Almond Acres Families Threatened with School Closure by San Luis Obispo County Office of Education

Almond Acres friends

Denial of charter petition would likely leave more than 300 students without their school of choice

Paso Robles, California: – Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), a public charter school successfully serving students and families in the area since 2012, is being threatened with closure if their charter petition to expand their school in Paso Robles is denied by the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. The vote, which will take place on Thursday, September 3 at 1:30 p.m., will be open to the public, and will take place online.

“This denial is based on incorrect financial concerns as well as false claims that Almond Acres Charter Academy will not be able to function as a successful school,” said Ed Surber, AACA board member and proud parent. “Almond Acres Charter Academy has served hundreds of families for eight years under the guidance and support of James Brescia. Suddenly, and under false pretenses, he is recommending that our petition is denied, which threatens the school’s survival.”

The school has held a series of meetings with the community members, Surber noted, as well as the Office of Education and parents, who’ve passionately defended their children’s education as the school looks to expand into a new building in Paso Robles, where the school began.

Almond Acres is asking parents, community members and concerned citizens to contact the members of the board of trustees in advance of the vote to encourage them to vote NO on recommendation to deny the schools’ charter petition.

Strong community support for Almond Acres Charter Academy

More than one hundred community members wrote letters to the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education in support of the school. Letters can be read here.

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul.

Empowering Students in Their Own Education

Every student has innate skills and talents, and it is incredibly rewarding for us to watch each child learn about, and become, the best version of themselves: heart, mind, body, and soul.

At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we affirm the strengths and struggles of each learner, stretch their knowledge and skills, and celebrate their accomplishments, large and small.  We believe that a love of learning comes naturally in an environment that focuses on empowering students to be active participants in their own education.  

Girl reading 7 Habits books

We integrate service and project based learning units of study at all grade levels because students learn best when their work is meaningful and creative. Cultivating future leaders is also an essential part of growing great kids.  Our students develop their leadership skills through the Leader in Me system, which is based on Stephen Covey’s work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

We foster academic achievement by:

  • Hiring fully credentialed CLAD or BCLAD certified teachers
  • Adopting research-proven instructional strategies
  • Incorporating 21st century learning technologies in every classroom
  • Adhering to current state standards in all subject areas
  • Using service and project based learning units of study 
  • Wearing school uniforms to promote harmony among peers
  • Participating in California state mandated tests  
  • Supporting classrooms with paraeducators
  • Providing more one-on-one instruction
  • Integrating physical movement, visual and performing arts, and music to enhance learning

Destination Imagination Enrichment Program

Many of our students also participate in Destination Imagination, a competitive, international STEAM based after-school enrichment program.  Last year, the majority of our teams made it the State Finals, and one team was invited to the Global Finals.  The Leader in Me and Destination Imagination programs are unique to North County schools.

children coloring

At Almond Acres, we believe all children can learn and succeed

At the core of Almond Acres Charter Academy is the belief that all children have the inherent ability to learn and succeed. We help our K-8 students identify their individual learning styles and their innate intelligences, while providing settings in which they are most capable to excel.  

Our school is proud to offer Personalized Learning Portfolios (PLP) for every student, small class sizes in a small school environment, flexible spending, contemporary technologies, and a high level of family and community interaction. We grow great kids. Join us and enroll today! 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Inclusivity + Community + Best Practices in Education = Almond Acres

We’re trying to move our school from its current hillside location in San Miguel to a larger, more centralized spot in Paso Robles. To do this, we need the approval of the San Luis Obispo Board of Education. Over 100 families and faculty took the time to write letters on behalf of Almond Acres Charter School. 

It’s an extraordinary and humbling outpouring of heartfelt zeal for our charter school. We thought we’d share why other parents love this school so much. Three themes keep emerging — in these authentic letters — our inclusive culture, strong community and unique and beloved educational approach.  Here’s a tiny sample of the tidal wave of positive parental descriptions of our school and spirit:

The understanding that each child is an individual with different needs is key to why I am sending my children here. The inclusive nature of the school allows for much family involvement in our children’s education and school culture. The support network and friendships created during the time we’ve attended AACA goes way beyond the school gates. This is a community of invested and passionate parents, students and educators. This network is key not only for our children, but for the community of Paso Robles.

The school ethos —  positivity, sense of duty, determination and passion — is seen in local small business, cultural life, and in the evolution of the city community.

AACA helped develop my son’s individual strength and is helping us develop him into an outstanding citizen. Over the last year, our son has learned to recognize 5 core values of being a good citizen and helps our entire family focus on being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair and caring.

