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California Charter School Success Story: Holly Drive Leadership Academy Gets Smart

Charter School Capital

March 5, 2013


In celebration of the 20th anniversary of charter schools in California, we’ll be counting down the days to the California Charter Schools Conference (March 11-14) by showcasing charter school success stories from around the Golden State. 
Holly Drive Leadership Academy is a K-8 school in San Diego. Founded in 1999 and incorporated into the San Diego Unified School District three years later, the school operated under district management for nearly a decade until opting to become a charter school in July 2011.
Becoming a charter allowed Holly Drive to provide educational options to their students, but it also meant overseeing the school’s operations for the first time.
The school’s leadership was well trained and ready to manage the educational components of running a charter school. However, the financial management was less familiar.
“Everything we’d ever done was through the district, including the payroll,” said Alysia Smith, principal at Holly Drive Leadership Academy. “I was used to that.”
Managing finances with limited experience is challenging under normal circumstances. Doing so in the wake of a severe cash flow shortage only intensifies the strain. Like, all charter schools in California, Holly Drive was subject to the state’s payment deferrals, which made for a harsh reality check early on.
“I had heard about the deferrals, but didn’t know they were so few and far between until we were on our own,” said Smith. “I didn’t know the state was so behind in paying the schools such large amounts of money.”
That’s when Holly Drive came to the Charter School Capital team. We were fortunate enough to partner with them to provide working capital funds when they needed them most. This allowed Holly Drive the freedom to focus on educating students. The key was eliminating the strain the payment deferrals had on the school’s operational stability. Our team devised an initial funding plan that provided necessary funds, as scheduled, so Holly Drive could maintain all operational needs.
Next, we worked closely with Alysia and her team to ensure Holly Drive’s long-term financial stability, offering counsel on the impacts of state budget changes, navigating bylaws, and budgeting for growth among other topics. Our efforts ultimately produced a budget that supports their immediate needs while safeguarding their ability to grow in the future.
This school year, Holly Drive is financially and operationally stable, allowing the school leadership to focus on educating nearly 140 students currently enrolled at the school.
“I’m here for my kids,” Smith said.

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