I have lived near Phalen Leadership Academy at Francis Scott Key School 103 (PLA 103) since I was twelve years old, for nearly 20 years. When I heard this school was being restarted in 2015 and Phalen Leadership Academy (PLA) would be “taking it over”, I was unsure. I wondered how it would fit into our neighborhood. I wondered if the leadership in the building would bring kids up or tear them down. I wasn’t a believer.
Today two of my children attend PLA 103 and my oldest son attends the PLA high school. I can now say with certainty that I’m grateful PLA is a part of our community because they have helped our neighborhood and our children.
Before the restart, the school was not as welcoming. Today, I see a total culture turnaround. The staff greet all the kids when they arrive for the day –rain, sleet or snow. Kids know as soon as they arrive for school that it is a new day and any struggles they had yesterday aren’t going to be held against them today.
PLA 103 has partnered with the apartments where I live because so many students also live in the complex. They host ice cream socials, pizza parties and movie nights for students. They offer afterschool tutoring at the complex office for students who need help with their homework.
They show a lot of appreciation for kids and the community. Last year, it must have been three or four times that I walked my children to the bus stop in the morning to find staff set up with a table and handing out donuts. The school sends home weekend snacks and food for kids, they offer to clean kids' uniforms at school and provide uniforms and supplies for kids who need them. They don’t want food and resources to be the reason a kid has a bad day or can’t focus in class.
The leadership at PLA 103 is very receptive and open to helping the community. I’m part of a group of parents working to get a food pantry at the school. When we reached out to the principal, Mr. Rimer, because we needed a space, he quickly found us one (and gave us more space than we needed). The leadership is so hands-on and supportive, replying to emails quickly and keeping us motivated.
This school celebrates kids. They praise children so well—and they balance it with high expectations. It is a game-changer for these students—hearing how great they do and how capable they are.
The change was scary. Innovation was scary. The idea of new was scary and I was skeptical, but the changes that have come with this school are positive. For all parents going through a “restart,” I know you’re nervous, but from one parent to another…I am really happy PLA came in and my kids now get to attend this school.