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.


Breaking the mold: The Options origin 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

Opinion: Charter Public Schools Matter, Especially for Kids

Via TimesOfSanDiego.com// by Erica Valente

My three children made me a mom. Trying to get them a good education in Los Angeles public schools made me an advocate. And today, I’m an impassioned one.

The recent decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to place a moratorium on the number of charter schools that can open here is going to shut the doors of opportunity on tens of thousands of kids just like mine – for no good reason.

When I was looking for a middle school for my daughter, Ashley, a decade ago, I wasn’t looking at school “type” but rather at its quality, its safety, and its culture.

KIPP Scholar Academy in South Los Angeles was the school that best met our needs. I liked its approach to college preparation and the support network provided by leadership. This choice has created a bright path for my daughter from L.A. to Boston, where she’s studying now.

In the aftermath of the Los Angeles Unified School District teachers’ strike, the Board of Education voted to endorse a pause on new charter schools in order to end the walkout.

The teachers who went on strike raised very valid concerns about the state of our education system, from underpaid teachers to overcrowding in classrooms to inequitable school funding.

Ironically, it is this very disinvestment in our public schools over the past few decades that has led many families like mine to seek alternatives. And now the same local and state officials who deprived the educational system are the ones saying families shouldn’t have any other public school options to consider.

I am in awe of every Los Angeles Unified teacher and respect their decision to strike and stand up for what they believe in. Like them, I’m passionate about improving the quality of education for students across this city.

However, it saddens me that this vote paints charter schools as part of the problem in Los Angeles, and not part of the solution.

Charter schools exist to give choice to families who haven’t always had access to good schools. This moratorium will limit families from having the same opportunities that mine did—to choose the school that will give their children the best possible shot at success.

Erica Valente
Erica Valente

The Board of Education actions threaten the future of thousands of young people. There are 16,000 low-income students on waitlists for charter schools in Los Angeles and I fear this number will only grow as we await the results of a fiscal impact report.

Charter schools are public schools, serving 100,000 students and families in Los Angeles. My family’s story is just one of many.

At KIPP Scholar, my daughter grew leaps and bounds in academics and character development. She learned to play instruments, and her school counselors helped her to apply for summer programs that she never would have heard about otherwise.

Before she graduated from KIPP Scholar after the 8th grade, the school helped Ashley apply for a scholarship to attend Phillips Academy Andover, a boarding school in Boston, where she has thrived for the past three years.

She’s looking forward to picking out her dream college with the help of her KIPP Through College counselors, and is a source of daily inspiration for her younger brother and sister in Los Angeles, who also attend KIPP LA schools.

While charter schools may not be the solution for all students, there is no denying that in Los Angeles charter schools are providing a much-needed option in countless communities.

study found that students in charter schools gain about 50 more days of learning in reading and 79 more days of learning in math than their peers in district schools. These differences are even greater for Hispanic students like my children who gained 58 more days in reading and 115 in math.

And students who attend KIPP schools are also far more likely to attend and complete college. KIPP students, who are predominantly low-income and students of color, are three times more likely to graduate from college compared to low-income students nationally.

There are lessons here the larger public school system can learn from, if we could just stop pitting school against school and parent against parent.

All children have a right to a good education, no matter what neighborhood they live in or how much money their parents make. We must move beyond the debate about charter schools and focus on what all parents want: more great schools to help our children thrive and lead choice-filled lives.

Erica Valente is a parent of two students who attend charter schools in Los Angeles and a daughter who attends boarding school in Boston. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.

 

Warm weather is on the horizon!

Thank you for allowing your students to participate in our ISP goal field trip to the Newport Aquarium.  I am excited to announce that 84% of our students are progressing towards meeting 2 or more of their ISP goals. The teachers and I appreciate your partnership in ensuring each student has the opportunity to succeed academically, behaviorally and social-emotionally.

We are now working towards a new goal…every student passing every class by Friday, March 29th! Please make sure you check your email as teachers will be communicating with you about student grades, after school tutoring opportunities and other resources to help your student pass their classes.

Last night, we held our first Open House of 2019 and had a chance to introduce Options to a few Hamilton County families. We’ve still got five Open Houses between now and June!

