Welcome, Michael Dunagan!

Join us in welcoming Michael Dunagan to the Options family as he was recently named the Principal of Options-Carmel! He fills the role previously held by Camille Scott Tolliver, who is now the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Options.

With years of experience rooted in working with students struggling at school, Dunagan brings a plethora of knowledge to the Options team. For his first Principal Blog, Dunagan answered a few questions to provide some background into who he is, what attracted him to Options & more!

 

What is your background in education?
I graduated from Ball State University where I studied Secondary Education in Social Studies and a minor in Multicultural Education. After graduating I took a position at Lawrence Early College High School, later renamed Stonegate Early College High School, and began the process of opening Indiana’s first Early College Charter School. The first two years I served as a social studies teacher and as assistant dean of discipline. I continued to work at Stonegate helping 6 students graduate from high school with an associates degree from Ivy Tech.

 

In 2012 I took a position at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School as a Social Studies Teacher. I also completed my Elementary level Principal’s internship at Oaklandon School of Environmental Studies. In May of 2012, I graduated from Ball State University with a MAE in Educational Administration and Supervision. In July of 2012, I took an administrative position at Emma Donnan Middle School overseeing all instruction. As a CRT I hosted professional development, coordinated testing and school data, observed staff, and supervised all aspects of Instruction. In 2013, I took a summer position as Director of Summer School and became the Assistant Principal of EDMS. In 2014, I became the Principal of EDMS. In 2015, EDMS was expanded to K-8 school in partnership with IPS as an innovation school. EDMS is now Emma Donnan Elementary and Middle School. At Emma Donnan the Elementary has earned the A letter grade the past two years and the Turnaround Middle School was removed from the failing schools list earning a C. 

 

My experience has constantly centered around students who are behind or in danger of not graduating or dropping out of school.  As a teacher I worked with students as the senior advisor and running graduation. It was my role to help support our seniors to stay on track to graduation. Stonegate was a school for students who did not fit into the traditional public schools around them or who wanted something different. I worked with several students who had been expelled or who we were their last option to stay in school. I know I can continue helping students graduate high school. At Stonegate we also were one of the first schools to offer dual credit classes. This is now commonplace, but I have a lot of experience supporting students in these efforts.

 

As an administrator I worked with predominantly middle school and then added elementary students.  I am use to having students enter our school years behind their peers and working to help them catch up to grade level. I know that I will have a lot of learn about Options-Carmel, but I am excited for the opportunity to serve the students, families, and staff.

 

How familiar are you with Hamilton County and Carmel?
My Wife and I moved to the area just south of Pendleton, IN back in 2007. We have lived on the far north side the past 12 years and are very familiar with north from Pendleton to Zionsville. My wife has worked at Primrose of WestClay for the past 12 years and has been the director of the school for the last 10. Our oldest son attended Primrose thru Kindergarten and our youngest is still at the school.  We have spent a lot of time in the Carmel area and plan to continue to be part of the community for a very long time.

 

What attracted you to Options Schools?
I have worked in charter schools and schools of choice during my entire education career. I have worked to serve families that wanted a better option for their student. I saw Options as an opportunity to continue that work in an organization that believes all students could be successful and that understood the importance of family and community. I want to be part of a family as a school. I see the Options team treat each other and their students as family. I had to be a part of that type of culture and help continue their legacy of making a difference in students’ lives each day.

 

Is there anybody you’d like to recognize as you move into this role?
There are so many people who have helped and supported me along the way. I wanted to thank my family for supporting me. My parents for teaching me what it meant to work hard and to always do my best.  My wife, Kendra, for being my rock and believing I can do anything I put myself into. I want to thank my two boys for being the best kids a father could ask for. I would like to thank Dr. Scott Syverson for supporting as a mentor getting me started as an administrator. Thank you to all the students, teachers, and staff members I have had an opportunity to work with so far. You have all shaped me. I hope that the Options family will be as impactful in my life.

 

Interesting Facts:

  • Married to my wonderful wife, Kendra, and have to boys, Hudson and Maddox.
  • I am an avid Disney fan. Our family visits Disney parks often. We collect, watch, listen, and experience as much Disney as we can as a family.
  • I enjoy running, I have completed several half marathons and enjoy running regularly.
  • I am a big Indianapolis Colts fan, and try to meet as many of the players as possible.

