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2021 Awards

Schoolwide Awards

  • Most Admired Companies

  • AZ Central Top Companies to Work for In Arizona

  • A rating from the AZ Dept of Education for the 7th year in a row

2019 and 2020 Awards

School Wide Awards

  • Received an A Rating from the AZ Dept. of Education for the 6th year in a row

  • 2020 AZ Central Top Companies to Work for in Arizona

  • 2020 Most Admired Companies

  • 2019 AZCentral Top Companies to Work for in Arizona

  • AZ Commission on the Arts- Fine Arts Grand Prize Winner

  • A for Arizona Expansion Grant Recipient

Student Awards

  • Middle School Boys Flag Football team 2019 State Champions

  • Middle School Volleyball Team 2019 State Runner Up



ACA Receives the “A for Arizona” Expansion Grant











2018/2019 Awards

Student Awards


  • Odyssey of the Mind – Girls Team 3rd place in regionals

  • Middle School Boys Basketball team 2019 State Champions

  • Students and Art Teacher sweep 1st 2nd and 3rd places in City of El Mirage Art Contest


School Wide Awards

  • Designated an A+ School of Excellence (Arizona Education Foundation)

  • A Rated by the Dept. of Education for 5 years in a row

  • School Choice Leadership Award 18/19- From National School Choice Week

  • AZ Most Admired Companies and won spotlight award for Workplace Culture

  • Finalist for Best of the West in Education category

  • AZ Commission on the Arts- Fine Arts Grant winner



Staff Awards


  • 12 News Teacher of the Week- Mrs. Allen Kindergarten

  • CEO Melissa Holdaway a finalist for the 2019 Athena Award

Heather Henderson, Principal of Arizona Charter Academy in Surprise, is Named as One of Eight Rodel Exemplary Principals in Arizona

                                                   In her work as Elementary Principal of Arizona Charter Academy in Surprise, Heather Henderson                                                                    enjoys making a difference with her students.


                                                    “I love watching the next generation of students become critical thinkers who can articulate their                                                                   viewpoints backed with evidence and make a difference in their community,” Henderson said,                                                                         adding that she also truly enjoys working with a dedicated staff who cares about what is best for kids.


                                                    Henderson’s commitment to Arizona Charter Academy and its students and staff recently caught                                                                   the attention of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. Last week, Henderson was selected as one of eight                                                             Rodel Exemplary Principals in Arizona. Henderson was the only charter school principal in Arizona to be                                                       selected for this elite award.


                                                    Henderson, who was also recently named as 2014 Transitional Leader of the Year by the Arizona  Charter                                                     Association, credits Arizona Charter Academy’s strong culture of setting high expectations for students                                                         and staff as a key part of her success.


“The support of the parents, students and staff who believe in me as a leader and want what is best for the students has been really influential,” she said.


Melissa Holdaway, chief operations officer for Arizona Charter Academy, said that Henderson embodies everything that the Rodel Exemplary Principals award is about.


“Mrs. Henderson is an amazing instructional leader and has led the charge in transforming ACA to a high rigor, top performing school.  She truly cares about every student and staff member and this is only the beginning of what ACA is becoming”


Henderson said that she is both “honored and humbled” by the award from the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. She is also grateful for the many people who have supported her vision for Arizona Charter Academy as well as her leadership ability.

“Many people focus on how lonely it can be in a leadership position, but what I have and am learning is how supported I am by an amazing group of staff, students, parents, governing board and my own mentors,” she said.


“The community is strong, supporting and believe that the next generation will make a difference in our community.”


2015 Charter Business Leader of the Year


At her core, Melissa Holdaway is an entrepreneur. 


As chief operating officer of Arizona Charter Academy, a K-12 school serving about 800 students in Surprise, Holdaway is always searching for new ways to broaden the experiences of her students.


Whether it’s community partnerships, grants for innovative programs or classroom sponsorships, Holdaway seeks out opportunities for students and allows her staff to dream big.


