Earl Martin Phalen and Nigena Livingston
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Earl Martin Phalen and Nigena Livingston

Innovation School Fellows: 2016

Earl Martin Phalen & Nigena Livingston will open a new middle school that will replicate the successful Phalen Leadership Academies (PLA) model already in place at two existing schools in Indianapolis.

PLA’s two schools in Indianapolis – a charter school on the near northside and an Indianapolis Public Schools’ (IPS) Innovation Network School on the city’s far eastside – already have redefined public education for hundreds of local families.  At the charter school, while the vast majority of students live below the poverty line, 100% of its third graders passed the state’s reading exam.  The Innovation Network School, in under a year, saw a 20% increase in enrollment as more families chose to move their students into the new and improved school.

Core pillars of the schools include exceptional educators, extended learning time, personalized learning, a rigorous curriculum, enrichment courses and close collaboration with parents.  Likewise, PLA’s middle school will implement a research-based program that includes great school leadership, an exceptional teacher leader in every classroom, increased learning time and cutting-edge use of technology.

Widely recognized as one of the nation’s top social entrepreneurs, Earl Phalen is the founder & CEO of Summer Advantage USA and PLA.  He was recruited to Indianapolis in 2008 as a part of The Mind Trust’s Education Entrepreneur Fellowship, through which he launched Summer Advantage, providing educational opportunities for underserved children during the summer months.  With financial and technical support from The Mind Trust, he then launched PLA’s first charter school in 2013.

In 2014, Earl was awarded an inaugural Innovation School Fellowship from The Mind Trust, through which he partnered with IPS to take leadership of one of its persistently low-performing schools and transform it into the state’s first “Innovation Network School.”  Earl graduated from Yale University and the Harvard University Law School.

Nigena has served as a principal for six years, successfully transforming school culture and student achievement.  She was the founding principal of Lighthouse Academies in Arkansas and also served as principal and instructional coach at University Preparatory Academy in Detroit, where she was recognized by Excellent Schools Detroit for her work helping her students “beat the odds.”

She earned a degree in health and human services from the State University of New York and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University.