My children, as most, have many different needs. Support services at Almond Acres have been so thorough, open, and consistent in their communication with me, my children, and making sure to find ways to provide exactly what my kids need to succeed and grow. They teach the kids from the beginning self advocacy and let them voice their opinions and concerns. They play an active role in their own education.

We chose AACA for the small school size and the strong focus on the students. I appreciate that AACA focuses on our children’s personal strengths whether it be heart, mind, body or soul. And that they help us identify that so we can help our children better.

Not only has AACA been good for my child, but it has helped me be a better mom. At one point I was having a hard time with my son, and Mr. B (school principal) met with me to help guide me through tools that I can use to help him be his best self. Also, throughout the year he has held Zoom calls for the parents so that he can help guide us through the challenges that parenting brings.

AACA finds how each student is smart and encourages them in that direction. That is an out-of-the-box way to think about education

No school is perfect and certainly not a fit for everyone. Every concern I’ve had with the school over the years was talked out with staff members and they actually made swift active changes surrounding my concerns, and always follow up to make sure the new plan in place is working out for everyone involved. This open communication and willingness to make changes based on parental feedback is a huge factor in our school choice.

I have never felt so welcomed as a parent/adult at a school and the staff, faculty, and children all welcomed us. It was what we felt was “true Paso Fashion”. Since moving here there has been this wonderful sense of community. A sense of togetherness and a kindness that we see throughout our town. Almond Acres Charter Academy is just that. They are a community within a community raising good people, innovative learners, self starters, and future compassionate, loving humans.

Almond Acres Charter Academy is not perfect, but we are a team of dedicated educators and families that are striving to create meaningful education through service/project-based learning experiences. For example, in Kindergarten, we partner with Annette Lodge, a senior living facility in downtown Paso Robles. It’s a beautiful relationship built on visits, exchanging written letters and surveys between the kindergarten students and the residents at Annette Lodge. They teach us about life then and now, answer questions about life as Americans, and tell us their stories. Kindergarteners think of the seniors as “the wise people” because they have collected the most life stories.

Our structure allows us to respond quickly to the needs of our students and adapt our programming when necessary. Through the upheaval of COVID-19, AACA was able to offer a program that supported both our students and staff while maintaining our philosophy. I am very proud to share across the county the work that AACA is doing to serve students.

The fact that my son sleeps in his SCHOOL uniform two weeks before term starts each year tells me that he adores his school, his buddies, his teachers, and especially his principal, Mr. B. who directs with a kind but very purposeful manner. He knows every child by name and has the grace and patience like no other. Amy Baker, founder, is brilliant in her own right and is the silent backbone of AACA.

While distance learning was a struggle for our family, I was extremely impressed with how quickly the school was able to switch to an online platform. The teachers were amazingly helpful during the transition and helped modify the curriculum to better suit my sons’ needs.

I strongly support AACA and the school’s philosophy of growing great kids, the positive school culture, the encouragement of critical thinking skills, the acknowledgment of individualized learning styles, and the promotion of student leadership in both academics and citizenship. This school has been a real blessing to our family and the entire community.

AACA emphasizes character development — learning strong and effective social skills and the importance of teamwork. What I really appreciate about this is that students at AACA learn these with a sense that their success as students is not just a matter of looking out for themselves. On the contrary, they come to understand that they are there to learn and grow as human beings that will make a contribution to their communities as a whole.

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

We Are Family

Our Director Bob Bourgault sums up our family ethos so well, “Almond Acres Charter Academy is designed and dedicated to the true meaning of education. The word “educate” originates from the Latin word “educare“ which means to nurture and draw out the learner, not to fill him/her up.  

We help students become the very best version of themselves by inciting a passion and desire to learn. Project-based learning, service learning, and meaningful educational experiences within our community are the keys to unlocking outstanding learning and student success.”

teacher talking to student

Educare – to nurture and draw out the learner is the foundation of our AACA learning framework and our organic model. How else do we achieve this at Almond Acres Charter School? We asked a couple of AACA parents to share the ways we regularly nurture and collaborate together  — creating our family culture:

We work together as faculty and families to recognize all the ways our students are capable and smart. We spend the first three weeks of every school year focusing on self discovery and setting goals for the year–even in kindergarten!  Students work with their parents and teachers to identify strengths and struggles in all areas of their lives: heart, mind, body, and soul.  In a student-led parent-teacher conference following this self discovery period, the student shares what they’ve learned about themselves and challenges themselves to grow–or stretch–their skills.  For example, a student may choose to learn to play an instrument, participate in the school play, or improve their reading fluency by learning 100 sight words.

