Pen Pal Across The Pond

For Kimberly Massoud, a life-changing friendship began at age 12 with a book of addresses and optimism.

Interested in finding a pen pal, Massoud wrote a letter to every national embassy located in New York City to inquire about a pen pal program through which she could connect with someone in a different part of the world. The only response came from the Japanese Embassy and the result was a collection of letters.

“I started getting letters from all these people in Japan and that just wasn’t what I was looking for,” said Massoud. “I was just disappointed and then I found a book that was my dad’s and it was just full of street addresses all over the world. I just knew that if I wrote enough letters, I was going to receive a response.”

One of Massoud’s letters was delivered to a Lutheran church in the United Kingdom, about 30 miles outside of London in Essex. With not many young people in the churches’ congregation, the letter was given to 11-year-old Stephen Hamp.

“I remember one Sunday, the pastor came to me and gave me this envelope and folded up piece of paper,” said Hamp. “I was the only youngster in the church, so I’m not even sure if there was anyone else to give it to. I was fascinated, intrigued and excited, and all those things you would be. So, I replied and thought about it for a week or two and then a week or two later a letter arrived. It just went from there.”

While means of communication have changed in the 35 years since the first letter, Hamp spoke to everything that comes with a hand-written letter from a friend.

“It’s really hard to explain and we have never really been able to explain it, but there is just something about having an envelope come through the mail slot of your door and land on your doormat,” said Hamp. “Because we had to wait for the letter to be mailed and everything, it just made it unique because there wasn’t that instant gratification, but it was still exciting.”

While the hand-written & mailed letter may be a way of the past, Hamp spoke to what it did for his growth.

It really impacted the way I write and the way I communicate,” Hamp said. “Not many school kids have the opportunity to write at the depth and level that we were writing at. It has had such a positive impact on my life in so many ways and I even notice now that the way I speak was impacted by writing letters.”

Since first connecting over 30 years ago, Massoud and Hamp have each visited the other about every eight years, with the most recent visit being Hamp coming to central Indiana.

Massoud saw the visit as a great opportunity for her students to expand their world view.

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Hamp spent the school day at the Noblesville campus of Options Schools and was able to help Options students learn more about life in the United Kingdom.

“Stephen read Shakespeare to our eighth and ninth grade students,” said Massoud. “He works near Buckingham Palace so we did a digital tour of the area to show the students what that part of London is like. We also talked about some different terms in America and the United Kingdom, like ‘trash can’ and ‘rubbish bin.'”

“The students were asking me about my every day life and they were just really engaged in unique aspects of how things are different for us in the UK.,” Hamp said.

But what would a true cultural experience without tea?

During Massoud’s advising period, students were treated to tea and traditional foods like Marmite and egg salad sandwiches.

“It has been a really cool experience,” said one of Massoud’s students. “We already want him to come back.”

A life-long friendship and a cultural experience, all from the determination of Massoud to find a pen pal.

During Tea Time, students enjoyed tea, Marmite, egg salad sandwiches & more

Students of the Month – Oct. 2019

In celebration of our October Students of the Month, get to know the four students that were selected! Each student was selected by their program’s Principal and teachers.

 

Riley Tynan
(Options-Carmel)

Grade: 11th 

When did you enroll at Options?
In August of 2018. I actually found out about it by accident and liked that it wasn’t a big & stressful environment.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I am really interested in reptiles and have recently become more interested in cosmetology, with makeup and acrylic nails. I also taught myself how to play the ukulele, guitar and piano. I currently have two reptiles, one ball python and one leopard gecko.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
There are a lot of things that I like. The environment is small and personable, which has encouraged me to do more work. The structure creates trust and mutual respect between the student and the teacher. It is always consistent that every teacher is nice.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Last year it was biology, but this year would be history. Having Steve as a teacher makes the subject great because he knows when it is time to be serious and when we can enjoy it.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’m definitely better at math and I’ve become more social. I’m trying harder in school now and I’m a lot more comfortable with talking to people. At this school, students are open about their flaws and are easy to talk to and be around.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers are very understanding, and they will work with us if something happens. They’re always willing to help if I need it and they’re just supportive in every way.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I’m still deciding, but I know I want to graduate from college and become the first person in my family to do that because it will prove it is possible. I am interested in things like herpetology, ornithology, biology and cosmetology.