Here are a few important announcements for the last few weeks before Spring Break:

  • March 11th – 22nd—ISTEP+ testing for all sophomores
  • March 25th—ASVAB testing
    • All juniors and seniors who have opted out of taking the ISTEP+ need to be at the school no later than 8:00 AM to begin testing promptly at 8:30 AM.
  • March 25th – March 29th—”Options’ Got Game!” Spirit Week!
    • Monday: Candy Land – Sweet Dreams Pajama Day
    • Tuesday: Scrabble – Dress up as something that starts with the same letter as your name or wear your first letter of your name and make words with your friends!
    • Wednesday: The Game of Life- Dress as your future career
    • Thursday: Guess Who – Dress as a TV show / movie / book character and see if we can guess who you are!
    • Friday: Battleship – Battle of the classes! Freshmen and sophomores wear blue. Juniors and seniors wear gray/silver.
  • April 1st – 12th—Spring Break!

That’s all for now!

~ Camille

 

We are Family!

We are super excited to announce that we have eight new students who have joined our Options Family over the past four weeks!  

One of our new students, Johnathan Cranfill and I had a chance to chat for a few minutes. I asked him specifically about his first three weeks at Options:

“I really felt welcomed and at home.  I have made new friends and I enjoy all of my teachers.  This school is really like a family and I am glad I chose to come here.”

We are still accepting new enrollments and would love to set up a tour for any student interested in knowing more about Options Carmel.  We sincerely strive to make sure that all students “Belong, Believe, and Achieve!”

Looking forward to meeting new families and spending quality time with our current Options staff and students!

Also, we recently announced our 2019 Open House schedule, so I welcome all of our current Options families to spread the word to families that you feel could benefit from all of the great things that we have to offer.

Camille

Pizza Party Friday!

Between some random acts of kindness from our students in the last couple of days and a Valentine’s Day celebration yesterday with students and staff, it has been another great week at Options-Noblesville.

To close out the week, we held a pizza party for our middle & high school January awards winners on Friday so their accomplishments could be celebrated. This is a new initiative for 2019 that we have started to reward those students that have succeeded in certain areas. I want to thank Jewel and Dan for their help on creating this new program that we are all excited about.

As we continue to work towards serving as many Indiana students as possible, we will soon be announcing the 2019 Options Open House schedule. We will have six dates from March until June where prospective students and their families will be able to visit each campus and speak with Options team members.

Important dates to note:

  • ISTEP+ Grade 10 (Part 1) – Testing window will run Feb. 25 until March 22
  • We will be testing Feb. 26th, 28th, March 5th, 7th
  • ISTEP+ Grade 10 (Part 2) – Testing window will start March 25th

– Adam

Options to relocate Carmel campus to Westfield

via The Current in Westfield // by Anna Skinner

By fall of 2021, Options Charter School plans to serve more students by moving its current Carmel campus, 530 West Carmel Dr., to the northwest quadrant of Ind. 32 and Gunther Boulevard in Westfield.

Options is an alternative school for students who don’t perform as well in a traditional school setting. Many of Options’ students require a smaller setting due to high anxiety or a social-emotional issue.

Gustin

Options recently joined the Hamilton Boone Madison Special Services Cooperative and began developing partnerships with traditional public schools in the area.

“We started having conversations with Noblesville, Sheridan, Hamilton Heights and, a little later, Westfield, on how we can better partner with them because they’re losing students who aren’t thriving in their environments,” Options President and CEO Mike Gustin said. “So, how can we help identify those students and, for some of those students, we would be a good fit.”

Public school districts will transfer students who would be better suited for Options, and several districts actually provide transportation for those students to either the Noblesville or Carmel Options campuses.

“They bus students who would have attended Sheridan schools to Options Noblesville,” Options COO Michelle Walden said. “They realize it’s a benefit to the family to make sure they get to school.”

Walden

“For that reason, our board decided because of the strong partnership with Sheridan and Westfield, our board decided to move (the Carmel campus) a little further north (to Westfield),” Gustin said.

The move will not only provide a campus closer to those students residing in Sheridan and Westfield, but it also will help accomplish the goal of switching leases to mortgages.

