“What are we doing for kids today?” That is the question that Cameron Curry, CEO of Classical Academies, asks himself and his team all the time. “Our mission is very clear. The only reason we all have jobs here is to make great things happen for students.”

Starting as a group of parents who wanted more choice in education, Classical Academies now has seven public charter campuses located in Escondido, Vista, and Oceanside serving about 5,300+ students across 32 communities.

At first, Curry was hesitant to become involved with Classical as he was already working as an economic developer for the city of Escondido. However, it was this experience that made him an ideal candidate for the job.

“Great schools play a part in the economic development in any community. If you want a great employer to move here, you have to have great employees who are going to work there, and those employees need great places to send their kids to school. So we need great schools in our communities,” Curry said.

This close-knit community is one of the reasons Curry and his family live in North County, and why he feels like it is a great location for Classical. “It’s a small town feel in Escondido, and the cities speak to one another. They collaborate. What’s happening in Escondido impacts other communities. This is where we belong.”

 

Creating Classical

Classical’s charter was approved in April of 1999. They formed the board with Curry as the president in May of 1999, with a plan to open the school only four months later. Having a hard time finding a location, they signed a lease on a Friday, moved in over the weekend, and opened the school only four days later.

Curry said that the formation of the school has included a lot of little miraculous incidents like this one, but the thing that really makes Classical special is the parent involvement.

“Our core belief as an organization is that parents are the primary educators of their children. We’re coming alongside you to help you fulfill that role for your son or daughter,” said Curry. Classical provides parents with all the tools, resources, curriculum, and information, so parents can be successful in working with students.

 

Flexibility for Students

“We try to individualize and personalize [the education] experience for every single student and really work closely with families. It’s that partnership that supports the success of every student,” said Curry.

Students only attend classes on campus a few days a week – 2 days for elementary, 3 days for middle, and 4 days for high school – and study at home the rest of the week. Families can also use Classical’s curriculum for a 5-day independent study from home, with the support of a certified teacher.

“We have a lot of students who are working on being a professional athlete, actor, singer, dancer, musician… The flexibility of our program provides accountability for them, but then they’re able to pursue their interests, passions, and the things that make them who they are,” said Curry.

Different student learning styles, needs, and interests are a driving force behind personalizing the education experience. “Choice in public education helps all boats rise. When we succeed, the community succeeds,” Curry said. “We’re helping the school districts meet the diverse academic needs of all students, because not everybody is going to be successful in a traditional situation.”

 

Partnering Through the Pandemic

As with most everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape for Classical. During the first two months, the school gained 1,200 new students.

“When every school closed, we had pivoted within a few days, providing new content and connection to a teacher, whereas some of the local school districts waited weeks before they engaged with anyone. Everyone was asking ‘What are we doing?’” said Curry.

Families talked to each other about where they were getting educational support, and Classical grew. They even had to close enrollment going into the summer to set students up for success effectively.

“This was the time to innovate. This was the time to ask, ‘What do students actually need, and how do we break down the walls of our traditional thinking to create new opportunities here?’ What has been, doesn’t always work,” said Curry.

This was also a window of opportunity for parents to explore homeschool education. Kids were already at home, so many parents partnered with Classical. “Moms and Dads were saying, ‘I didn’t think I could do this, but I can do this!’” Curry said. “That was a revelation for parents, who had counted on their traditional experience, but the flexibility and support made parents realize it opened new doors for their families.”

 

Transforming Neighborhoods

Curry’s biggest takeaway from his time leading Classical is that “it’s never been about me. It’s about what we are doing for the community. We are a community benefit. We are helping local employers. We are helping change the face of every neighborhood we walk into.”

As Classical has opened new school locations, Curry has witnessed the dynamics of the neighborhoods they’ve entered change. Vacant buildings had become “havens of bad behavior, like dying pieces of the community. The problems that we saw [before Classical was there], we just don’t see anymore. Life has come back as a result.”

Curry is excited as they begin renovations on their newly acquired property for Coastal Academy High School in Oceanside. “We’re going to be able to go into that corridor and bring light and life and opportunity to that piece of Oceanside.”

 

Read the story covering Stephanie Baker from Palomar Health here for more content.

 

Get to know some of North County’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders, and learn why they believe this region is a world-class place to do business. If you would like your company featured in “Meet North County Stewards,” or if you’d like to nominate someone for an interview, click this link to submit your nomination!

 

About the Author

Caitlyn Canby loves to learn and share people’s stories. She has her bachelor’s degree in Communications, Print Journalism with over 8 years of journalism experience. An Escondido native, she just moved back to North County with her husband and two children to the town of Fallbrook. Caitlyn enjoys collaborating on projects as Marketing and Events Coordinator at SDNEDC and exploring new restaurants, venues, experiences, and cultures.

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