 

About Options Schools
As free, public charter schools, Options Schools are designed to support the academic and social needs of students that haven’t found success in the traditional public school environment. At Options, students are encouraged to explore and embrace their individuality in a caring, supportive, and inclusive environment.

Through small class sizes and an individualized academic approach, the outstanding and highly trained instructors and staff of Options propel students to achieving academic success in middle school, high school and their future endeavors. Applications are now being accepted for the 2019-20 school year, but space is limited so interested applicants should apply ASAP in order to secure a seat.


#OptionsGrad Spotlight – Isabella Isenberg

For Isabella Isenberg, her Options journey began in August 2018 and that journey has turned out to be one with life-altering results.

Having previously attended a traditional, public high school in Fishers, IN, Isabella reached a point where she needed a change and that change was made possible at 530 W Carmel Drive in Carmel, IN.

“When I first walked into Options, I was unsure and nervous,” said Isabella. “Then, the second I met (Principal) Camille, I knew I was going to school here.”

From the first day of school, Isabella was amazed by many of the things she experienced in the hallways of Options.

“I didn’t believe Camille when she told me it was a family environment, until I experienced it for myself,” said Isabella. “All of the teachers knew me, even though I wasn’t in all of their classes. They also showed that they believed in me.”

Once Isabella noticed the impact Options was having on her, she took it upon herself to convince her brother to enroll. For Isabella, a ripple effect could be seen throughout.

“Everything turned around for us and we were doing really good,” Isabella said. “It just changed everything for our entire family and helped improve our mindsets, too.”

Active in the community, Isabella prides herself on giving back and was able to do just that on multiple occasions. Two instances include working with the House of Representatives Page Program for Advocacy Day and serving as a member of the Walk Out of The Darkness committee with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In each of those roles, Isabella was able to spread awareness surrounding mental health and also advocate for those that are unable to have their voices heard on the subject.

While Isabella graduated from Options on May 29, 2019, she hopes to bring things full circle with her career path.

Having been accepted into Ivy Tech-Downtown Indianapolis, with plans to transfer to Indiana University Bloomington, Isabella intends to major in Special Education so that she can return to Options as an employee.

“Because of everything Options provided for me, I just want to be able to give back to future Options students and help them in the way that I was helped,” she said.” It was a really great experience and I just can’t express how grateful I am for it.”

 

With diploma in hand, DE student looks to the future

Pictured in the photo with Larry, from left to right, are: Debbie Beddow, Collaborative Care Supervisor, Indiana Department of Child Services; Ashley, Larry’s sister; Jessica Thompson, Case Manager, Older Youth Services, The Villages; Justin Maloney, Collaborative Care Manager, Indiana Department of Child Services.



This article was originally published in the Community Stories page of The Villages website on June 5

It’s graduation season across Indiana, and we are celebrating our older youth who have earned their high school diplomas – with many students preparing to continue their education in the fall at colleges, universities, and trade schools.

In 2018 96% of Villages students in The Villages’ Older Youth Services Program attained a high school diploma or equivalency. This is a great accomplishment for older youth in foster care who often overcome significant challenges to pursue their education. Several of the youth graduating this year earned college scholarships.

“We are so proud of every single graduate this year at The Villages,” said Millie McDonald, Director of Older Youth Services at The Villages. “These outstanding young men and women are great reminders for all of us that nothing is impossible with hard work, commitment and a strong support system to help you soar.”

Among this year’s graduates is Larry, 20, who lives in the Terre Haute area and earned his diploma from Options Charter School in Carmel as a distance learning student. After a few years of personal struggles, Larry, with the support of teachers at Options and the team at The Villages, is not only a high school graduate, but a future college student. He plans to enroll at Ivy Tech to pursue a career in video game design.

“I’m more focused now,” Larry says. “A lot of people have helped me through some difficult times.”

“Completing assignments was challenging for Larry because he didn’t have adequate internet service where he lived”, said Jessica Thompson, a Case Manager for older youth at The Villages in Terre Haute. As a distance learning student, robust internet access is critical. Thompson met with Larry at least once a week to ensure he had all the proper resources to complete assignments and tests.

“Larry had so much support from Options school staff, including creating an IEP that provided accommodations Larry needed to succeed,” Thompson says. “They even had a math tutor drive from Indianapolis and work with him for two days until he was able to get all his algebra assignments complete.”

Larry has become much more committed to his future over the past few years, says Tiffany Elkins, a Direct Support Lead at ResCare Supportive Living Services. Larry has lived at the facility since 2017.