 

Chloe Keeling
(Options-Distance Education)

Grade: 10th
Hometown: North Salem, Indiana 

When did you enroll at Options?
January 2019

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to workout at the gym with my brothers or do anything that involves physical activity. I also find myself very intrigued in the fashion world.

What is your favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program?
My favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program is the flexibility it gives you. You can work on lessons anytime of the day or night, as well as work at your own pace, which I think is amazing.

What is your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject would have to be Math. I have always understood math very well, and I think it is cool how the whole world uses it in the same ways. 

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Academically, I have improved. I have been able to not only get my work done, but I actually understand it and can apply it to the real-world. Outside of school, I have improved my relationships with my family, and have been able to experience more real-world situations with the flexibility of my schedule.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
The teachers at Options are great! Whenever I need help in a certain subject, all I have to do is message the teacher and I will get a quick response. We discuss why I’m having a hard time over video chat or email. The teachers really take their time in making sure the problem is resolved and I fully understand all of my work.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
Nothing is set in stone regarding my plans after a graduate. However, I’d like to attend college and explore different majors, and I’d also like to travel as much as possible in the future.

 

Bella Ott
(Options-Noblesville Middle School)

Grade: 8th

When did you enroll at Options?
At the start of September of this year.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I have played the clarinet for three years and I like Henna art, but it is the only thing I am good at drawing. I also like to play basketball.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like it a lot. I have become connected to other students and have developed some real friendships. I like that the teachers are genuine, they put in effort and truly care about us and our education.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Right now, it is Family & Consumer Science and Health. I like having Mike as a teacher and the class is just interesting because a lot of it is new to me.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I am just a lot happier and not as stressed about things because I am better about handling things, so I don’t have to always worry about school.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
I feel like I have such a closer connection with my teachers. Calling them by their first name was weird at first, but it really makes a difference in making them more approachable.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I want to graduate from high school during my junior year. I want to attend Purdue and get a degree in Zoology. I want to become an animal rehabilitator for plains animals and I want to make an impact. I don’t want my life to be wasted and I really just want to do something meaningful with it. I am really passionate about saving animals.

 

Leah Beach
(Options-Noblesville High School)

Grade: 12th

When did you enroll at Options?
The first day of the January 2019 semester.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I like to listen to different types of podcasts, but mainly mystery, true crime and paranormal. I also know how to knit, but I don’t really do it. Right now, I’m also busy volunteering at a senior citizen living community as part of my service project for graduation.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I’ve gone to five different schools and this is my favorite. I like that it is small and you can get to know people better. You can also create more personal relationships with the teachers. I also like that it is all built around each student and everyone is supportive.

What is your favorite subject in school?
History because of how much passion and gusto Josh has for the material. I was never really a big fan of history, but I’ve liked exploring world history over time.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Being here has been better for my spirit. My anxiety isn’t as bad, and I don’t get worried about unnecessary things anymore.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They care and have more understanding, plus they really just want to be helpful. You get to know the teachers because the classes are small. They will make accommodations for students that need it and they are willing to work with you.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I have so many interests and I am working on narrowing it down. Right now, there are five different things I am interested in.

 

Want to learn more about Options Schools? Visit “The Options Experience” Blog to see more news about Options students & staff!

Next Up: November

I know people say this all the time, but it is just wild how the first three months of the school year have flown by, and the holiday season will be here in a matter of weeks! With Fall Break now in the past, we are looking forward to seeing everyone finish the semester and 2019 calendar year on a high note. Our annual Halloween Party will take place Thursday afternoon, so the students and staff are all excited to get in the spirit.

Yesterday, our Senior Institue students that have already committed 15 hours of community service towards their organization took a trip to Muncie for a visit to the Planetarium at Ball State University.

