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Journalism Students Share Perspectives on AOS

Posted on: November 2, 2021

The following are opinion pieces written by some of the Ms. Bellando’s Journalism class on their experiences at AOS.

When people think of AOS, they think of the alternative school for “bad kids.” The students that go to AOS and the staff know that it is not. AOS has a wide variety of students with different strengths and weaknesses, but one thing that is common here is all the staff at AOS sees the potential in every student. Every staff member has faith in kids and helps them succeed.

Before I attended Albany Options, I was very pessimistic about my future after high school. I come from a low income household that can’t pay for college, but AOS has many opportunities to help students get to college. AOS has helped me realize that I am capable of much more than I think.

Tori TeemGoing to AOS is a clean slate; teachers at AOS don’t let your past determine who you are as a person. I was actually expelled from my old school for being in a fight, even though it was my first time getting in trouble. I was told I was “a danger at my school and to society.” I know that the one mistake I made did not determine who I was as a person. When I first came to AOS they were very welcoming and let me decide who I am and want to be.

Tori Teem is a Senior


Albany Options School is not one of your standard public schools. People have always stereotyped AOS as a school for “bad kids” or “delinquents.” Yes, there are kids who have been expelled that come to the school, but rather than it being a punishment, it’s a new step forward in the right direction, and to start a successful future.

At my old school I had a bad experience with my teachers. They only tried to help the kids who were well known or did sports. After trying to put in effort and getting none back, I got to the point where I didn’t see or care about my future, I had no friends, and I didn’t trust a single teacher.

Now that I’m at AOS I have improved drastically. I left my old school with a GPA no higher than a 2.0. Now that I’ve been at AOS working hard everyday, my GPA is a 3.83. Since the first day I was here I’ve always been accepted and understood for any emotions or frustrations I deal with in everyday life. Teachers and staff here at AOS are very flexible with different ways of learning and teaching.

Isabella RutlandIf I didn’t get the chance to come to AOS, I would still have under a 2.0 GPA and not be succeeding, but now I’m graduating a year early with a 3.83 GPA. Now I’m  looking forward to three years completely paid for from scholarships and being able to put in the effort to graduate early. I appreciate this school everyday for us all being a family and helping each other out.

Isabella Rutland is a Junior


Before coming to AOS, my high school experience was very bad. It was bad because I dropped out the first week of my freshman year. I actually got zero credits and had no motivation to stay on track, go to school, or even graduate. In addition, my anxiety was a big factor in me dropping out. My old school was absolutely no help with that. After dropping out, I gave up on myself  and had no hope. Then I came across the opportunity to come to AOS, not only because of the fact that I had no credits, but also because honestly it was a life changing decision for myself and my future. AOS has changed my life extremely, the way I look at myself, my grades, my outlook on my future, my motivation.

Before AOS, I was really depressed and would not come out of my room. I didn’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone because I knew I had let my parents down and didn’t know how to change that feeling. Then when I got accepted into AOS I was so excited to finally Corina Spencebe back in school and have my parents look at me with hope again. Now, with help and support from friends and teachers, I am doing way better and on track to graduate.

If it wasn’t for AOS, I would not be where I am right now. I can’t thank the teachers and staff here at AOS enough for their time, support, and devotion to the students at this school.

Corina Spence is a  Junior


My high school experience before I came to AOS wasn’t exactly positive. I truly hated waking up everyday and going to school. I would always get behind in piles upon piles of unfinished work. I felt as if no teacher truly cared, and when I tried asking for help, I was either laughed off or not acknowledged at all. Because of this, I completely lost interest in school. I went through a point in my life where I just didn’t care. If no one was going to help me or acknowledge that I was struggling, why should I put in the effort?
That point in time where I refused to do any work, feeling awful about myself, and flat out not attending class was definitely a low point in my life. I failed almost every class during the time of online school, I was severely behind in credits. And after realizing that, I promised to better myself and that first step was attending AOS.

My first impressions at this new school were nothing like any other. Every teacher and student around me was super friendly and inclusive. I finally felt like I had a voice in my education. No teacher left me in the dust, they all appreciate my participation and always offer to help on anything I get stuck on. Gone are the days of loathing the feeling of waking up and going to school. At AOS, every student gets that second chance they deserve at education.

I used to hardly raise my hand and speak my freshman year, and my sophomore was even worse. I never talked in class unless I absolutely had to. Now at AOS, I participate in every class, Trying to be the first one to always raise my hand. And my attitude towards school has never been better.

Avery ReynoldsThis school has given me, and every other student a chance at redemption for education. This school is truly a blessing for everyone attending. No student is left out, Left behind, or forgotten here at AOS and I am truly grateful and forever in favor of the wonderful staff here.

