setting.”

It sounds like the perfect partnership, and Hodges and Walden are both full of the optimism that comes with any new venture. But, in truth, the performance of some charter schools in Fort Wayne and across the state have left something to be desired despite the rosy rhetoric. What’s more, Hodges and Walden have embarked on a challenging mission just as the resumption of classes may complicate efforts to recruit new students.

Still, I am cautiously optimistic about their chance for success and wish them and their students the best. Because, as Hodges said, “You can’t take a student out of a traditional setting and expect them to improve by doing the same things.”

For more information, visit OptionsSchools.org/enroll-now to secure a seat. Applicants should mention ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ within their online submission.

 

Friday Feature – Lisa

The following is a blog post from Lisa Chandler, Program Director for ‘Options @ BACA.’ Having launched on Tuesday, Sept, 3, the program provides a unique opportunity for ABA therapy & a high-quality education in one location. More information about the program can be found at OptionsSchools.org/BACA.

It was an exciting first week in the ‘Options @ BACA’ Program as we all learned more about each other.  The low ratio (3:1 student-to-teacher) definitely made it easier to focus on relationships and trust from Day 1. This is crucial before we dive too far into academics. This week we spent time focusing on learning what it means to be part of a classroom community by doing activities such as scavenger hunts, playing Twister, and having freeze dance parties. 

The transition into the classroom at BACA has been essentially seamless! I’m so impressed with how students have managed their new classroom and routine this week! It was definitely beneficial that students had the opportunity to preview the classroom the week before school started. Students have already been getting the routine of the classroom down. By Day 3 they were coming in and unpacking their backpacks and checking their daily schedule. We spend a lot of time early on learning the classroom structure. This eases student uncertainty and makes the classroom expectations clear. By building this solid foundation early on, we can spend more time on the fun stuff!

I’ve been thrilled to hear from several families already this week sharing positive highlights about their child’s school experience so far.  

The BACA staff has been a tremendous resource. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, but their ongoing support prior to start-up helped ensure that everyone was prepared for the first day. I think this has also contributed to the ease of students transitioning to a half-day of school so well. Since a lot of students were already comfortable being at BACA, that was one less challenge of entering an entirely new school environment. 

So many of our ‘Options @ BACA’ students are joining the class, coming from experiences where things just weren’t the right fit. Where they were labeled as bullies or targeted by bullies.  It’s been exciting to see their smiles and watch them come out of their shells in just a couple of days. Learning can be fun and that’s our goal here! We have already been gearing up to start our first hands-on project, which will consist of creating animal dioramas to learn about different animal habitats. I love how engaged the students have been!

I am excited to announce that with enrollment having exceeded our expectations, we will be adding an additional teacher to the ‘Options @ BACA’ Program by the end of September. We still have seats remaining and I welcome anyone that is interested to contact me directly with questions about the program.

~~ Lisa ~~

 

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

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.

 

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)

 

Teacher Spotlight: Jessica (Distance Education)

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.

As a whole, Options Schools serve students from 91 different Indiana school corporations and much of that would not be possible without the Distance Education program. Behind that program is a team of five teachers that collaborate to serve students all across Indiana, each covering a different portion of the state.

One of those teachers is relatively new to the Distance Education program, but is no stranger to Options.

After beginning her teaching career in traditional public schools, Jessica Sunderman happened upon Options Charter Schools in 2010 and was drawn in almost instantly.

“I just loved what they were doing to reach students that had previously been excluded,” said Sunderman. “Nobody really knew what a charter school was in 2010, but it allowed us to reach students that would get lost and left behind in the traditional setting.”

The connection resulted in Sunderman serving as a Math teacher at Options-Carmel for seven years.

“I had the freedom to teach things in the way that I wanted and in a way that I knew would work best for my students so they could understand the material,” said Sunderman. “Every day was unexpected, but that made it special because we were doing service that few people were willing to do.”

For her, one of the most gratifying aspects of teaching is the ability to develop relationships with students. Whether it takes weeks or years, building a relationship with a student is imperative for her because it develops a mutual level of trust and respect, while also getting to know how each student is wired.

When Sunderman accepted a teaching position closer to her husband Josh and their three children, she still felt supported through the relationships she developed with her students and Options team members.

“I also served as the counselor for a group of Seniors and still was able to watch graduation,” said Sunderman. “Parents, students and other teachers were sending me videos to watch and they were reaching out because they knew the bond that I formed with those students and how monumental of an accomplishment it was for them to graduate.”

