Indianapolis school aims to bridge achievement gap

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Younger students are still getting their bearings with the start of the new school year. But one local school just opened for the first time with the promise of a unique twist on the three R's. The city's newest charter school was inspired by an unlikely union.

The George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academy was named in honor of an Irish-immigrant couple who saw a staggering statistic about the number of young black men in foster care who end up in the prison system. They wanted to do their part to help and the result is this school and the man who started it.

"At first, it was, oh, my goodness! This is incredible," said Earl Martin Phalen, the school's founder.

Phalen is still in disbelief at how his vision has turned into reality.

"Right now, the passage rate on ISTEP is 54% and that's unacceptable. Children need to master their reading, writing and math skills and children need to be inspired. Our goal is over 90% will be passing the ISTEP reading, writing, computing proficiently, but also have the character, integrity, honesty and empathy towards others," said Phalen.

Right now, the school only has about 300 students grades K through second with plans to go up to 1,000 students through the eighth grade. Jeremy Baugh is the principal.

"This is one of our blended learning labs. For 30 minutes a day in reading and 30 minutes a day in math, scholars come out and work on various programs," said Baugh.

It's a part of a rotation model that allows the scholars time in small groups with the teacher, small groups on their own and that time on the computer, which the teacher can monitor online.

While many schools offer computer education only a couple of times a week. At the Phalen Leadership Academy, they offer it everyday twice a day. It's the top-notch education from the area's best teachers that Phalen almost didn't get as a young man.

"I was in foster care, born of a young mom and I was there for two years and my mom and dad said 'let's adopt' and so they brought me into the Phalen family. I'm the youngest of eight children and have 37 beautiful nieces and nephews," said Phalen.

Even though George and Veronica already had seven biological children of their own, they still had a lot more love to give.

"They absolutely built in me a love for education and understanding that if you know how to read, you can go anywhere," said Phalen.

Phalen did just that, graduating from Yale and Harvard Law School. But instead of practicing law, he wanted to practice compassion in educating our future.

"I love it! I like it! I like my new teacher! I like my new friends!" said Ceciley Cage, a kindergartner.

"I want to be a doctor when I grow up so I can help others," said Nevaeh Hooper, a second grader.

"I stepped outside and saw this sign and felt emotional about what an honor to honor my parents in this way. I feel a huge sense of joy and responsibility," said Phalen.

The Phalen Leadership Academy is a big one with plans to build ten schools in 12 years. The good news for those wanting to get in on the ground floor is that there are still spaces available here.

Phalen Leadership Academy