Please take note of some important upcoming dates:

  • October 31: Halloween (festivities from 1 PM-3 PM)
  • November 5: Picture retakes
  • November 6: Full E-Learning Day 
  • November 27-29: Thanksgiving Break

We still have seats available at Options-Noblesville for anyone who could benefit from smaller class sizes and a more individualized approach. Anyone interested in learning more about Options or scheduling a tour can reach me via email at abarr@optionsined.org.

Enjoy your week & make it great!

– Adam –

Hello All & Hello Fall!

Hello Fall!

I can’t believe how quickly this semester is moving along. Yesterday made for a great start to the week following Fall Break & today, a group of English students took a field trip to Butler University to see a play where the works of Edgar Allen Poe were brought to life. In my family, we are big Disney fans, so we spent time at Walt Disney World last week during our Fall Break & of course stopped by to see Mickey Mouse, as you can see in our photo.

Please continue to support your student by checking their grades on PowerSchool every Monday after 6:00 PM.  We have just under half of the semester left. Below you will find a list of important dates.

  • 10/30: PSAT at 8:30 AM
  • 10/31: Halloween Party – more info will be sent out
  • 11/5: Hearing Screenings for all 10th graders and any student new to Options this year
  • 11/6: Full E-Learning Day
  • 11/13: Senior Parent Night at 6:00 PM
  • 11/14: Picture Retakes at 10:00 AM
  • 11/26: Thanksgiving Feast – more info will be sent out
  • 11/27-11/29: Thanksgiving Break

Know of someone who wants to explore Options? We still have open seats available for enrollment! Please feel free to share this information with your family and friends.

Have a great end of October!

— Dunagan

 

Charter Schools by the Numbers

The following information was provided by the Indiana Charter School Network

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

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

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

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

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

 

About Public Charter Schools
Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low-income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

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

 

Learn About Charter Schools

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

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

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

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

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

How do charter schools work?

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

Are charter schools public schools?

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

How do I enroll my child in a charter school?

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

Do charter schools have attendance boundaries?

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

Are charter schools nonprofit?

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

How can I start a charter school?

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

How can I teach at a charter school?

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

Do charter schools have admission requirements?

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

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

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

What is a charter school authorizer?

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

Do charter schools charge tuition?

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

What makes charter schools different than other schools?

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

Who supports charter schools?

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

 

 

About Options Schools
Serving students in grades 6-12, Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville & another campus coming to Westfield. Options also offers a Distance Education program that serves students throughout Indiana. Providing students with an inclusive environment and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1. With a high-quality, individualized approach, Options was founded in 2002.

 

Options partners with Growing Minds Educational Services

NOBLESVILLE – In order to continue serving students across the state of Indiana, Options Schools have formed a partnership with Growing Minds Educational Services that will provide a hybrid school model for students in grades 9-12, located in and around Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Known as ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ the hybrid program will offer students the relationship-based educational approach unique to the Options Schools, partnered with the wrap-around services that Growing Minds offers its clients.

Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville, along with a Distance Education program, that specialize in providing students with an individualized approach and small class sizes. Founded in 2002, Options strives to serve all students needing an alternative to traditional education with innovative platforms that meet their specific needs.

Founded in 2010, Growing Minds is a Fort Wayne-owned, for-profit educational business, that provides educational support services including academic tutoring, life skills, mentoring, and coaching with a desire to partner with a like-missioned school such as Options in order to provide the credit-earning supports for their clients that are eligible for alternative education under IC 20-20-22.

‘Options @ Growing Minds’ students will report to the Growing Minds campus (3320 Fairfield Ave.) for a minimum of three hours of Options educational instruction per day. Growing Minds will provide students with a myriad of wrap-around services that include life skills, mentoring and coaching.

“After having visited Growing Minds a few weeks ago with Options COO Michelle Walden, it was easy to see how they make a major impact on students in the Fort Wayne area,” said Options President/CEO Dr. Mike Gustin. “The mission of Options has always been to serve students throughout the state of Indiana that are at-risk of not graduating high school and this new partnership allows us to continue doing that.”

“This program is exactly what the children of Fort Wayne need as it provides a true alternative education program that is free and available to the public,” said Growing Minds Director of Education Beth Hodges. “We are excited for this new partnership and everything that it will do for students in and around Allen County.”