“Emotionally, he’s in a very different place. He has learned ways to manage his moods and walk away when he feels his actions could lead to trouble,” Elkins says. “He knows how to come to us to talk about how he’s feeling.”

In addition to starting at Ivy Tech this fall, Larry will move closer to his sister this month.

“I’m feeling pretty good about my future,” he says.

 

Continued Growth

Over the last four months, I have had the privilege of serving as the Interim Principal of Options-Noblesville and have learned a lot in the role. While the time has opened my eyes to what it takes to succeed in the role, I have also been able to utilize my position to build stronger relationships with our students and teachers. Since taking over in February, I have most enjoyed the ability to effect change and growth throughout the entire building.

When I look back at the 2018-19 school year, I am very proud of our 2019 graduates. It has been so rewarding to see those students go through the process of wrapping up their high school careers, and also working through their Senior Institute projects and presentations.

Since I joined the Options team in 2016 as a Health & Physical Education teacher at Options-Carmel, it has been a fast-paced journey. Midway through year two, I became the Assistant Principal and Director of Middle School at Options-Noblesville and after starting year three as Assistant Principal, I am ending the year as Principal.

It definitely has been a whirlwind of changes over the past three years, but I am very proud of where I ended up. I love my team of teachers, students and being able to serve as the Principal of Options Charter Schools-Noblesville.

As I look to the 2019-20 school year, I am excited to continue my journey as a member of the team as the Principal of Options-Noblesville. I really enjoy being a part of all the growth that can be seen within the students that walk through our doors. Students enroll at Options for various reasons, but they stay with us because they become a part of our family.

— Adam

 

An Amazing Journey

Although I am saying goodbye as the Principal of Options Charter School-Carmel, I am actually saying hello to a lifelong dream of coaching our teaching staff and providing them with the necessary tools to meet our students’ academic, behavior, and social-emotional needs as the new Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

There are several innovative methods of instructing our students who have struggled in the classroom for most of their school years. I will be able to work with teachers in and outside of the classroom and provide them with resources, tools, curriculum, and professional development that will in turn increase the academic rigor of Options Charter Schools.   

I cannot thank my direct supervisor, Michelle Walden, enough for coaching me and helping me adapt to the Options family. Working with at-risk students can be extremely challenging at times, but I have learned to love with logic, to set high academic and behavioral  expectations, and to come alongside my students to help them meet those expectations. I have also had the opportunity to be a part of hundreds of students’ success stories and have been blessed to have worked with an awesome administrative and teaching staff at Carmel.

I would like to give a special “thank you” to all of the Options-Carmel students and staff.  You have given me courage, strength, and constructive criticism that have made me into the leader I am today.  To the wonderful families that have trusted me with your students, I say “thank you” as well. We have partnered together to ensure your students received a holistic education where we not only focused on their academics, but also their public and private struggles that have hindered their progress in the classroom.  I am so honored to be a part of an organization that focuses on building relationships with students so they can be apart of a family that genuinely cares about their well being.

To the Class of 2019, we started together in the fall of 2016 and I am so proud of you all!  You persevered through extremely challenging obstacles and you have proven to your underclassmen that you can succeed if you continue to work hard, accept redirection, and learn from your mistakes.

Finally, please continue to share your Options stories with others.  There are so many youth who would benefit from our relational approach to instructing students. We would be happy to welcome them into our Options family where all students can:  Belong, Believe, and Achieve!

~ Camille ~

 

Valedictorian Spotlight: Joshua Swisher

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Noblesville
Enrollment Date: August 2017

How did you hear about Options?
I found it online when I was searching for some other schools. My mom works with exchange students, so she also knows of a lot of local schools.

What were you thinking when you first stepped on campus?
Initially, I wasn’t sure about it working. I was shy just like for starting at any new school.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I have a passion for shuffling playing cards. This summer, I’m traveling to Portland to attend a conference for creatively shuffling playing cards. I also enjoy solving rubix cube puzzles and playing board games. I also know how to play the drums and have been playing for almost seven years. I am totally self-taught and used to play at my church.

What did you enjoy most about Options?
The best part was just the opportunity to have a flexible schedule and learn at my own pace. That helped by giving me a big advantage going into college since I already have 12 hours of college credits.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
I always enjoyed math because it comes naturally to me since I am detail-oriented and meticulous. It is easy for me to wrap my mind around things because I am systematic and enjoy working with patterns.