The land and construction of Options Westfield will cost approximately $3 to $3.5 million. The square footage be approximately 15,000 square feet versus 13,000 square feet at Options Carmel. Another benefit is the new Westfield campus will be a one-story building.

Options Westfield plans to offer grades sixth, seventh and eighth at the Westfield campus.

“Currently, our middle school has a waiting list at Noblesville, and we prefer not to have a waiting list because we feel students on a waiting list means students not being served,” Walden said.

The move could happen as early as fall 2020.

Working Towards Reaching Goals…Everyday

At Options, we are committed to ensuring your student feels as if they “belong” to our Options family, they “believe” in themselves in order to “achieve” their personal goals.  

This is accomplished daily, through our Individualized Service Plans (ISPs). Every student on our campus created an academic goal, a behavioral goal, and a social emotional goal.  Your student’s advisor has been working diligently to support them in choosing SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time specific) goals. Please feel free to ask your student about their ISP goals and how they plan to reach them.

All students who are making adequate progress on meeting their goals will receive a free pizza lunch on Thursday, February 14.  

All students who are continuing to make adequate progress by the end of the quarter will be invited to travel to Bloomington for full day of skiing and snowboarding on Monday, March 4!

Looking forward to an amazing third quarter!

Camille

Carmel Student of the Month – January

Hello, my name is Daniel and I am a freshman at Options Charter School in Carmel. I enjoy playing video games and am very knowledgeable with computers.

My favorite thing about Options is the smaller class sizes. In my previous school, the classes were much larger making it harder for the teachers to give each student the individual attention they need.

At Options, the teachers understand and acknowledge that not all students learn the same way and they are able to take the time to explain the work to each of us to ensure we understand it.

 

For more information about Options, click here. Applications are now being accepted for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

Study shows charter students fare better on tests

via ChalkBeat.org // by Dylan Peers McCoy

The second study in a week shows strong test scores for students at Indianapolis charter schools, bolstering the claims of advocates in a city where school choice continues to expand.

Indianapolis elementary students who attend mayor-sponsored charter schools beginning in kindergarten — and remain in the same schools — make bigger improvements on state tests than their peers in traditional schools across the city, according to the latest study.

The study contributes to emerging research that suggest that charter schools that are well managed and have good instruction can be successful, said co-author Hardy Murphy, a clinical professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the IUPUI School of Education.

The results of the study indicate Indianapolis charter school students are doing better than they would’ve done if they hadn’t enrolled in charter schools, Murphy said.

“This does not appear to have happened by chance,” he said. “I believe that the school experiences and the instructional teachers of those schools they are enrolled in are actually a big part of the results that we are seeing,”

The educational landscape in Indianapolis is defined by school choice. About 18,000 students who live in Marion County attend charter schools, and thousands more transfer to nearby districts or attend private schools with vouchers, according to state data. In recent years, the state’s largest district, Indianapolis Public Schools, has also become a national model for partnerships with charter schools. That makes understanding school performance essential for parents — but unpacking whether schools actually help boost student achievement can be particularly thorny for researchers.

With this study, Murphy said he and co-author Sandi Cole, director of the Center on Education and Lifelong Learning at Indiana University Bloomington, hope to disentangle one factor that makes studying charter schools difficult: the dips in test scores that students often experience after transferring to new schools. Murphy’s research focuses on students who began in charter schools in kindergarten and compares them to similar students in traditional public schools in Indianapolis.

“It’s time to move beyond the debate about whether or not charter schools are effective and start talking about, when they are effective, why, and for whom?” Murphy said, adding that successful approaches can be used in other settings.

The study focuses solely on students who attend charter schools authorized by the mayor’s office. For the control group, the study included township districts as well as Indianapolis Public Schools. The researchers plan to present their results to the education committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council and the 2019 Conference on Academic Research in Education.

The findings add to a growing body of research on Indianapolis charter schools. Last week, the Stanford-based group CREDO released a report that found that students at charter schools had test score gains that mirrored the state average, while Indianapolis Public Schools students made smaller gains on math and reading tests than their peers across the state. Another recent study found that when students moved to charter schools their test scores held steady.

Board of Directors Approve Westfield Land Purchase

For Immediate Release

January 15, 2019

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

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

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