Avery Reynolds is a Junior


AOS Parent-Teacher Conferences

Posted on: October 26, 2021

Dear AOS Parents and Guardians,

Next month we will be holding conferences and would like to invite you to come meet with your student’s teachers.  We always look forward to the opportunity to discuss your student’s progress and accomplishments, and collaborate to find ways to help your student be more successful as needed.

In-person conferences (drop-in): 
Wednesday, November 10th
3:30-5:00, 5:30-8:30

Virtual conferences (call to schedule):
Friday, November 12th
7:30-12:00, 12:30-4:30

If you would like to attend virtually, we ask that you call our front desk ahead of time to schedule at: (541) 967-4563. The in-person conferences are drop-in and do not require scheduling ahead of time.

If you would like an interpreter for conferences, please call us at (541) 967-4563.

If you have any questions, please contact us (541) 967-4563 or at


Estimados padres y tutores de AOS:

El próximo mes tendremos conferencias y nos gustaría invitarlo a que se reúna con los maestros de su estudiante. Siempre esperamos la oportunidad de discutir el progreso y los logros de su estudiante, y colaborar para encontrar formas de ayudar a su estudiante a tener más éxito según sea necesario.

Conferencias en persona (sin cita previa)
Miércoles 10 de noviembre
3:30 a 5:00pm y 5:30 a 8:30 pm

Conferencias virtuales (llame para programar)
Viernes 12 de noviembre
7:30 a 12:00 pm y 12:30 a 4:30 pm

Si desea asistir virtualmente, le pedimos que llame a nuestra oficina con anticipación para programar una cita al: (541) 967-4563. Las conferencias en persona son sin cita previa y no es necesario programarlas con anticipación.

Si desea un intérprete para su conferencia, llámenos al (541) 967-4563.

Si tiene alguna pregunta, comuníquese con nosotros al (541) 967-4563 o a

AOS Welcomes New Staff

Posted on: October 1, 2021

AOS welcomed several new teachers and staff this year. Below are the staff welcomes, some of which were written by students in Ms. Bellando’s Journalism English class.

Jesse AitkenJesse Aitken joins AOS as the Math and Science teacher for Options Academy. A graduate of Western Oregon University with a Bachelors in math and a Masters in teaching, Mr. Aitken also teaches the photography elective. He fell in love with Alt Ed while student teaching at College Hill High School in Corvallis. In his free time he enjoys sports, photography, reading and gaming. When asked to share a piece of advice he lives by, he responded, “You never know what is going on in someone else’s life, so if they have a reaction to something that does not seem to make sense, understand that their anger [or] frustration may be directed elsewhere.” Students are sure to find patience and understanding in any class with Mr. Aitken.

– by Karyssa Negrete

Dari LawrieDari Lawrie is a new English and Social Studies teacher. Ms. Lawrie chose to teach at AOS because she loves her subjects and people. She believes in the alternative school model because she believes that everyone deserves a chance. In her free time Ms. Lawrie writes plays, short stories and poetry, and she also runs a chainsaw in the woods sometimes for various causes. For her, “the most important human quality is curiosity.” Students in her class learn to ask questions and participate in project-based learning.


Laura HekmanLaura Hekman is Options Academy’s new Language Arts teacher. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Mrs. Hekman states. As a child she would spend all day after school pretending to be a teacher, using her piano as her desk and assigning worksheets to her grandfather. In her free time, Mrs. Hekman enjoys physical activity such as yoga, gardening and rock climbing. She also enjoys creative hobbies like cooking with the food she grows in her garden. She even enjoys playing casual games like Stardew Valley and Battle Block Theater with her husband. “When a lot of things are going on in life… I find it comforting to know that I just need to take one day at a time.”

– by Avery Reynolds

Gabe DiazGabe Diaz joins the teaching staff this year from his previous position here as Bilingual Liaison. Now he is the CTE teacher, offering two different construction classes. Before getting into education, Mr. Diaz had never worked with students before, but he saw it as an opportunity to grow professionally and took it. He works at AOS specifically now because he was the type of kid in high school who would have benefited from a school like AOS, which did not exist when he was growing up in Puerto Rico. Mr. Diaz relates to the students here. “AOS lets you be you,” he said. “Trust yourself. You are more than what you think.” In his classes, Mr. Diaz gently pushes his students to be their best. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing music and building things.

