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.

 

Beyond the Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teacher Spotlight: Stacie (Noblesville)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teacher Spotlight: Gretchen (Carmel)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.


Options-Carmel picks Kristian as April Student of the Month

A senior at Options, Kristian Bear has been selected as the April Student of the Month for the Options-Carmel campus.

Kristian enrolled at Options during his sophomore year of high school in January 2017.

His hobbies include playing sports like basketball and football, fishing for bass and catfish and weightlifting. Kristian has also been able to travel to Cuba and Mexico, and considers himself fortunate for being able to experience different cultures.

If you ask Kristian to identify his favorite thing about Options, he’ll immediately say “it’s a small community.” That small community allows for one-on-one help from teachers when students need it and it also allows for everyone to know each other.

U.S. History is Kristian’s favorite subject in school, mainly because of how the course material allows him to adventure into the past.

Since enrolling at Options, Kristian has not only seen an improvement in his grades, but also in his self-confidence. Thanks to the teachers at Options, Kristian has regained his passion in the classroom through their approach of making sure each student fully understands what is being discussed in class.

After he graduates high school, Kristian is planning on attending Vincennes University in Lebanon, Indiana. He plans on specializing in Vincennes’ carpentry program with aspirations of one day building and renovating homes.


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.


Tamara named Noblesville Student of the Month for April

Tamara Morrison, a high school freshman at Options, has been selected as the Student of the Month for April at the Noblesville campus.

Having enrolled at Options during the fall of 2018, Tamara really enjoys the smaller environment of Options and how it has allowed her to get to know every student and teacher on campus. Tamara has noticed self-improvement in a couple of areas since enrolling at Options, including her grades and her willingness to help classmates whenever they need it.

Science is easily Tamara’s favorite subject in school because of how the experiments allow for hands-on learning and the opportunity to put things to the test. Plus, having a warm-hearted and veteran teacher like Stacie O’Flaherty as a science teacher only makes the experience better.

Whether it be the welcoming environment or the individualized academic approach, there is plenty that Tamara enjoys about being a student at Options. Not long after enrolling, she realized that the close-knit community was going to help her improve just as it has.

Outside of school, Tamara is an avid lacrosse player who began playing the sport about two years ago.  With a few years remaining until she graduates high school, Tamara is currently considering cosmetology school.


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!


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

 

Millennials Are More Likely to Support School Choice

via The47Million.org // by Kate Stringer

Millennials may loathe diamonds and scorn grocery shopping, but there’s at least one thing they seem to like: school choice.

According to recent polls, adults who were born between 1981 and 1996 tend to think favorably about charter schools, vouchers, and other types of education options for parents and students. That could be because millennials were raised in an era saturated with choices, from ride-sharing apps to online shopping retailers to music streaming services.

That was the theory posed by a panel discussion Wednesday at South by Southwest Education called “Millennials Matter: Ed Reformers Need to Hear Us.” The panel was presented by the nonprofit advocacy group EdChoice and moderated by The 74 Senior Editor Emmeline Zhao, and it included panelists Mendell Grinter of the Campaign for School Equity, Lalla Morris of Families Empowered, and Evy Valencia Jackson of EVJ Consulting.

According to a 2017 GenForward survey, nearly three-quarters of millennials across ethnicities support school vouchers — public money that pays for students to attend private school — for low-income children, and about two-thirds support this option for all students. African Americans are the most likely group to support charter schools — which are independently run and publicly funded — with 65 percent in favor. Whites were the least likely, with 55 percent supporting charters. Another poll, from the American Federation for Children, found that 75 percent of millennials support choice, compared with 64 percent of baby boomers. But not everyone is a fan of school choice: Support often depends on how a question is phrased. For example, when a 2016 Education Next poll tried to test support for vouchers, it found that 45 percent of respondents were in favor when the question was framed around giving people choice, but only 29 percent were in favor when it was framed around using public money to fund the program.

While the internet is full of memes that love to hate on how millennials are changing the world (avocado toast > mortgages), the conversation becomes more serious when looking at the effect of this demographic on the labor market and government. Zhao noted that these young adults represent the largest segment of the U.S. labor force, with 56 million workers. While millennials made up only 1 percent of the members of the House of Representatives in 2017, that number jumped to 6 percent this year.

The panelists argued that without widely available school options, choice is afforded only to those with resources to select which neighborhood they want to live in or the private school they want to send their children to.

“If you are financially constrained, there are lots of choices people make every day that you never have the opportunity to make,” Morris said.

She recalled how her family sent her to several different schools in Texas before she ended up at a middle school where she had access to rigorous academic courses — something not available to many other students of color in her neighborhood. This set her up to attend a prestigious magnet high school in Houston, where she was also one of the few students of color on the Advanced Placement track. This made Morris realize how the choices her parents were able to make set her up for success in ways that many of her black peers without these resources were not.

The U.S. has nearly 7,000 charter schools, enrolling 3.2 million students in 43 states and Washington, D.C. About 500,000 students take advantage of private school choice options such as vouchers or tax-credit scholarships, which exist in 26 states. These numbers are still small compared with the total number of K-12 students in public and private schools: 56 million.

The freedom afforded to charter schools gives opportunities for innovation and allows students to focus on topics outside the scope of traditional schools. Panelists praised the creativity of school leaders who they’ve seen start schools framed around everything from farming to fine arts to financial literacy.

“The purpose of education is to create an informed and engaged citizenry that can live independently, live a dignified life, and also be engaged in our community,” Morris said.

Although nationwide, charter schools have produced mixed results for students, Grinter said parents consider many factors in addition to academics and graduation rates when selecting a school. “What defines a good school for a lot of parents is its safety,” he said.

Some members on the panel pointed out that while charters and vouchers remain controversial, some government-funded programs — such as Pell Grants — that provide students money and choice in education do not receive that kind of criticism.

An audience member pointed out that many millennials also support teacher unions, which often butt heads with school choice advocates. A GenForward survey from 2018 found that three-quarters of millennials say strengthening teacher unions would improve education.

Grinter said that more work could be done to reach out to teachers and have conversations about where their views intersected or differed.

“It’s just talking to them, like, ‘Hey, you have a kid, you want to exercise choice, why is that not OK?’” he said.

But Valencia Jackson disagreed.

“Some of these folks are just not interested in a conversation and haven’t been interested in a while, and that’s OK,” she said. “I think we have to be willing to move on and build new supporters elsewhere that want to be focused on kids.”

Though many leaders in the education reform world are older than millennials, Valencia Jackson encouraged the audience to collaborate across generations so that her peers could also have a voice in the conversations around school choice. “Call me, beep me!” Valencia Jackson said. “Anyone?”

A few people in the room got the joke. You would have too, if you were a millennial.

 

2019 Open House dates announced

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

Each Open House will run from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. and attendees will be able to tour the respective campus and speak with Options Principals, teachers and other team members.

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

The addresses for each campus can be found here.

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

Applications are now being accepted for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

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.

The growth of Options continues

Options – Noblesville

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know of a friend or classmate that might be interested in Options? They can email me at mgustin@optionsined.org or learn more by visiting OptionsSchools.org

— Mike