We focus on the cooperative, not the competitive. 

Our sports teams are open to all students.  We want every child to experience what it feels like to be part of a team.  We believe that the elementary years provide an excellent opportunity to explore different interests and develop skills.  We encourage students to focus on personal growth rather than comparing themselves to other students.  We all learn and develop at different paces, and peers, parents, and staff celebrate that personal growth among student athletes.

We maintain simple principles to help every kid understand who they are.  

These principles are inherent to teaching, parenting and learning. 

The recipe to growing great kids is simple.  First, we affirm.  The strengths and struggles of each student are unique to them.  We acknowledge and recognize this in each learner.  Secondly, we strengthen.  We guide students through the process of identifying opportunities for growth and set goals that are S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, assignable, relevant, and time-based).  Finally, we celebrate!  Student achievements are regularly commemorated during our daily Shared Start assembly.

We have a genuine desire to help.

We know that if students feel supported — as a whole person — they’ll flourish. For us, this includes heart, mind, body and soul. 

Annual Fund Raising – everyone seems to get together to make this happen. The committees that are formed are one part of it, but so many people help by donating items and advertising! It’s amazing to see the community family coming together to help provide money to keep our school thriving (to my knowledge most traditional public schools in our area don’t have to raise as much money as us just to operate).

We honor kids for how unique they are.

We honor kids for how unique they are — and we engage available, reliable adults to support them daily in their growth and courage. 

Daily Parent Involvement – I consistently come across parents that not only know the names of my kiddos, but they know their likes and dislikes and achievements and struggles. This to me validates the family culture of AACA…we all have each other’s backs. 

museum field trip

Our small charter school means faculty and families really know one another and intentionally partner in the developmental arc of each kid. We grow great kids! 

Our end of year camp-out (pre-COVID-19) always had a large turnout and the feeling (to me) is like a big family reunion with food, fun, and unity.

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

In the MIDDLE of the Action! Almond Acres Middle School

“Because of the programs at our school, like Destination Imagination, Leadership, Project-based learning and Theater, my daughter is thriving — not just surviving — in middle school! Her confidence has grown, she has outstanding grades, and her character is strong.”

Almond Acres Charter Academy parent

Learning is a collaborative process. At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), the education of our students is built on having a strong and inspiring support system in place. We deliver our high-quality service and project-based curriculum via our dedicated and experienced teachers and our we-are-a-family, tight knit AACA community. 

We actively maintain a partnership and open communication between parents, students, teachers, and community members. This is our learning team and how we grow healthy kids. We give our students this foundation so they can feel confident in their ability to investigate their world and who they are. It sparks a desire to learn and grow, and ensures flourishing academic experiences full of opportunities and exploration. This is especially true at our middle school. 

colorful lockers

Our middle school is known for having small classes. With a 1:28 student-to-teacher ratio, our instructors truly know each sixth – eighth grade student. 

Our middle schoolers get to be leaders. They give tours to prospective families and they help every morning with our Shared Start. Our middle schoolers even create events as part of our project-based learning units. Our seventh graders created a Family Forum where families came together to discuss issues pertinent to middle schoolers while playing games in a relaxed atmosphere.  The Family Forum allowed for conversation about challenges our middle school kids are currently facing. Not only was the event well-executed, the middle school students showed tremendous maturity and willingness to both share and listen. We grow great kids! 

Family Forum sign

Our middle schoolers act as admirable role models for other kids and families. Our middle school students recently took on the responsibility of promoting literacy. Some focused on our AACA school itself by tutoring kindergarteners, giving up their own recess(!)  to work with the younger students on sight words and reading. Other middle schoolers built and stocked a tiny share library to be installed between our kindergarten and first grade classrooms. Moving beyond our school, some students built a tiny free library for their neighborhood, helped out in a childcare environment and read to children at a homeless shelter. 

boy reading

One middle school student focused on literacy around the globe – and chose Uganda to make his mark. By making and selling homemade strawberry jam, this Almond Acres middle school student raised funds to work with a local charity in Uganda and raise enough funds to provide pens, paper, and English textbooks for an entire classroom! 

Being a small school, our middle school students can access many activities and experiences. Our middle school kids can play on the volleyball team AND be in the school play. They can pursue a wide variety of scholastic and extracurricular endeavors  – and gain exposure to their talents and interests as well as natural gifts. This confidence is so valuable at this critical age! 

baseball players

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in San Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!