Reymundo “Benny” Benavidez

Reymundo “Benny” Benavidez is the new Special Education teacher. He got into education because he had a hard time in school and wanted to make life better for the students he serves. He started his career with youth outreach, crisis, and secure facilities, but he always wanted to be a teacher. Mr. Benny enjoys watching movies with family, BBQ, Dallas Cowboys, Ford and the holidays. His message to students is “be proud of who you are, what you’ve been through and where you came from… Diversity is beautiful and part of what makes our home at AOS such a beautiful place.”

Blake LooneyBlake Looney is the new Science teacher in the high school program. As someone who struggled in high school, he didn’t always know he wanted to be a teacher, but Mr. Looney has the gift of encouragement; he sees himself as a person to spur others on to meet their full potential. He chose to work at AOS because he believes in the alternative school format and wanted to be somewhere that he could get to know students on a genuine level. A person of various interests, Mr. Looney enjoys growing carnivorous plants, being a part of his gym community, and watching good movies and TV. His advice for students even comes from the popular cartoon Adventure Time: “Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.” Mr. Looney passes this advice on to students as a reminder that it takes time and a lot of failure to become truly great at something, so it’s always worth that first step.

Lori HalloranLori Halloran is a new special education assistant and SPED secretary. Before working at AOS, Mrs. Halloran volunteered at her children’s schools and enjoyed helping students. She chose to work at AOS because there are fewer students, meaning she could provide more individualized support for them. In her free time, Mrs. Halloran spends time with her two dogs and two cats, her husband and her two children going to their sports, choir, and band events. When asked for a piece of advice to relay to students, Mrs. Halloran responded emphatically: “Take notes! The amount of information we get in a typical day is a lot to retain… I still make notes and lists to remind me of what needs to be done in my day.”

– by Kaitlyn Hayner

Candace Caswell “Mrs. C”Candace Caswell “Mrs. C” joins the AOS staff as a Special Education Assistant and Food Services Assistant. She was guided into the field of education by Eunice Shriver in the early 1970s. Mrs.C lives on a ranch and loves to care for it. Students at AOS already love Mrs. C’s energy, excitement, and helpfulness as she floats around their classes to help them with school work or bring them breakfast. Some of them even refer to her as the AOS grandmother. “Accept no ‘should’ or ‘ought’ but your own,” Mrs. C said when asked about advice to live by, adding, “therefore, I judge no one.”

-by Kevin Bumgardner & Tori Teem

Anna WinnAnna Winn joins the AOS staff as a Special Education Assistant and the Food Services Assistant. She is excited to work at AOS because it is important to her to be in a position where she can help and make an impact on others, as well as still have time to be a parent. In her free time, Ms. Winn is an all-around creative person. A few of her hobbies include sewing, knitting and crocheting, along with active hobbies like biking and hiking. “I try to leave everything I touch better than I found it,” she said when asked for advice to live by.  “As humans we are responsible to be better and make all things better. It is possible, trying is key! You would be amazed at the difference you can make one day at a time.”

– by Cailan Hale


GAPS Recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month / GAPS reconoce el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana

Posted on: September 15, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month Poster

To recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, GAPS Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) department is hosting a series of district-wide programming including three virtual keynote speakers. Latinas/os/x in Albany comprise roughly 13% of the city’s population, and the GAPS school community has over 21% students who identify as Latina/o/x. The demographic in GAPS is greater than what is reflected in our Albany community, and we as a district want to recognize the diversity GAPS represents through educational programming for our schools and community.

We are welcoming Dr. Jesus Jaime-Diaz from the University of Arizona, Gerardo Ochoa from Linfield University, and presenting our own EDI Director, Javier Cervantes to speak on subjects that will build knowledge and understanding of the varying identities and labels ascribed to Latinas/os/x in the United States. 

West Albany and South Albany High Schools will have displays demonstrating Hispanic culture open in the school buildings throughout the month. Many GAPS art classes and libraries will also recognize Hispanic Heritage Month through projects and book displays. 

This month’s programming has been a district-wide effort from many staff members to commemorate the contributions of Latinas/os/x in our community. GAPS wants to thank our community partners, Albany Public Schools Foundation and Central Willamette Credit Union, for funding our keynote speakers.

All presentations will be recorded and available on our website under the EDI webpage.

The Zoom information is the same for all three virtual presentations.

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 842 4957 3498
Passcode: 610742

Dial by your location:
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

Spanish Translation

Mes nacional de la Herencia Hispana

Para reconocer el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, el departamento de Equidad, Diversidad e Inclusión (EDI) de GAPS está organizando una serie de presentaciones para todo el distrito que incluye tres oradores principales virtuales. Las latinas / os / x en Albany comprenden aproximadamente el 13% de la población de la ciudad, y la comunidad escolar de GAPS tiene más del 21% de estudiantes que se identifican como latinas / o / x. La demografía en GAPS es mayor de lo que se refleja en nuestra comunidad de Albany, y nosotros, como distrito, queremos reconocer la diversidad que representa GAPS a través de la programación educativa para nuestras escuelas y comunidad.