Because Holdaway’s innovation and the strong foundation she’s paved for Arizona Charter Academy, Holdaway is our 2015 Business Leader of the Year.


Nearly 15 years after founding Arizona Charter Academy, Holdaway has emerged as one of the most influential charter school leaders in the state, with the passion for her school, community and the statewide charter school movement driving her decisions.


“What makes Melissa unique is her approach to integrating community into her organization,” said Arizona Charter Academy Board Member Melissa Montenegro. “She is an influential leader in her community, raised several thousand dollars and provided countless opportunities for the students and staff.”


The money Holdaway saves from community partnerships and contract negotiations, goes directly to the classroom. She works with her staff and vendors monthly to review budget reports, and has streamlined financial reports to help her two principals stay on budget.


This effort has not only helped Arizona Charter Academy gain extra money through grants and budget savings, but it’s also helped the school maintain an ‘A’ rating with a high poverty student population.


Holdaway is also integral to expanding relationship between charter schools and the city of Surprise.

Earlier this year, Holdaway worked with Surprise city officials and other charter school leaders to secure a $72,000 federal grant to study safer routes to school for their students.


Holdaway said the ability for the charter schools and city officials to work together provides a huge benefit to the community, and will help the ultimate success of the charter school movement and its students.


“They know we all stick together,” Holdaway said. “If we want to move forward as a movement, we have to be unified.”


­Excellence in Civics Award



The Excellence is Civics award recognition is based on a school demonstrating knowledge and effective implementation of the six proven practices in civic learning: classroom instruction in civics and government, history, economics, geography, law and democracy; service learning linked to classroom learning; experiential learning; learning through participation in models and simulations of democratic processes and procedures; guided classroom discussion of current issues and events; and meaningful participation in school governance.


This is our second year receiving the School of Merit award.  Only 30 schools were chosen and ACA was one of four charter schools to receive a Civic Engagement Award.   Our strength lies in our service learning projects through NHS, Mentor Club and Rotary Clubs.  ACA has also seen growth in experiential learning  through our Capitol Scholars program, Step Up poll workers program, Teen Court and our annual voter registration drive.


ACA takes pride in the civic engagement of our students and the opportunities we can provide  to our students to have an active voice in their community and  their futures.  



Surprise's Arizona Charter Academy named a ‘Most Admired' company


Arizona Charter Academy, 16011 N. Dysart Road, was recognized Sept. 5 as one of Arizona's "Most Admired Companies" during

a ceremony held at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix. This is the third straight year that the school has received this prestigious honor.


Arizona Business Magazine and BestCompaniesAZ teamed up to recognize the contributions and impact that local companies bring to the state. Special Spotlight Award categories included Workplace Culture, Leadership Excellence, Social Responsibility and Customer Excellence.


Chief operations officer Melissa Holdaway said the award is based on employee, customer and community opinions and focuses on companies with more than 25 employees.


"We are both proud and humbled to have been chosen as one of the most admired companies for the third year in a row," she said. "Every day, both the teachers and staff strive to create a positive culture for our students that embraces racial and economic diversity in a safe and welcoming environment. To be recognized for our efforts three times is truly very gratifying and affirming to everyone who works here."


Examples of the school's commitment to the community, Ms. Holdaway said, include annual trips to an impoverished area to build a home from the ground up for a family, blood drives, monetary donations from students for various causes, community clean up events and shared decision making and leadership opportunities for staff.



CareerBuilder Top Companies to Work for in Arizona


Since the day Arizona Charter Academy first opened its doors, the administrators have done everything possible to help ensure that the charter school offers an outstanding and supportive work environment.


Arizona Charter Academy was recently recognized for its commitment to its employees when it was named as one of the CareerBuilder Top Companies to Work For in Arizona. CareerBuilder, The Arizona Republic, and BestCompaniesAZ recently launched the new statewide workplace awards program, which recognizes organizations that are creating quality jobs and work environments.


Although the teachers and staff at Arizona Charter Academy were thrilled to learn that the school had received such a wonderful honor, they said they were not completely surprised about the award. After all, they firsthand how the school is such an outstanding place to work.