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I have certainly improved my self-esteem and my outlook on things. I approach everything with a more positive mindset and have been more social.

How are Options teachers different than teachers you’ve had at other schools?
Because there are less students, they can get to know students better and they try to be more personal. They make sure to cater to what the students need to succeed.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I am going to attend Anderson University and study finance as a student in the honors program.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I found out when Adam called me to let me know and I was surprised, but excited. Right now, I’m mostly nervous for the speech.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
It is a flexible, non-traditional environment with teachers that truly care about their students.

How has Options helped you prepare for life after high school?
I took a College Readiness & Careers course earlier this year that had us read a book that was really informative. It was even helpful in preparing me for the college courses I took this year and was a good foundation for me moving forward.

 

Valedictorian Spotlight: Elizabeth Ty

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Carmel
Enrollment Date: October 2016

How did you hear about Options?
Through a friend.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I really enjoy cosmetology and hanging out with my friends.

What did you enjoy most about Options?
The teachers are just great. They’re really invested and really care, which is different than usual. It was a new experience to have teachers come to you with interest in helping make sure you can be successful.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
Science

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I am definitely more outgoing and have become more confident and comfortable when it comes to talking to people. I felt comfortable here, so that allowed me to grow.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I want to go into a career in either fashion design or something with young children. I have always had an interest in fashion and being around kids. I will be enrolling at Ivy Tech in Bloomington and plan to transfer to Indiana University. I am excited to move to Bloomington because my sister goes to IU.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I knew I was going to be close to being named Valedictorian, but I was really excited when I found out because I never expected that I could have accomplished that a couple years ago.

How are you doing with writing your graduation speech?
I actually already have it all written and just need to revise it. Lauren (Bangs) and Gretchen (Taylor) helped me with it and it took me about a week total.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
You definitely get a lot more help from teachers. Everyone knows everyone at this school, and it is just one big family. It sounds kind of corny, but it is true.

How has Options helped you prepare for life after high school?
I am more self-confident, and I never really wanted to go to college before I came to Options, but I started to think more about it and became more interested. I even thought about taking a year off of school, but now I’m going straight to college. My family is all very happy about my success and so am I.


Salutatorian Spotlight: Emily Campbell

On Wednesday, May 29, another group will receive their high school diplomas and join the #OptionsGrad Family!

Options Campus: Carmel
Enrollment Date: August 2017

How did you hear about Options?
My step sister was actually a student at Options, so I heard about it from her. Having here at Options with me just makes things even better because we have a close group, which is nice.

What were you thinking when you first stepped on campus?
At first it was an experiment because I was used to the public-school system where it isn’t easy to build a relationship with your teachers. I soon realized there was always someone to talk to at Options and it was different. I felt very accepted and understood and the teachers showed interest in each individual student. I knew that I wouldn’t be going back to my previous school and this would be the best for me.

How do you enjoy spending your time outside of school?
I enjoy drawing. A little bit of everything, mostly with markers and pencils because I’m not much of a painter. I also enjoy reading and writing a lot. I enjoy poetry and really love motivational books because they have had a positive impact on me in tough times. I also enjoy making album art as a side hustle.

What have you enjoyed most about Options?
The flexibility has been amazing. I love how teachers want to know us as people so they can tach to our strengths and individualize whatever the lesson is. They are happy to take extra time to make sure we understand.

Did you have a favorite subject or teacher?
I just love literature, so I enjoy all of the language arts and English classes. I like when I can write about the things I enjoy, and it is easy to express your thoughts at Options. When I was younger, being pressured to read made me hate it, but once I have it another try, I just really enjoyed reading and writing.

In what areas has Options helped you improve?
I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to have open communication and I’ve improved my my social skills, even little things. I am just more comfortable and having been around people that genuinely care has made me want to be that way to others.

What are your plans and aspirations moving forward?
I want to have a project-based career where I can be my own boss. I have a passion for overseeing photoshoots, doing makeup, photography and special effects, but I want to be a part of fashion and self-expression. I am going to travel to the west coast in June so I can utilize my current connections and network with people in those careers.

How does it feel to be one of the top students in your graduating class?
I have the most supportive parents in the entire world, and they were so excited and I was really excited too. I feel proud because I was able to come through some things and stay strong in school. It wasn’t easy, but that was my goal. I knew I wanted to raise my GPA, so I worked really hard and it all just worked out for me.

