Our Mission

Our mission is to create a world-class K-8 school where all children are prepared for college, career, and life.

Catalyst Academy Charter School is a college-preparatory K-8 public charter school in Pittsburgh, focused on serving families in the Hill District, Garfield, East Liberty, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington, Homewood, and East Hills communities as well as families from across Pittsburgh and neighboring communities that are looking for a great school.

We will open as a K-1 school in the fall of 2020, and then grow a grade each year to eventually serve kindergarten through 8th grade. As a public charter school, Catalyst Academy is a tuition-free, open-enrollment school for any student, including students with special needs and English-language learners.

Catalyst Academy is the first new K-8 charter school in Pittsburgh in 6 years and will be located in the Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood, in the    former Lemington school building.

Our Approach

Our Team

Brian Smith
Brian SmithFounder & CEO
Brian Smith is the Founder & CEO of Catalyst Academy. Brian started Catalyst Academy based on his deeply-held belief that all children, and especially historically disadvantaged children, should have access to a great education, one that can be a catalyst for changing the lives of their family and community. Brian was formerly the Executive Director of Strategic Priorities at the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS), where he led the district’s strategic planning process, and the development of K-2 literacy, and STEAM initiatives. Prior to his work at PPS, Brian’s career included a variety of roles in technology, corporate strategy, and online media. A native of Pittsburgh, Brian has a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He also completed a two-year urban education leadership program through The Broad Center. Brian is the proud father of two wonderful children.
Darren Gray
Darren GrayFounding Principal
Darren Gray is the Founding Principal of Catalyst Academy. Darren is an experienced educator who started his career as a Teach for America Corps member serving at Simmons Junior-Senior High School in the Mississippi Delta. As a corps member Content Leader, Darren led professional development for teachers across the region. Darren later moved to Nashville, TN to serve as an 8th Grade Literacy Teacher at Liberty Collegiate Academy. After working as a teacher, he transitioned to the role of Assistant Principal. In this role, Darren led the coaching and development of teachers across several content areas. His leadership resulted in Liberty Collegiate having the highest increase in student growth across the seven school Republic Charter School network. Liberty Collegiate was also recently recognized as having student growth in the top 5% of schools in Nashville. A native of Alabama, Darren is a graduate of Samford University.

Board of Trustees

Ms. Amankulor is a long-time advocate for enabling greater high-quality educational opportunities for disadvantaged families. She is the former Director of PennCAN: The Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now, a statewide advocacy organization working to enact commonsense reforms to ensure that every Pennsylvania child has access to a high-quality education.  Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she worked as Assistant General Counsel at Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, the largest and highest-performing charter school network in New York City, nationally known for eradicating both racial and income achievement gaps.

Mr. Cooper is a retired lawyer who has vast legal experience in the areas of commercial, real estate, and urban development law. He is widely recognized as one of the nation’s first management-level Chief Diversity Officers at a major law firm from his time at the K&L Gates law firm. After leaving K&L Gates in 2007, Cooper launched a Pittsburgh-based diversity consulting firm.  Prior to joining K&L Gates, he was General Counsel for the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. Mr. Cooper has taught at the University of Pittsburgh Law School and also at the City University of New York, Queens College of Law.

Ms. McCarthy has devoted her entire career to working to achieve equity and excellence for all students. She spent seven years working at the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) in a variety of leadership positions, including Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, Director of Academic Initiatives, and the Gifted and Talented Coordinator,  Since 2016, Ms. McCarthy has been working for Teach For America where she currently serves as a VP. She holds a Pennsylvania Teaching certification and Principal certificate.

Mr. Walenchok is a licensed certified public accountant in Pennsylvania with more than 28 years of experience in public accounting. He is a partner at Baker Tilly, providing assurance and consulting services to clients in the public sector, including higher education, not-for-profit and governmental organizations. He currently serves as treasurer and board member of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. and previously served on the board of directors and as treasurer for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School.

Mr. Childs is a consultant, author, and philanthropist who works on behalf of the Maplewood Foundation, a charitable organization deeply committed to providing high quality educational options to families in the East End of Pittsburgh. He is a successful entrepreneur, and is the author of Successful Sales without Selling Your Soul.

Dr. Generett is a Professor, Chair of the the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership and the Director of the UCEA Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice at Duquesne University. She has served in various leadership roles including the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the School of Education at Duquesne University and the Community Partnership Fellow at the Center for Urban Education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Generett has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes in the field of education.

Ms. Harris is a long-time advocate for children and an experienced non-profit leader in Pittsburgh. She served for 13 years as Deputy and then Executive Director of A+ Schools. Currently, she is the CEO of Literacy Pittsburgh, and is also the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission where she worked to form successful public-private partnerships to advance access to high quality early learning. Ms. Harris serves on numerous state and local boards and committees. Most recently she was appointed to serve on the City of Pittsburgh’s Early Childhood Education Task Force.

Mr. Jones is a life-long resident of Pittsburgh’s Garfield community and a long-time advocate for youth in Pittsburgh. He is the President & C.E.O. of Brothers and Sisters Emerging (B.A.S.E.), a non-profit organization that serves as the umbrella agency for the Garfield Youth Sports Organization. B.A.S.E is a year-round organization offering after-school, summer camp, and mentoring programs to over 200 Pittsburgh youth. The mission of B.A.S.E. is to strategically advocate and connect youth and families to life sustaining resources. Mr. Jones also co-founded the Garfield Youth Sports Organization and serves as a volunteer football coach for the Garfield Gators.

Ms. Little-Poole has over twenty years of experience in nonprofit management focused on programs that impact low-income and underserved populations. Most recently, she served as Program Manager of Youth Philanthropy at The Heinz Endowments. Prior to that, she worked as Dir. of Youth Engagement & Organizing for A+ Schools. Previously, Ms. Little-Poole was the Director of Parent Education for Beginning with Books, an early literacy program. She currently serves on the board of The Pittsburgh Promise and has been a member of Pennsylvania  Dept. of Education Statewide Parent Advisory Council.

Ms. Stiling is an experienced educator and educational consultant focusing on strategic planning, school effectiveness, whole-school improvement efforts, and literacy intervention. Prior to relocating to Pittsburgh, she served as Founding Director of Special Education and Dean of Curriculum and Instruction at a middle school in Boston within the nationally renowned Uncommon Schools charter school network. She was part of the team that helped Uncommon Schools generate the greatest student academic gains of any large charter network.  Previously, Ms. Stiling taught elementary school in Chicago Public Schools. She also serves as an Adjunct Faculty member for the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education.

Grade Levels
(K-1 in 2020)
Future Grades
(K-8 in 2027)
Days/Week Science & Engineering
Days/Week Arts Education

Families interested in applying at Catalyst Academy please visit our enroll page.

For general inquiries about Catalyst Academy, please email us at info@catalystacademy.org or call us at 412-684-2400.

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