Damos la bienvenida al Dr. Jesus Jaime-Diaz de la Universidad de Arizona, Gerardo Ochoa de la Universidad de Linfield, y presentamos a nuestro propio Director de EDI, Javier Cervantes para hablar sobre temas que desarrollarán el conocimiento y la comprensión de las distintas identidades y títulos atribuidos a las/os latinas / os / x en los Estados Unidos.

Las escuelas preparatorias de West Albany y South Albany, tendrán exhibiciones que demuestren la cultura hispana abiertas en los edificios escolares durante todo el mes. Muchas clases de arte y bibliotecas de GAPS también reconocerán el Mes de la Herencia Hispana a través de proyectos y exhibiciones de libros.

La programación de este mes ha sido un esfuerzo de todo el distrito por parte de muchos miembros del personal, para conmemorar las contribuciones de Latinas / os / x en nuestra comunidad. GAPS quiere agradecer a nuestros socios comunitarios, la Fundación de Escuelas Públicas de Albany y Central Willamette Credit Union, por financiar a nuestros oradores principales.

Todas las presentaciones se grabarán y estarán disponibles en nuestro sitio web bajo en la  página de EDI.

La información de Zoom es la misma para las tres presentaciones virtuales. 

Unirse a la reunión de Zoom:

ID de la junta: 842 4957 3498
Contraseña: 610742

Marque desde su ubicación:
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

Welcome Back: 2021-2022 School Year

Posted on: August 17, 2021

Welcome to the new school year! We are really excited to share all of the new things we have in store for the 2021-2022 school year including a new CTE Construction program and the new Options Academy for freshmen and Sophomores.

As you prepare for the new year, here is some information you will need:

Returning Students: Back-to-school meetings with Mrs. Harryman will be held the week of August 16th. Please call the school to schedule your meeting if you have not done so already.

Interested in AOS? We are by referral from South Albany High School and West Albany High School only. To become an AOS student, you must get a referral. Please start by talking to your counselor at your school to see if AOS is the right place for you.

First Day of School: The first day of school is Tuesday, September 7th for all AOS students. Please see the bell schedule for your program class times.

School Supplies: AOS does not have a school supplies list, but please plan to come to school with the basics (notebooks, pencils, etc.). If you need any supplies, please let us know as we will have plenty to share. Please bring your chromebook to school with you the first day of school.


Principal: Mr. Hannan –
Counselor: Mrs. Harryman –
Registrar: Mrs. Barker –
Attendance/Bus Requests: Mrs. Fewless –
Staff Contact: Full list available here

Phone: (541) 967-4563
Instagram: @AlbanyOptionsSchool  

BELL SCHEDULES: Available here


Bienvenidos de regreso: Año escolar 2021-2022

¡Bienvenidos al nuevo año escolar! Estamos muy emocionados de compartir todas las cosas nuevas que tenemos reservadas para el año escolar 2021-2022, incluido un nuevo programa de Construcción CTE y la nueva Academia de Opciones para estudiantes de 9° y 10° grado.

Mientras se preparan para el nuevo año, aquí hay información que necesitarán:

Estudiantes regresando a la escuela: Las reuniones de regreso a clases con la Sra. Harryman se llevarán a cabo la semana del 16 de agosto. Llame a la escuela para programar su reunión si aún no lo ha hecho.

¿Interesado en AOS? Recibimos a los estudiantes por referencia de las preparatorias South Albany High School y West Albany High School únicamente. Para convertirse en un estudiante de AOS, deben obtener una referencia. n hablando con su consejero en su escuela preparatoria para ver si AOS es el lugar adecuado para ustedes.

Primer día de clasesEl primer día de clases es el martes 7 de septiembre para todos los estudiantes de AOS. Consulte el horario de los timbres para conocer los horarios de clases del programa.

Útiles escolaresAOS no tiene una lista de útiles escolares, pero por favor planee venir a la escuela con lo básico (cuadernos, lápices, etc.). Si necesitan algún material, háganoslo saber ya que tendremos mucho para compartir. Por favor traigan su Chromebook a la escuela el primer día de clases.


DirectorSr. Hannan –
Consejera: Sra. Harryman –
Encargada de inscripcionesSra. Barker –
Asistencia/Pedidos de autobús: Sra. Fewless –
Contacto del personalLa lista completa está disponible aquí

Teléfono(541) 967-4563
Instagram: @AlbanyOptionsSchool  

HORARIO DE TIMBRES: Disponible aquí