How would you explain “The Options Experience” to a non-student?
I loved the small class sizes because it made me feel important and I didn’t just feel like a number here. It is nice that we can talk to teachers and they are interested because they want to know you for you. They know how to help us succeed because they know us as people. You also get to know every student.

 

Ask an Alum: Kim Sams

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

We sat down with 2004 Options graduate Kim Sams to talk about her experience as a charter school student at the start of the charter school movement in Indiana.

How did you first hear about Options?

I knew about it when it was initially The Matrix School and was tied in with Carmel Clay schools. Once the charter school law passed, my mom went to a city meeting to hear more about Options and we decided it would be a good fit.

What was it about Options that attracted you to it?

Carmel High School was just so large. I had 1,000 kids in my graduating class and if you weren’t involved in something like sports or band, you kind of just fell by the wayside. I had a good group of friends at Carmel, but I just felt like a number and not like a person.

What was your path to enrolling at Options?

I had lived in Carmel since the age of two, so I had attended Carmel Clay schools all the way up until my sophomore year of high school when I started at Options-Carmel in 2002. I ended up enrolling with a couple of close friends (Jessica Davis and Michelle Funkhouser) and we all transferred together during the first year of Options.

What was the public perception like with students going to a charter school?

It was just an entirely new concept. At the time, it was either public school or private school and nothing else. This was a huge deal because we were the kids that were doing something new and different. It was a new frontier. The perception of Options was it was where the “bad kids” went, but that wasn’t the case at all and it still isn’t the case.

What was the environment like as a student at Options from early on?

Classes were held based out of an office complex and they converted different rooms into classrooms. There were 12 students in each class, if that, and my graduating class in 2004 was made up of 28 students.

What were some of the major differences between Options and your former schools?

It was fun. We called teachers by their first name, which was new and different. It is easy to forget that teachers are people when using formal names, but using the first names made it a lot easier to talk to teachers about what was going on in our lives. Without all of the formalities, the teachers were much more approachable. At Options, they treated you like an adult just like it would be in the real world. The teachers just supported us so much and in any way we needed to be successful. I don’t know how to explain it, we just had fun. You could tell the teachers were having fun because they were doing something different and were making a difference for the students.

What is something you’re most proud of from your time as a student?

For our Senior Institute project, me and Michelle Funkhouser worked with the NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital. We were able to raise over $2,500 and held a banquet at the Ritz Charles in Carmel where we presented a big check and everything. It was a big deal as a senior in high school to have to plan out every aspect of a major project, but it taught us a lot. I even remember what I wore to the banquet. It was a black pants suit with pink stipes and its crazy that I even remember that.

What is your current position with Options?

I’m the Human Recourses & Payroll Specialist and have had that position since 2016. I returned to Options in 2013 as the Administrative Assistant for our Options-Noblesville campus. I graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a B.S. in Journalism.

What is it like to have the perspective of a student and now as an employee?

It is kind of crazy to think about, especially now being on the administrative side of things with more of a bird’s eye view. Options helped me and it is just insane how connected I am to this school. They were able to hone in on what you care about and your passions and they worked so hard to help students pursue that.

How do you view what Co-Founders Kevin Davis and Barabara Maschino did by starting Options?

It is just amazing what they did and what they created. Back then, nobody really knew what ‘charter school’ meant. It was just very wild, wild west. I just felt so supported in ways that I didn’t even know I needed. We were like a family. It was what I needed and it has helped so many kids. I owe a lot of who I am today to the Options staff and Kevin and Barbara, honestly. They put their hearts out there.


Options Co-Founder Kevin Davis shares his story

Circa 2005: Special Education Director Michelle Olsen (left) with Kevin Davis (right)



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

When Options was founded in 2002, there were three important figures who each played an integral role. One of those three not only remains active in the charter school movement, but also remains involved in Options Schools to this day.

The son of a superintendent of schools, Kevin Davis always had his eyes on a career in education and he has made the most of that career, every step of the way. That career began in 1981 as he served as a teacher and coach for football, wrestling and baseball at Carmel Junior High.

After having worked his way up to the Principal role at Speedway and later Carmel Junior High, the largest middle school in Indiana at the time, Davis was presented with an opportunity in the late 1990s.

“I was asked to help grow an alternative school for Carmel Clay schools,” said Davis. “They had brought in Barbara Maschino from Colorado because she had experience with alternative school programming.  We worked together to help develop the program. They also brought in Debi Morris who was a social worker in Carmel.  So the three of us worked together on the unique educational philosophy.”

