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

We are planning to open as a K-1 school in East Liberty in the fall of 2019, and to grow a grade each year to eventually serve kindergarten through 8th grade. As a proposed public charter school, Catalyst Academy will be a free, open-enrollment school for any student in the city of Pittsburgh. Catalyst Academy Charter School will operate with an extended school day and have an extended school year calendar. 



Create a world-class K-8 school where all children are prepared for college, career, and life.


Belong. Grow. Achieve.

Belong- All members of the Catalyst Academy Charter School community- scholars, families, teachers, and staff- will be embraced, respected, and supported. 

Grow- Every Catalyst Academy scholar, teacher, and staff member is committed to growing every day in alignment with our mission.

Achieve – A great education should be a catalyst for each scholar to define and achieve their dreams. 



Our educational philosophy is that a child’s education should seek mastery along three dimensions. 


All scholars will be prepared to attend and graduate from a four-year college or university.  Catalyst scholars will be prepared by achieving mastery of a broad, rigorous college-preparatory curriculum that both prepares and inspires.


All scholars need to be equipped with the skills to thrive in the 21st century economy, including communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.


A great education cultivates confident, compassionate scholars ready to achieve their dreams.

School Leadership

Brian Smith is the Founder & CEO of Catalyst Academy Charter School.  As CEO, his responsibilities will include leading the charter approval process, financial and operational management, school marketing and enrollment, community partnerships, and development. 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 key priorities within the plan. 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 University of Pennsylvania. 

Board of Trustees

Rachel Amankulor, who will serve as President of the Board of Trustees of Catalyst Academy. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Rachel 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. Currently, she is the Deputy 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. 

Carl Cooper, who will serve as the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of Catalyst Academy, is a retired lawyer who has vast legal experience in the areas of commercial, real estate, and urban development law. Carl 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, Carl was General Counsel for the Pittsburgh Housing Authority. Carl has taught at the University of Pittsburgh Law School and also at the City University of New York, Queens College of Law.

Allison McCarthy, who will serve as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Catalyst Academy, 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, Allison has been working for Teach For America where she currently serves as a VP. Allison holds a Pennsylvania Teaching certification and Principal certificate.

Thomas Walenchok, who will serve as Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, is a licensed certified public accountant in Pennsylvania with more than 28 years of experience in public accounting. Tom 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. Tom 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.

George 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. George is a successful entrepreneur, and is the author of Successful Sales without Selling Your Soul

Dr. Gretchen Generett is an Associate Professor in the Department of Foundations and Leadership and the Director of the UCEA Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice at Duquesne University. Gretchen 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.

Carey Harris is a long-time advocate for children and an experienced non-profit leader in Pittsburgh. Carey served for 13 years as Deputy and then Executive Director of A+ Schools. Currently, Carey is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission where she is working to form successful public-private partnerships to advance access to high quality early learning. Carey 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.

Robert M. Jones Jr. is a life-long resident of Pittsburgh’s Garfield community and a long-time advocate for youth in Pittsburgh. Robert 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. Robert also co-founded the Garfield Youth Sports Organization and serves as a volunteer football coach for the Garfield Gators.

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

Erin 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, Erin 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, Erin taught elementary school in Chicago Public Schools. Erin also serves as an Adjunct Faculty member for the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.



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For more information about Catalyst Academy Charter School, please email us at or call us at 412-684-2400