Those in the Fort Wayne area that are interested in learning more about ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ are invited to attend an upcoming Open House on Monday, Sept. 9 or Tuesday, Sept. 10. Both events will run from 6-8 p.m. and will take place at Growing Minds (3320 Fairfield Ave. Fort Wayne, IN 46807).

Enrollment is now open for those interested in ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ and interested applicants can visit OptionsSchools.org/enroll-now to secure a seat. Applicants should also mention ‘Options @ Growing Minds’ within their online submission.

For additional information about ‘Options @ Growing Minds,’ email Growing Minds Director of Education Beth Hodges.

 

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 Growing Minds
Established in 2010, Growing Minds provides educational services to all students. Growing Minds goes beyond academics, by providing life skills, mentoring, and coaching. Growing Minds believes that with guidance in a safe, caring learning environment all students can and will succeed.

 

Friday Feature – Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~ Lisa ~~

 

Connor & Maddie Reiff featured in Noblesville Magazine

A pair of Options-Noblesville students, Connor (10th grade) and Maddie Reiff (7th grade) were featured in the “Student Spotlight” piece for the November issue of Noblesville Magazine. The brother/sister duo has collaborated on a number of community service projects, one of which was recognized with national honors.

The full article can be read at the link below:

A limited number of seats remain available at Options-Noblesville, Options-Carmel & in the Options-Distance Education program.

 

Students of the Month – August 2019

In celebration of our August Students of the Month, get to know the four students that were selected! Each student was selected by their program’s Principal and teachers.

 

Ryker Huffman (Options-Carmel)
Grade: 12th 

When did you enroll at Options?
During the second semester of my sophomore year, so I have been at Options for about one and a half years.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I really enjoy nature, so I like to go hiking and bird watching. I also watch tv and play video games.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I came here because I was struggling with some subjects in school and with all of the homework on top of it, it was hard to handle the workload. At Options, the teachers are easier to talk to because they are just more approachable, so it is easy to ask them for help.

What is your favorite subject in school?
I would probably say anatomy or biology. I’ve always been interested in animals, nature and the sciences behind things.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I used to have bad social skills, so I have really grown socially. I used to keep to myself a lot but got better at opening up more. Other students helped me with that because there was no judgment from anyone.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
Since we call teachers by their first name, they are just more approachable, and they are always willing to help if someone needs something. The teachers are just comfortable to be around, which isn’t really common.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I’m not sure what I want to do exactly, but it could be something nature-related like working at a park or studying ecosystems. I also have thought about law enforcement as another possibility.

 

Grey Grumme (Options-Distance Education)
Grade: 12th
Hometown: Syracuse, Indiana

When did you enroll at Options?
September 2018

 Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
Playing games online and listening to music.

What is your favorite thing about the Options Distance Education Program?
It’s easy to understand.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Science, just because there are a lot of interesting things that have to do with science like the stuff that I like to watch or play.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
Not only with academics, but overall. Yes, I have. At Options I am actually accomplishing and doing things whereas my freshman year at high school, I got pulled out because I just refused to do anything at all.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They are more about actually helping the students succeed than most other teachers I’ve met. 

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I don’t have anything set in stone as of yet, but I know for sure that I want to do something in the musical field. No matter what it is, I want it to be music related because I love music and creating things.

 

Nevaeh Woods (Options-Noblesville Middle School)
Grade: 7th

When did you enroll at Options?
I started at Options at the start of this school year.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I enjoy crafting. Most of the time I make braided bracelets.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like a lot of things about it. The teachers, students and that I don’t have to wear a school uniform anymore.

What is your favorite subject in school?
I enjoy anything that includes reading. My favorite books are Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I made new friends really fast, which is different. The other students are nice and easy to talk to.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They don’t go as fast when they teach harder subjects, like math.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I might be a Paramedic.

 

Taylor McKinney (Options-Noblesville High School)
Grade: 9th

When did you enroll at Options?
This is my first year at Options.

