The History of Albert Einstein Academy
Albert Einstein Academy was brought to our area in May of 2013 when a nonprofit organization from California was looking to expand their charter schools in Northeast Ohio. They found Dr. Bruce Thomas teaching at the University of Akron and after several meetings, hired us both to open the first AEA Ohio in Westlake. The thought of starting a school from the beginning was unfathomable. We were slated to open in mid-August of that year, and we did not have one chair, one desk, one teacher or one student. Bruce looked at me and said, “Come on Kristen, we can do this. It will be fun!” I am not sure if fun is the right word, but it has certainly been an adventure. We opened that August as scheduled at our Westlake campus with 75 students, nine staff members and so much excitement. After Bruce and I had collectively spent over sixty years in traditional public education, we were finally able to create a safe space for all youth that is inclusive, welcoming, and completely student-centered.
With many bumps in the road including much laughter and tears, we were able to expand our school to a second campus. We opened AEA Strongsville in 2017 as a K-6 school. Michelle Petrillo, our current Assistant Superintendent, was instrumental in the success of the new campus as the building principal.
In 2018, we opened Northeast Ohio’s first LGBTQ+ affirming school in Lakewood. This campus serves grades 6-12 and has helped many area students find success to finish their K-12 academic careers.
Although we loved our flagship campus in Westlake, we were looking to offer younger grades and we simply ran out of space. So, we packed up (with lots of help from our student and parent volunteers) and moved down the street to North Olmsted where the school thrived for six years serving grades K-12. In the 2023-24 school year, we will be consolidating our three campuses to two locations, Strongsville and Lakewood, while we find the perfect location for our third campus to reopen in fall of 2024.
Reflecting on the journey, I am proud to have had the opportunity to be part of this process. How many educators can say they opened a school from the ground up? Most importantly, I am proud that we have created a place for students to feel safe, welcome, and find achievement and happiness academically and socially. Our school is very personal to many of us, and we will continue to carry on the legacy Dr. Thomas has created. As he would always say to all our students and families, “You are welcome here.”
Dr. Bruce Thomas
Founder and former Superintendent of AEA.