After having spent just one year as an Algebra 1 and Geometry teacher in a traditional public school, Sunderman saw that the Options Distance Education team was hiring a Math teacher in the summer of 2018.

With Josh, a member of the National Guard, deployed to Cuba at Guantanamo Bay, serving as a Distance Education teacher provided Jessica with the flexibility she needed.

“The Distance Education Match teacher position was a perfect fit,” said Sunderman. “It was a bit of a leap of faith with the DE program not having fully taken off yet, but everything worked out great.”

While Sunderman is no longer in a brick and mortar classroom, she is still serving students similar to those that she worked with at Options-Carmel. Building relationships is still a pivotal aspect of her role, but is now approached differently.

“You have to try to figure out who the students are before even seeing their faces, with nothing to go off of other than enrollment information,” said Sunderman. “It is all about taking the time and investing in getting to know them.”

By getting to know her students on a personal level, Sunderman is fortunate enough to see things come full circle on a regular basis when students connect with her years after graduation and credit her dedication for helping create the foundation upon which their successes are built.

 

Ethan selected as Distance Education Student of the Month

A junior in the Options-Distance Education program, Ethan Howard has been selected as the program’s Student of the Month for April.

Dedicated to going the extra mile, Ethan first enrolled at Options in December 2018.

For Ethan, the ability to create his own schedule and work on his time is something he really enjoys about the Distance Education program. The subject he is most interested in currently is Careers because of how it has helped him get a better idea of different career pathways that are available to him.

Since having enrolled at Options, Ethan has shown major improvements in his communication skills and note-taking abilities. With help from an interactive approach by teachers, Ethan has been able to reach new heights in the classroom.

Ethan is currently undecided on what path he will take after he graduates from high school. He is considering college and starting a career.

 

Distance Education Student of the Month – March

A senior in the Options-Distance Education program, Jacob Hunter has been selected as the program’s Student of the Month for March.

Jacob first enrolled at Options in April 2017.

When he’s not working on school work, Jacob enjoys spending his time exercising, playing video games and taking part in adventure sports.

For Jacob, the ability to progress through his courses at his own pace is what he really enjoys about being enrolled in the Distance Education program. His favorite school subject is math because of the brain exercises that it helps provide.

By being able to work at his own speed and not having to worry about a classroom full of students, Jacob has been able to focus on what he needs to get done and therefore be more productive.

Once he graduates from Options, Jacob wants to have the ability to move around the country and work wherever he pleases. In order to have that ability, he plans on becoming an apprentice electrician, with future aspirations to become a master electrician.

 

2019 Open House dates announced

In order to continue our efforts of serving as many students as possible within the state of Indiana, Options Charter Schools will be hosting six Open Houses during this spring and early summer.

Each Open House will run from 5:30 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.

Full Schedule:
Tuesday, March 12 (Carmel)
Tuesday, March 19 (Noblesville)
Tuesday, April 16 (Carmel)
Tuesday, April 23 (Noblesville)
Tuesday, June 4 (Carmel)
Thursday, June 6 (Noblesville)

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 both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

NWEA Testing headlines latest announcements

Have you heard the great news?! We are pleased to announce that we will be purchasing land for our new school in Westfield, Indiana!  I will be sharing more detailed information soon.

Please note the important dates/announcements for January/February:

  • NWEA Testing, January 22-January 31 — All students will be NWEA testing daily.  Please make sure your student is present so that we can complete testing in a timely manner.
  • Opt-Out ISTEP+ Forms, Friday, February 1 — All junior and senior students who would like to pursue a CTE pathway or take the ASVAB in lieu taking the ISTEP+ will need to have their parents complete the “Opt-Out” form by Friday, February 1 at noon.  If we do not have an Opt-Out form for any junior or senior, they will have to take the ISTEP+ Test.
  • ISTEP+ Practice Testing, Tuesday February 5 — All sophomores and first time ISTEP+ students will be taking the practice test.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email our school counselor, Melanie Terrell, mterrell@optionsined.org.
  • President’s Day (NO SCHOOL), Monday, February 18
  • ISTEP+ 10th Grade Testing, February 25 – 28 — All sophomores and first time ISTEP+ students will be taking the ELA and the Algebra ISTEP+ test from 12:30-3:00pm daily.  It is absolutely essential for every sophomore to be present and ready to test.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email our school counselor, Melanie Terrell, mterrell@optionsined.org.

We will continue our half-day Friday dismissals at 11:45 a.m.

That’s all for now! Have a super warm January & February!

– Camille –

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 mgustin@optionsined.org or learn more by visiting OptionsSchools.org

— Mike