Do you have any hobbies, passions or ways you enjoy spending your free time?
I really enjoy different kinds of art, but mainly painting and drawing. I am also big into music. I listen to all types of music and used to play the cello, French horn and percussion from 5th grade up until 8th grade.

What is your favorite thing about going to Options?
I like that it is smaller and easy to get to know everybody. The teachers are really helpful and go above & beyond to help in class and with whatever else students need.

What is your favorite subject in school?
Science

Have you improved in any areas since enrolling at Options?
I’ve improved with talking to people because with not as many people in classes or on campus, it is easy to be comfortable around everyone.

What makes Options teachers different than teachers you had previously in school?
They are very understanding of things going on in people’s lives and if you’re having a bad day, they don’t mind giving you space to be yourself and feel comfortable.

Do you have any current plans or aspirations for after you graduate?
I am really into forensic sciences, so I might do something with that.

 

Become an Options Student Ambassador!

Hello Families and Students.  The school year is off to a fantastic start.  We are already four weeks in!  Over the last few weeks, you have seen stories from graduates, parents, and staff about the wonderful things that happen daily at our school.  I wanted to share that we still have seats open for this school year.  If you know a student who could benefit from the relationship focus environment we create here at Options, please let us know and encourage them to reach out to learn more.  Each day they wait is a day they could already be getting an individualized education.

For our current students and families, I wanted to share information about our student referral program. With the addition of a new student referral program, both current and prospective students of Options Schools will have opportunities to be recognized for taking an active role in growing the impact of Options.

This program was created in order to acknowledge those students and families that continue to promote Options by spreading the word about how we serve students. Through this new program, students will be able to earn an assortment of items that include lunch account credit, Options gear and more.

How it works:

1.) Who can participate?
Any student who is currently enrolled at Options Charter Schools can participate in this program.

2.) How do we take part in the program?
In order to receive rewards, you must spread the word about Options Schools to your neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Tell them what you love about Options and encourage them to schedule a tour. For every student you refer to us that attends our school for at least three months, the referring student will receive a $10 lunch credit!

3.) How are the different recognition levels determined?
Each new student, along with the student who referred them, will also receive Options gear. Lunch credit will be capped at $50 for each student, even if having referred more than five students. The student with the most referrals on March 1 and October 1 will also receive an Options Prize Pack, which will include Options-branded gear and more. (Value of prize pack contents will be less than $50)

4.) When will lunch credit be applied to each student’s account?
At the beginning of each month, qualifying students will have credit added to their lunch account.

5.) How will Options know a student was referred?
The school has a question on our online application asking, “How did you hear about Options Charter Schools?” The applicant should note the first and last name of the student who referred them.

For additional information about the program, email Andrew Piper.

We are extremely happy to serve our families here at Options, but would love to expand our support to more students and families in our community. 

 

 

 

Friday Feature – Ryan

My name is Ryan Morphew, and this is my 5th year teaching math at Options-Noblesville. I have been in education for 10 years now, and I’m proud to have spent half of my teaching career here! I enjoy being a part of this team and I am very proud of the work we do for our students.

The first few weeks have been a blur, but have been a great start to the school year. In my advising class, students have been reconnecting and building new relationships. It’s been great to have conversations about what we did last summer, what’s new in our lives, music, football, and whatever might be on our minds that current afternoon. We’ve also recently begun to start thinking about what our goals will be for the school year. I’m looking forward to discussing goals with each student over the next couple of weeks!

In each of my math classes, we having been diving into the first units for each respective class. We’ve discussed and explored the building blocks of Geometry, identified and reviewed concepts to be successful in Algebra 1, and tackled different types of complex numerical expressions in Algebra 2. I’m proud of how well the students have gotten started and how hard they’ve been working! It’s been wonderful to see the collaboration between students and how willing they are to help each other out and work through some of the more difficult concepts. I’m excited for the rest of the semester!

 

 

A Parent’s Perspective

— The following is a letter written by the parent of two Options Schools students —

When we were first introduced to Options, we thought, “Throwaway school, delinquents, marginalized children, poorly performing and there is no way we would send our children there.” — However, nothing could be further from the truth. Historically, this has been the public’s perception. But the insider view shows nothing less than miracles happening every single day.