Gloria Ramos, student services coordinator, has worked at Arizona Charter Academy for nine years. She said she especially likes the way the staff is not only dedicated to the students, but to each other as well.


“Arizona Charter Academy is a great work place to work for because we are really a true team dedicated to education,” Ramos said. “We’re all passionate about kids and education and the belief that a zip code will not determine a child's education.”

Although this is just Lori Townes’s second year at Arizona Charter Academy, the reading specialist said she already sees clearly how the school puts the needs of its students first.


“While I was excited to work in an evolving reading intervention program, I was pleasantly surprised with the positive working environment and dynamic staff,” Townes said, adding that she feels very fortunate to work with a team of people who truly put the needs of kids first, and make all decisions based on what is best for the kids.


For Minette Klenner, who is starting her fifth year teaching junior high and high school history at Arizona Charter Academy, she has words of praise for everyone at the school.


“The collaboration among my peers is amazing, and the administration is extremely supportive,” she said, adding that her principal Stephani Olson is both “amazing and supportive.”


“Most of our students have been here for elementary through high school and they are polite, respectful overall great kids.”

Arizona Charter Academy wins business award

For the fourth year in a row, Arizona Charter Academy has been selected as one of Arizona’s “Most Admired Companies.”

The Surprise school was chosen along with 39 other businesses from nearly 300 nominations for the honor. Arizona Business Magazine and BestCompaniesAZ teamed up to recognize the contributions and impact that local companies bring to the state and the award is based on employee, customer and community opinions.


Chief Operations Officer Melissa Holdaway said: “It is our teachers and staff members who make the difference, and we work hard to make sure our staff is acknowledged, celebrated and feel valued.”


“The entire staff at Arizona Charter Academy is thrilled that we have been chosen as one of the most admired companies for the fourth year in a row,” said Pricilla Hernandez, one of the school’s teachers and English Language Learner coordinator.



“Every day, every single one of our teachers and other staff members work hard to offer a positive and encouraging environment for our students that respects and welcomes diversity of all types. For our school to be recognized four times in a row for our efforts is extremely gratifying for all of us.”


Examples of the school’s outstanding commitment to the community, Holdaway said, include annual trips to an impoverished area to build a home from the ground up for a family, monetary donations from students for various causes, community cleanup events and shared decision making and leadership opportunities for staff.

Holdaway named Leadership West Alumnus of the Year

Melissa Holdaway was voted “Alumnus of the Year” by members of Leadership West and surprised with the honor at the Class XIX Graduation Ceremony.


The award is granted to an alumnus of the organization who is visibly and successfully leading in the West Valley and significantly contributing to the success of Leadership West.


Holdaway, who graduated from Leadership West in 2010 with Class XVI, is the co-founder and CEO of Arizona Charter Academy, which has received many awards, including the Phoenix Business Journal’s one of the Valley’s Best places to work, and Arizona Business magazine’s “Arizona’s Most Admired Company for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Academy was also ranked in the “Top 100” companies in Arizona in 2012 by BestcompaniesAZ.



Holdaway serves the community as a Commissioner for the General Plan Commission in Surprise, Chair of the Arizona State Charter Association Advisory Board Business Committee and Serves on the West Valley Youth Leadership Council. She is an active member of the Surprise Rotary, Sun City Elks, The Arizona Association of Business Officials and the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Program. She also serves on various committees for the Arizona Department of Education.


Despite graduating nearly four years ago, Holdaway continues to stay very engaged with Leadership West, contributing to the 501(c)3, speaking at the education-themed instructional day and serving on a variety of committees including one that is preparing for the organization’s twentieth anniversary celebration in October. She has established a significant number of community partnerships for her Academy through relationships established among her classmates and alumni.


“Melissa is an exemplary alumnus of Leadership West,” said Executive Director, Kathy Knecht. “Smart, effective, always smiling, she has friends in virtually every class. She is a role model among West Valley Leaders and has put her Leadership West experience to use in more ways than could have been imagined.”

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