Known as The Matrix School at the time, the first class consisted of six students for the 1999-2000 school year and provided an alternative for students in need of something different. With aspirations of doing things differently, the trio was able to find success and grow to serve 45 students. Courtesy of new legislation, Davis, Maschino and Morris had a chance to expand their mission further.

“The charter school law was passed in 2001 and we decided as a group that it would be the best way to continue pursuing the purpose and dream,” Davis said. “Then in 2002, Options became one of the first 11 charter schools to open in the state.”

How did Co-Founders Davis and Maschino settle on the name ‘Options?’

“We talked through the fact that what we wanted to do was treat students individually,” Davis said. “There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all school, so we wanted to give students different ways to get from where they were to where they wanted to be. That is how we chose the name”

Backed by supportive legislators, that group of 11 schools was able to help students succeed without having to worry about traditional constraints and regulations.

Having witnessed a steady and consistent climb in enrollment during the first few years, with students from Noblesville and Fishers expressing interest, an expansion opportunity presented itself. The result? Options-Noblesville opened its doors in August 2006.

“We knew during the 2003-04 school year that what we developed was working,” said Davis. “There was never a fear of it not working because we were always in a position to grow.”

In 2012, Davis decided to step away from his role as President of Options Schools. His tenure at Options also happened to be the longest of his career in education.

“We made some enemies along the way, but we had to be firm in our beliefs at times or else it could ruin the dream,” Davis said. “That is the dream, that you get things to a place where you can leave and everything will still be standing strong.”

After vacating his position at Options, Davis still remained active as an advocate and supporter of charter schools. By virtue of being part of a small group to form charter schools in 2002, he was frequently asked to assist newer charter schools with building a strong foundation for sustained success.

Initially with the Indiana Public Charters Association from 2012 until 2014, Davis has founded his own company, Indiana Charters, which assists charter schools in the state with numerous operational processes including star-up support and back-office services.

Having been in the thick of the charter school movement from the beginning, Davis has seen the landscape of education shift to include charter schools as they break the traditional, cookie-cutter approach.

“I have always seen it as a partnership because charter schools are a piece of public education system,” said Davis. “I think we’re all involved in a continued fight for the autonomy of charter schools so teaching can be done in a different way.”

For Davis, the journey through the charter school movement all began with a goal – to help struggling students find success. Since August 2015, Davis has also served as the Director of Technology for Options. In that role, he helps manage the school technology and networking services. Davis is also a valuable resource for consultation regarding operational services and school development.

Maschino now serves as a Board Member for Dynamic Minds Academy in Indianapolis, while Morris serves as a Substitute Teacher at Options on a regular basis.

 

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: 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.”

 

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!


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.

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.

 

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.

NWEA Testing headlines latest announcements

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

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

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

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

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

– Camille –

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.”

Same mission, new position

It is with bittersweet emotion that I say goodbye to the school that has been my home for 13 years. I have dedicated my career to helping at-risk youth.

I have been helping at-risk youth face-to-face, one student, and one problem at a time. I have been lucky to be a part of the lives of countless students as a teacher and principal. They made me smile and cry as well as experiencing the pride that comes with seeing them grow and accomplish their dreams.

I have also never met a more empathic and determined staff of professionals than the team that I have been working with over the last 13 years. They have challenged me when needed and supported me when things were tough.

I would not be the leader that I have become without them. While I am sad to be leaving the principal’s chair and all of the day-to-day interactions that have filled my weeks, months and years. I am invigorated by the mission ahead.

In my new role as the Chief Financial Officer of Options Charter Schools, I will continue helping at-risk youth by finding ways to expand our reach and help bring Options to towns across Indiana. The barriers to success that have blocked our students for years are also blocking students across Indiana and it is our mission to help as many students as we can.

As I exit stage right from the school, I will be working behind the scenes to ensure your student’s experience at Options is the best that it can be. Thank you for all the support and kind words that you have given me over the years.

Options Noblesville will now be led by Adam Barr who has been showing me to take over the Principal role. He is mission-driven and will be looking to push Options to be better and more successful. We have made several staffing moves to help build a strong staff around Adam and I am excited for what the students will achieve this semester and going forward.

Finally, I have a request from everyone reading this. We must, as an Options community, never be shy when it comes to telling others about the great things that our students and staff are doing every day. Join me in continuing our mission of helping at-risk youth across Indiana. Belong, Believe, Achieve.

Jake Brandau