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.”

 

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.

 

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.”

 

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.

 

Freshman Honored for Volunteer Service with National Awards

Connor Reiff with Noblesville Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke


NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Connor Reiff, 15, of Noblesville, a ninth-grader at Options Charter Schools, has been honored for his exemplary volunteer service with a Certificate of Excellence from The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Presented annually by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honors young people across America for outstanding volunteer service.

“Across the United States, young volunteers are doing remarkable things to contribute to the well-being of the people and communities around them,” said Prudential CEO Charles Lowrey. “Prudential is honored to celebrate the contributions of these students, and we hope their stories inspire others to volunteer, too.”

Certificates of Excellence are granted to the top 10 percent of all Prudential Spirit of Community Award applicants in each state and the District of Columbia. President’s Volunteer Service Awards recognize Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of their time to serve their communities and their country.

Options Schools nominated Connor for national honors this fall in recognition of his volunteer service. Known as the “Can Opener Project,” Connor’s most-impactful service project involved his sister Madeline and benefitted the White River Christian Church food pantry. In order to make canned goods more accessible to food pantry guests, Connor and Madeline worked together to raise money and awareness, before donating over 355 can openers to food pantry guests. Connor has served as a volunteer at the WRCC food pantry since the fall of 2015. The project also extended to benefit Noblesville Schools’ food distribution program.

“Connor Reiff has been a valuable member of the White River Christian Church Food Pantry volunteer team for several years,” said Fred Knoll, White River Christian Church Missional Living Pastor. “He overheard a food pantry guest mention that he would accept canned food from our food pantry if he owned a can opener. In response, Connor has collected hundreds of can openers and donated them to food pantry guests to ensure they are all able to open canned food to help feed their families.”

“During the project, I found myself creating friendships with both the volunteers and the people I was able to help,” said Connor Reiff. “Whether they were guests or volunteers didn’t matter, what mattered most was that nobody went hungry. I didn’t do this just to benefit the food pantries, I did it to help the food pantry families, the guests and their families and my family.”

Active in Boy Scouts of America, Connor is close to beginning his Eagle Scout service project and has been involved in numerous service projects both as a Boy Scout and Cub Scout. Along with his sister Madeline, Connor ran a lemonade stand at New Hope Presbyterian Church and raised over $600 for the church’s library in three years.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), recognizes middle level and high school students across America for outstanding volunteer service.

“Connor is a very hard working and compassionate student here at Options Charter School-Noblesville,” said Options-Noblesville Principal Adam Barr. “He continues to put himself before others and seeks to make other feel accepted in their own skin. Here at Options we strive to allow all students to Belong, Believe and Achieve. Connor has been a great asset in assisting in this goal.”

 

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 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
Prudential Spirit of Community Award application details were distributed nationwide last September through middle level and high schools, Girl Scout councils, county 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and Affiliates of Points of Light’s HandsOn Network. These schools and officially-designated local organizations nominated Local Honorees, whose applications were advanced for state-level judging. In addition to granting Certificates of Excellence and President’s Volunteer Service Awards, The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards selected State Honorees and Distinguished Finalists. Volunteer activities were judged on criteria including initiative, effort, impact and personal growth.


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.


Aimee Gonzalez featured in March issue of Westfield Magazine

A freshman at Options-Carmel, Aimee Gonzalez was featured in the “Student Spotlight” piece for the May issue of Westfield Magazine. She was the Options-Carmel Student of the Month for March.

The full article can be read at the link below:

Options is hosting a pair of Open Houses in June and will also host a Summer School program that is also open to non-Options students.

Applications are also being accepted for those looking to enroll for the 2019-20 school year.


Six more weeks!

Wow! We have less than six weeks before the end of the school year.  Students will be wrapping up projects, preparing for their final exams, and our seniors will be walking across the stage before we know it!

All families were sent an email inviting them to fill out the Intent to Return form for the 2019-2020 school year.  All students, including graduating seniors, need to have this form submitted. If your student is graduating, please mark the form indicating they will not be returning next year. The link you will use to fill out this form is on the bottom left side of your Parent Portal in PowerSchool. You can also use https://registration.powerschool.com/family/gosnap.aspx?action=15675&culture=en  but will need your SnapCode from your email if you choose to use this link.  If you are having issues or have not received an email and/or snapcode, please email cscott@optionsined.org.  Please make sure you complete the form as soon as possible.  We will have open enrollment in June and we want to make sure your student as a seat for the 2019-20 school year.

Here are some very important dates at the Carmel campus as we progress towards summer vacation:

  • April 24-25 — ISTEP+ Testing for sophomores  
  • May 1-2–ILEARN Biology testing for Biology students
  • May 3—Spring Picnic and Prom (more info to come)
  • May 6-9–NWEA testing
  • May 10– Full Day E-Learning (students will be working from home on E-learning assignments)
  • May 17–ASVAB at Noblesville campus from 9:00 am – 12:00pm

Have a great holiday weekend!


Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter seeks to add charter school

Via Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette  // by Dave Perozek

Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter officials want to open a charter school that would specialize in serving children who have experienced trauma.

The school would open for kindergarten through third grade in August 2020 and add one grade level each subsequent year, if the state approves the shelter’s application.

“This model will be the first of its kind in the state,” said Jake Gibbs, the shelter’s director of education. “Northwest Arkansas is a leader in so many things, so I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t be a leader in trauma-informed care as it relates to education and the success of our students.”

The Highfill shelter is a private, nonprofit organization that provides 24-hour emergency residential care to children who are victims of family violence, neglect and abuse.

It has operated a school on site since 1998 for the children living on its campus. The proposed charter school, however, would be open to other children in the community.

The shelter can house up to 48 children but typically has only half that at any given time. The Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Children and Family Services has focused on placing children directly with foster families and decreasing the use of settings such as group homes and shelters for children 12 and younger, according to Maury Peterson, the shelter’s executive director.

“So we have more capacity to help, and we have this awesome facility,” Peterson said.

Officials haven’t decided on a name for the charter school.

A trauma-informed child and family service system is one in which all parties involved recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Examples of trauma include abuse, neglect, abandonment, time spent in foster care and experience living in a chronically chaotic environment. Trauma has a physical effect on the developing brains of children just like a drug can have, Gibbs said.

The school will cultivate students’ academic success by first identifying and meeting physical, emotional and psychological needs. Classes will be small with only 10 students per class; each room will have a teacher and two paraprofessionals, according to shelter officials.

“We will teach the state standards to mastery to our kids. That’s very important,” Gibbs said.

The school also will work to provide “wraparound” services to a student’s family, such as parent training workshops and counseling and behavior management consultations. Officials also are looking into the possibility of sending meals home with students so parents don’t have to worry about making dinner, Peterson said.

Shelter officials said they intend to meet the April 25 deadline to apply to the state for permission to open an open-enrollment charter school in 2020. The state’s Charter Authorizing Panel is scheduled to review those applications in August.

Open-enrollment charter schools may be run by a governmental entity, an institution of higher learning or a tax-exempt nonsectarian organization. They can draw students from across school district boundaries. There are 25 open-enrollment charter schools in Arkansas, including some with multiple campuses.

Charter schools, like other public schools, receive state funding of $6,781 per student and do not charge tuition. Additional funding for the shelter’s charter school will come from grants and contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals, Gibbs said.

Debbie Jones, superintendent of the Bentonville School District, said she fully supports the shelter’s charter application.

“I think it’s going to be such a huge addition for education in the area,” she said.

The School District has observed a growing need for mental-health services for kids stemming from traumatic childhood experiences, something that has led the district to set up alternative learning environment classrooms — two at the elementary school level and one at the middle school level, Jones said. Those classrooms serve six to eight children at a time.

The shelter’s school would accept students through a lottery system. Children who have experienced trauma and thrive in small-group instruction are likely to be a good fit for the school, according to officials.

The school would have to accept an application from anyone. It will be up to the school to ensure it is getting the kind of students it wants to help by being clear about the school’s mission, said Emily Reynolds, president of the shelter’s board of directors.

“It’s all going to be about education and how we let people know about the school and what our services are, so that hopefully we gear it and we are marketing it to the right people, so parents who don’t need the services that we offer don’t apply,” Reynolds said.

The shelter’s current school for its resident children will continue in separate space in the recreation building to ensure their privacy is protected, Peterson said.

Early Mallow, who works for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County, said the proposed charter school is a great idea.

“I think that a lot of collaboration is going to play a key part in making it successful,” Mallow said. “It is what our community needs right now, and it’s what our kids need.”

Judith Yanez is executive director of RootED, a Springdale-based organization that focuses on empowering parents with knowledge about all K-12 educational options for their children.

Yanez said the region needs a school like the one the shelter is proposing. She also asked what strategies the shelter will use to market the school to minority families, many of whom don’t speak English.

Peterson said the school will be for everyone.

“So we want to make sure we’re very culturally sensitive, that we understand where people are coming from and that we tap into the right resources that can help us,” she said.

“And it’s important to us, if we’re going to meet the family where they are, that we understand that family and have the right staff on our team that they can relate to and feel embraced by.”


Noblesville Student of the Month – March

A freshman at Options-Noblesville, Jackson McGrayel was selected to be the Student of the Month for March. Jackson enrolled at Options towards the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

Jackson enjoys working out in his free time, as he has run four miles on the treadmill every day for the last year. Why the dedication? He just enjoys running.

His favorite thing about Options is the teachers. Mainly because of how they take the time to speak with students 1-on-1 and create a more personal relationship with the students. Jackson appreciates how all of the teachers truly are invested in ensuring that all of their students retain what is taught in class.

Math is Jackson’s favorite subject mainly because there is consistency in how to solve problems, which he finds relaxing since the sequence for solving certain problems doesn’t change. For him, math comes easy.

