Aseltine School (San Diego, CA)


  • Name:Gwendolen Weil
  • Title:Development Director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Aseltine School
  • Address:4027 Normal Street
    San Diego, CA 92103-2617
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:(619) 296-2135

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • Aseltine School helps meet the educational needs of learning disabled and emotionally disturbed students throughout San Diego County. Aseltine staff partner with these “at-risk” youth and imaginatively challenge, support and prepare them to: 1) Gain better understanding and insight into the barriers that have limited their access to “mainstream” school and community; 2) Develop the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to overcome these barriers; 3) Develop the self-esteem that transforms fatalism and self-doubt into purposeful action, and 4) Make an independent and productive transition back into school, employment, and the community.

  • Overview:
  • Since 1968 Aseltine – a non-public school – has partnered with San Diego’s K-12 students whose needs are not met in the public schools. Public schools and other local non-public schools employ Behavior Modification to serve these young people – an effective approach for many, but one with which these students have had no success. Aseltine is the only special education school in the region that focuses on conflict resolution and problem-solving as the first step toward learning. Aseltine is often the last chance for these students to change their lives before they end up dropping out or find themselves incarcerated, hospitalized, or in out-of-state 24-hour residential care.

    Aseltine employs the constructivist approach, using themes and interests from students’ lives to engage them in learning. Rather than the conventional teacher/student dynamic, where students are vessels for teachers to fill with knowledge, constructivist teachers and students work together to examine and explore various subjects. Lessons do not occur as lectures; rather they are a dialogue between equal partners in which teachers pose questions and provide guidance.

    Rather than manage students’ behavior, Aseltine staff and students collaborate in partnerships based on mutual respect and understanding, empowering “at-risk” children and youth as active participants in their own lives. When students feel empowered and respected, they open up about problems at home, fears and self-doubts, and other issues that have inhibited their success. They begin to see themselves not as helpless, disabled victims of their circumstances, but as capable students and positive role models.

    Aseltine’s rigorous academic program is tailored to meet individual students’ needs. Each student’s program varies based on their unique challenges, strengths, and goals and can take place in small groups or on an individualized basis. Our curriculum is based on established public school guidelines that meet or exceed California State Department of Education standards.

    Aseltine students’ problematic, often violent behavior has been their greatest impediment to success in school and the community to date. Therefore, conflict resolution is integrated throughout the entire program. Other Special Education programs use a therapeutic model outside of the classroom setting. By dealing with conflict as it occurs, Aseltine teaches students whose impulsivity and anger have been detrimental to their lives to think carefully and critically before they act – in any situation. Students experiencing extra difficulty functioning in class are referred or self refer to the Conflict Resolution Room, where they have expanded opportunities to explore their obstacles to learning and develop healthy strategies to overcome them.

    Aseltine focuses on providing a supportive, understanding community for our students. Staff help these “at-risk” youth realize they no longer have to be victims – of abuse, neglect or a disability. They have control over their lives and the ability to determine their futures and make their lives different. While we do validate students’ frustrations – with school and their home lives – they do not excuse their behavior; we encourage students to critically reflect on their actions and then consciously decide what actions they must take to improve their situation and realize their goals – a necessary step if they are to make any academic progress.

    Our strong community goes well beyond the school’s doors and official hours of operation. Staff assist students with outside agencies and services: obtaining state IDs or licenses; registering to vote; searching and applying for jobs, etc. Staff work closely with parents/guardians and others involved in students’ lives (CASAs, social workers, therapists, etc.) to ensure all their needs – academic, emotional and physical – are met. As requested, staff assist families by: transporting parents to school meetings; providing grocery store gift cards, clothing, and food donations; setting up and transporting students to medical appointments, etc. For students and families experiencing extreme conflict and turmoil, staff also make home visits and act as mediators (as requested) to help the student and their family resolve their problems effectively – and learn how to address future issues in a similarly productive manner.

  • History:
  • In 1968, educator Donna Aseltine noticed a lack of educational services in San Diego for children with special needs. She founded Aseltine School to meet this serious void in the education system and in the community, providing an effective, meaningful academic experience for these children.

    Ms. Aseltine, along with her sister, originally ran this small school out of her home. As news of the Aseltines’ effectiveness spread, more parents sent their children to them and they relocated to accommodate their growing school. Local educators soon began to see Aseltine as a vital component of the education system. Students the system labeled "throw-aways" no longer fell through the cracks – they became Aseltine students. In the mid 1970s, the school settled in its current location, a former parochial school in Hillcrest.

