2015 Charter Business Leader of the Year – Melissa Holdaway

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.

Melissa Holdaway, 2015 Charter Business Leader of the yearWhether 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.”

This is the fifth in a series of blogs about each of our 2015 Charter Award winners. Read our posts about the Lifetime Achievement honorees here, our Charter School of the Year here, our Tranformational Leader of the Year here and our Teacher of the Year here. Want a behind the scenes look at our 2015 award winners? Click here.

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