After graduating high school, Jackson plans to attend MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He intends to study Mechanical Engineering, as it will let him put all his math knowledge and skills to work.

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.

 

Carmel Student of the Month – March

A freshman, Aimee Gonzalez has been selected as the Student of the Month for the month of March at Options-Carmel.

Having enrolled in December 2018, Aimee’s attitude and work ethic have captured the attention of Options teachers during her first few months.

In her spare time, Aimee enjoys being around animals, creating art through painting and drawing, listening to music, playing guitar, singing and playing basketball & lacrosse.

The small, personalized learning environment is Aimee’s favorite thing about Options, because the teachers are able to provide individualized instruction and become truly invested in the progress and success of all students.

Since enrolling at Options, Aimee has been able to improve her grades with help from those very teachers that help ensure everything that is being taught, is also being retained.

What makes Options different? For Aimee, it is definitely the teachers. The level of dedication and care that the teachers provide trickles down to the students, which results in students becoming more invested in themselves.

Her favorite classroom subject is science, and her love of animals could very well lead her into a future career. Aimee hopes to attend Purdue University and study veterinary medicine, while holding the long-term goal of opening her own animal sanctuary/rescue for all types of animals.

Currently, Aimee spends time volunteering at a local animal clinic where she is able to get an up-close look at what her career path will involve.

Rep. Donna Schaibley visits Options-Noblesville

NOBLESVILLE – On the last day of classes before the start of Spring Break, Options Schools hosted Indiana State Representative Donna Schaibley on Friday morning at its Noblesville campus.

A member of the Indiana House of Representatives since 2014, Rep. Schaibley has served the people of District 24 (portions of Boone and Hamilton counties) as their State Representative since 2015.

Having lived in Carmel, Indiana for the past 25 years, Rep. Schaibley plays an important role in Hamilton County as her current legislative priorities include wanting to continue to strengthen and secure our schools, and also develop and educate its workforce so people have the necessary skills for today’s jobs.

During her visit, Rep. Schaibley toured the Options-Noblesville campus, met with students and sat down with President/CEO Mike Gustin and Chief Operating Officer Michelle Walden to discuss how Options and legislators can work together to benefit students.

“We are very grateful that Rep. Schaibley took time out of her busy schedule to visit Options and learn more about our mission,” said Gustin. “I believe she saw evidence of the high-quality services we provide students.”

 

About Options Charter Schools
Options Charter Schools are free, public charter schools that serve students grades 6-12. Options features two brick and mortar campuses, one in Carmel and one in Noblesville, along with a distance education program. Students are free to explore and embrace their individuality in a supportive environment which makes for a positive educational experience. Through our small class sizes and individualized academic approach, every student is given the opportunity to excel in an environment that allows for different types and speeds of learning. With a combination of instructor-led and virtual learning, Options offers flexible approaches for each and every student.

 

Eric Walden makes instant impact as Director of School Safety

One of the newest members of the Options team is just three months in to his tenure, but has already made a major impact on both campuses.

Director of School Safety Eric Walden joined Options in January 2019 and helps in a number of areas that directly and indirectly impact the safety and well-being of every student and staff member.

In addition to assisting administration with maintaining safety inside Options-Carmel and Options-Noblesville, Eric has been an integral part in updating basic emergency procedures and creating an even safer environment at Options.

Other aspects of Eric’s role include maintaining strong relationships between Options and law enforcement/emergency response officials, serving as a positive influence for students through mentorship program and monitoring campus cameras.

By establishing and maintaining rapports with students at both Options-Carmel and Options-Noblesville, Eric has been able to gain additional insight into what all Options students need in order to create a fully inclusive and secure setting.

While Eric has already helped Options make major strides over the past few months, he’s already working on ways to improve Options for the 2019-20 school year and beyond.

Eric is certified in CPR, CPI (crisis prevention intervention), Stop the Bleed (trauma care) and safeTalk (suicide prevention).

Click here to send Eric an email

 

About Options

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.

 

Spring Break is near!

It’s been another busy week at Options-Noblesville!

On Tuesday, Options-Noblesville held its first Open House of 2019 and there are more dates in April & June when both the Noblesville and Carmel campuses will be holding Open Houses.

On Thursday, we had our Senior Institute students take part in a learning gallery on their service-based projects & they are working with a number of great organizations that will really benefit from their volunteer hours.

With ISTEP & WIDA testing now complete, Part 1 of ISTEP+ Grade 10 testing will run until March 22. The testing window for Part 2 of ISTEP+ Grade 10 will begin on March 25.On Wednesday, March 27 our high school juniors and seniors will take the ASVAB as part of their graduation qualifier.

Don’t forget, Spring Break is not far away (April 1-12)!

It may seem far away now, but on Friday, May 3 we will have our annual senior picnic from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Holland Park in Fishers, which will include games, fun, food & more! Senior Prom will take place the night of May 3.

– Adam