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 opened as a K-1 school in the fall of 2020, and will 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 is located in the Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood, in the former Lemington school building.

Our Team

School Leadership

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.

Meghan Lawrence is the Principal of Catalyst Academy. Prior to joining Catalyst, she led Propel Northside as Principal for five years, where she improved academic outcomes, reduced absenteeism, and implemented a community schools model. Ms. Lawrence has worked as a teacher and leader in education in Texas, Virginia, New York City, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Ms. Lawrence has a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, and a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She is also a Teach for America alum. She is originally from Pittsburgh, where she lives with her husband and two amazing children.

Instructional Team

Helene earned her undergraduate degree from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington and completed her master’s degree in education at Marion University in Indiana. She began her teaching career as a 4th grade Teaching Fellow with an urban charter school in Indianapolis and later became the instructional coach for all kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms. During this time she was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award for dedication to the community and commitment to student achievement. Helene finds deep satisfaction and joy working with teachers to help them excel in their classrooms for the benefit of the students in their care.

Falencia Jean-Francois was born in Haiti, grew up in Boston, and has called Pittsburgh home for the last eleven years. She began her career in education as a preschool teacher. After three years, she transitioned to elementary education by way of Duquesne University’s PreK-4 master’s program. She lives in Forest Hills with her wife of eleven years, her dog (Loki), and her cat (Rory). When she isn’t teaching, she enjoys writing curriculum and fiction.

Lauren Singer is the oldest of four kids, grew up in Hollidaysburg, PA, and is a graduate of Chatham University with a Bachelors in Education. Lauren began her career in an early education preschool classroom in Pittsburgh and couldn’t be more excited to continue working with scholars at Catalyst Academy. Lauren is a passionate advocate for equitable education and serves to fulfill students needs academically, socially, developmentally, and emotionally. She published a case study on how schools and teachers can better support students who have experienced trauma through the practice of mindfulness, and her devotion to supporting students who have experienced trauma flourishes in areas beyond the classroom.

School Culture & Scholar Support

Monica Cooper is the Founding Director of Scholars of Catalyst Academy. Monica began her career as a first grade teacher and later taught Kindergarten. As Monica developed her practice, she became a teacher leader and coached other teachers across first through fifth grades at Village Prep Woodland Hills Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. Monica’s passion for building strong relationships with students to ensure their success, both academically,socially, and emotionally led to her elevation as the Dean of Scholars at E-Prep Middle School, Woodland HIlls Campus. In this position Monica assisted in the redesign of the school discipline system,routines, and procedures. Monica later transitioned here to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and served as the PBIS Coordinator and member of the Student Support Services Team at Urban Academy. In this role, Monica directed the implementation of the first tier of PBIS. This PBIS implementation resulted in a 67% reduction in Level 1 referrals between November and February. Monica was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Cleveland State University.

School Operations

MaLisha Scott is the Founding Front Office Manager for Catalyst Academy Charter School. MaLisha has worked in a variety of administrative roles in Pittsburgh for organizations that include The Bridge of Pittsburgh, which helps bridge the gap between the end of education and adulthood for foster care youth, Pressley Ridge, Propel Charter Schools, and UPMC. Malisha is a Christian, wife, and mother, who is passionate about ensuring all children are seen, heard, supported, and loved.

Myra Powell has been working in community development for over 35 years. She had never thought of working at a school until she learned about Catalyst Academy Charter School’s focus on building community. Myra believes if we want to have a well-rounded scholar, and a well rounded school, then you have to get the community involved. She enjoys experiencing new things, cooking, and loves having picnics.

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.