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Montgomery Education Foundation & PLA Embark on Historic Journey in Montgomery Toward School Improvement

Montgomery Education Foundation(MEF) is ramping up efforts toward the public charter school conversion of Davis Elementary with the help of Phalen Leadership Academies (PLA), one of the largest African-American led and operated school turnaround networks in the nation. 

Davis Elementary will be converted into a public charter school this fall. The school will remain under Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) and all students zoned for Davis will have guaranteed enrollment. Parents should expect to see enhanced curriculum, dedicated teachers, integrated technology, and a road map to improve student achievement. Transportation, food service and building custodians remain the same through MPS.The work will begin with Davis Elementary School next school year. Nixon Elementary and Bellingrath Middle schools will follow to create a continuum for students from kindergarten to 8th grade.

MPS Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore shared, “MPS is moving forward with great success throughout the system and we’re looking forward to seeing amazing things grow from this relationship.” 

Ann Sikes, the Executive Director of MEF who helped lead conversion efforts agrees. “MEF is committed to supporting MPS in their work to improve success for all students. The opportunity to add partnership conversion schools within the district is exciting. This is monumental for both the children of our community and for the growth of our community. This partnership is based on growing student success while working within the district, keeping students and resources within the district in their neighborhood schools. The addition of this innovation work by the District to their overall plan for improvement is to be applauded.”

Sikes says that the nationwide search for a school management organization was focused on finding a partner capable of delivering the highest quality instruction and services for our children, who believes in the ability and potential of our students, a partner who could live up to the essential elements of MEF's school application: High Expectations, Academic Rigor, Social-Emotional Learning, Extended Learning Time, Professional Development, and Cultural Responsiveness. After extensive due diligence, deep evaluation, and community input. Phalen Leadership Academies (PLA)  fit the bill and was selected to lead school conversion and transformation efforts. PLA has a strong history of transforming multiple F-rated schools into A-rated schools. 

“Our organization was created to dismantle what often can be insurmountable odds for our children living in underserved communities,” said  PLA Founder and CEO Earl Martin Phalen. “Montgomery is a place of inspiration for me, and for my parents. The work that started here has inspired my life’s work. We look forward to deploying our passion, our resources, and expertise in service to and with families in Montgomery. We will connect with the faculty and staff, parents, and community stakeholders to work together to transform these schools and provide our children with the bright futures that they deserve.” 

Beginning its charter work in Indianapolis in 2013, PLA has since collaborated with districts in Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Michigan to see remarkable improvements in areas such as student reading growth, math achievement, suspension rates, and academic performance on state testing when compared to peer schools in those districts serving the same demographics. PLA overwhelmingly serves scholars whose backgrounds are African-American, Latinx, and low-income. 

Under this school conversion model, current teachers at the school have the first opportunity at new instruction positions, and all state employee health and retirement benefits remain unchanged. Equally important is that current students are guaranteed a seat at the PLA managed schools -- keeping Davis, Bellingrath, and Nixon as strong neighborhood schools.

With the passing of the local property tax increase to better fund public schools and the innovative initiatives that have seen MPS improve its academic outcomes at 70% of its schools, MPS is highly optimistic about the potential of this partnership and the improvements being made across the district. 

Davis elementary will open its doors as a school under PLA in the fall of 2021, followed by Nixon and Bellingrath in the fall of 2022. In the coming months, Davis staff, families, and community members can expect a welcome from PLA and opportunities to connect with the school’s leaders virtually. Individuals interested in applying to Davis Elementary for next school year can do so at Parents will receive re-enrollment information in the spring.