The emphasis academically is not just testing, but rather on completion and mastery. The students build relationships with peers and adults which is the cornerstone of being able to function in society. You can attend the best schools in the world, perform well on standardized tests, and still not be able to get along with people and ultimately maintain employment. The social-emotional piece is just as, if not more important than the academic prowess.

Options has become a school of choice.

Our children have found their place.

They laugh every day.

They talk with and have friends.

They want to go to school.

They believe their teachers care about them.

They are being taught at their academic levels.

They like the small classes.

They are succeeding.

Both of our children started with Options during their middle school years. Our son was critically ill, which required multiple flights across the country for a clinical trial and treatments. His homebound instructor mentioned the newly started middle school at Options and their flexibility after our son had missed almost 18 months of formal schooling.

We had a good kid — did we really want him to be around “those kids”?

The staff helped him to catch up academically, helped him to re-integrate back into a school routine and provided compassion, humor, and understanding of his illness.  His favorite memory is of his social studies teacher buying him a Dr. Pepper. That one gesture of human kindness caused our son to be understood, recognized and ultimately connected.

Our daughter struggled after the Noblesville school shooting and refused to attend school. Her homebound instructor suggested the newly opened sixth grade at the Options middle school.

We had a good kid — did we really want her around “those kids”?

The goal was to physically get her back into a school one step at a time. If she could not feel safe in her environment, she could not learn. She started attending Options Middle School for one hour a day. Soon that one hour became three hours. Now she attends full days. The staff did whatever it took to ensure her well-being, addressed her learning challenges, and collaborated with us strengthening the development of her as a whole child.

Every child needs a place where someone believes in them, accepts their uniqueness, and enjoy their gifts.  Every child deserves to be respected and to feel safe. Every child wants a place where they can achieve.

“Those children” are miracles. “Those children” are the most incredible, talented, funny, Avant Guard and outside-of-the-box thinkers. “Those children” learn differently with just as much intelligence, capability, and capacity as traditional school learners. “Those children” are cherished and valued by teachers and staff whose goal is to ensure their success.

Our son is no longer marginalized but included.

Our daughter no longer is crushed in spirit but being restored.

Our children are rediscovering the love of learning.

Our children are thriving.

Our children are proud to be one of “those children”.

 

Sincerely,
Sarah Reiff (Proud parent of two Options students)

 

The growth of Options

The start of the 2019-20 school year is here! Students are returning to school with their hope of gaining more ground towards graduation and their plans for a bright future. This year is especially exciting for me as it represents some significant milestones in the history of the organization. One of the most important milestones is our organizational goal to serve more students throughout Indiana with the same high-quality service that our past students have enjoyed. When I took over as President in 2008, Options Charter Schools was serving 270 students in two brick-and-mortar locations. This year we will serve more than 550 students throughout the state!

The growth of Options Charter Schools has allowed us to build a stronger infrastructure of programs and staff. We are better serving our students by offering such programs as a comprehensive lunch program, a broader-based counseling program, partnering with the Hamilton-Boone-Madison County Special Education Cooperative to provide more extensive special education support, and hiring safety personnel for both of our brick-and-mortar locations to better improve school safety. Beyond those program changes, we continue to identify strong leaders both inside and outside the organization. In July, we promoted former Options-Carmel Principal Camille Scott-Tolliver to the position of Director of Curriculum and Instruction. To replace Camille at Carmel, we hired Mike Dunagan, formerly a principal with Charter Schools U.S.A.

The development or implementation of new programs and our commitment to find and hire high-quality candidates demonstrates our commitment to make Options Charter Schools a high- quality educational option for students. The Options’ board and leadership team continue to work together to build and execute a vision for Options Charter Schools that begins with students and teachers in mind. The future is certainly bright for Options Charter Schools.

I hope that every student and family have a very positive and safe school year. Please take full advantage of all of our programs and take time to get reacquainted with returning staff and get to know the new staff. At Options, we are all family – Belong, Believe, Achieve!

Dr. Mike Gustin, President
Options Charter Schools

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.