    Over the years, Aseltine’s student population has changed dramatically. When Ms. Aseltine initially started the school, students tended to suffer primarily from cognitive and/or developmental disorders (e.g. Down Syndrome, dyslexia, processing disorders, etc.). Aseltine focused on Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and alternative teaching techniques and learning approaches to help these students develop strategies to overcome their learning disabilities and begin to thrive in school.

    In the 1980s, the population began to shift to students suffering primarily from severe emotional disturbances and behavior disorders, which in turn affected their ability to focus and learn in the classroom (some of these children suffered from both behavioral and cognitive disorders). These new students typically came from troubled backgrounds: victims of abuse and neglect; children of gang members; children in group homes, residential treatment centers and foster care; children in extreme poverty, etc. In response to these students’ different circumstances and needs, Aseltine began to modify its approach, incorporating constructivist principles and emphasizing the mastery of problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. Staff began to notice the effectiveness of this approach in helping this new group of students and further developed the program to most effectively address their unique and serious issues. This new approach emphasized the importance of working with students as active partners in their lives – challenging these young people well beyond the limitations of the behavioral engineering approach that has dominated special education practice for decades. Aseltine still employs and refines this model today to help at-risk youth to great effect.

    One former parent, who has volunteered in the classroom for over 36 years and is a long-time Board member and Angels of Aseltine Auxiliary Member, had this to say about her experiences with the school from 1977 to the present:

    “I became involved as a parent many years ago. We had gone through devastating disappointments with public and private schools; we never even heard the word dyslexic until Aseltine. I started volunteering at Aseltine to make sure my son was getting the help he needed. I still remember the morning he sat on my lap before school and said, ‘Mom, I’ve been there a whole week and no one has been mad at me the whole time.’ I continued to volunteer after my son left because I was so impressed with how Aseltine worked with him. Their patience and concern for students makes a huge difference. I wanted to do whatever I could to help other kids learn and grow like my son.

    “Many students we serve now have been treated so poorly it’s no wonder they have behavior issues… Over the years I have become very attached to Aseltine’s staff and the students. The staff’s dedication to these children is amazing, and the students’ creativity, determination and courage are inspiring.”

    Today, school districts from all over San Diego County refer students to Aseltine after they determine their own in-house programs are not effectively meeting the students’ special behavioral and cognitive needs. Aseltine’s uncommon approach has been highly effective with students with severe emotional disturbances and learning disabilities. Aseltine empowers these “at-risk” youth to become careful thinkers and passionate learners instead of violent reactors and dejected young adults.

  • Year established:1968
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:10
  • Advisory board size:2
  • Staff size:26


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:None
  • Tax ID:95-2552382

Other Organization Web

IRS Business Master File Information

  • EIN:952552382
  • Organization Name:ASELTINE SCHOOL
  • Sort (Secondary) Name:
  • Care Of Name:
  • Organization Address:4027 NORMAL ST
  • Organization City:SAN DIEGO
  • Organization State:CA
  • Organization Zip:92103-2617
  • Group Exemption Number:0000
  • Subsection Code:03
  • Classification Code(s):2, 1
  • Subsection/Classification Desc.:Educational Organization, Charitable Organization
  • Affiliation Code:3
  • Ruling Date:November, 1968
  • Deductibility Code:1
  • Foundation Code:11
  • Foundation Code Desc.:School 170(b)(1)(A)(ii)
  • Activity Code(s):059, 160
  • Activity Code Desc.(s):Other school related activities, Aid to the handicapped (see also 031)
  • Organization Code:1 (Corporation)
  • Exempt Org. Status Code:01 (Unconditional Exemption)
  • Tax Period:June, 2017
  • Filing Requirement Category:01 (990 (all other) or 990EZ return)
  • Accounting Period:June
  • NTEE Code:B28Z
  • Asset Amount:$593,372
  • Asset Code:5 ($500,000 - $999,999)
  • Income Amount:$1,655,685
  • Income Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • 990 Revenue Amount:$1,655,685
  • Last Updated:2/18/2018 11:56:51 am

This information is directly from the IRS Exempt Organization Business Master File at Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract. This information is not under the control of the Common Grant Application and is collected and compiled and can only be changed by the IRS.