Foundation to manage 17 Catholic schools

Ed Han­way (left) looks over Arch­bish­op Charles J. Chaput’s shoulder as both men sign a con­tract for a new or­gan­iz­a­tion that will help the Arch­diocese with man­aging Phil­adelphia’s Cath­ol­ic schools, Tues­day, Au­gust 21, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

The pres­id­ents of loc­al Cath­ol­ic high schools were re­act­ing fa­vor­ably to Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment that an in­de­pend­ent en­tity will take over man­age­ment of the arch­dioces­an sys­tem.

Arch­bish­op Charles J. Chaput traveled to St. Hubert High School to sign the agree­ment with Ed Han­way, former head of CIGNA Corp. and chair­man of the Faith in the Fu­ture Found­a­tion.

Faith in the Fu­ture, a non-profit run by lay lead­ers, was cre­ated in Feb­ru­ary, when Chaput an­nounced that St. Hubert and three oth­er high schools slated to be closed would re­main open be­cause of sig­ni­fic­ant fin­an­cial dona­tions and com­mit­ments.

In sub­sequent talks, both sides agreed that Faith in the Fu­ture should as­sume stra­tegic and op­er­a­tion­al man­age­ment of 17 high schools and four schools of spe­cial edu­ca­tion. It’s the first such agree­ment between a dio­cese and lay lead­er­ship in the coun­try.

Chaput called it a “his­tor­ic” day and a “bold step for­ward” for Cath­ol­ic sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion. “We hope that this mod­el works,” he said.

Man­age­ment changes hands on Sept. 1.

Ele­ment­ary schools will con­tin­ue to be op­er­ated by pas­tors and prin­cipals, al­though the found­a­tion will seek to provide sup­port to those schools.

The arch­diocese and the found­a­tion be­lieve they are headed in the right dir­ec­tion. Re­gis­tra­tions for ninth grade are at 106 per­cent of pro­jec­tions. The total over­all fresh­man class is lar­ger than the sopho­more class.

“We’ve come very far since Feb­ru­ary,” Chaput said.

Still, chal­lenges re­main.

“We have made very good pro­gress in that re­gard, but sta­bil­iz­ing en­roll­ment is only the first step,” Han­way said.

The found­a­tion will fo­cus on ma­jor fun­drais­ing, en­roll­ment man­age­ment, mar­ket­ing and cul­tiv­at­ing best prac­tices in lead­er­ship and edu­ca­tion.

A series of ini­ti­at­ives will be in­tro­duced at se­lec­ted schools. Little Flower, for in­stance, will be among six schools that will have guest in­struct­ors from China, who will teach Man­dar­in Chinese.

Han­way, who was a mem­ber of the blue rib­bon com­mis­sion that in Janu­ary re­com­men­ded that St. Hubert and the oth­er three schools close, will serve as in­ter­im CEO of the found­a­tion un­til a per­man­ent lead­er is se­lec­ted. He’ll stay on as chair­man. A 15-mem­ber board will be es­tab­lished, with Chaput mak­ing five ap­point­ments and the found­a­tion se­lect­ing the oth­er 10 mem­bers.

Pres­id­ents and prin­cipals of schools will re­port to the Of­fice of Cath­ol­ic Edu­ca­tion. The OCE will be­come a di­vi­sion of the found­a­tion and will re­port to the found­a­tion’s CEO.

The arch­diocese will con­tin­ue to own and op­er­ate all fa­cil­it­ies and will ne­go­ti­ate con­tracts with the As­so­ci­ation of Cath­ol­ic Teach­ers Loc­al 1776. Uni­on boss Rita Schwartz was at the news con­fer­ence, and is eager to take a look at the de­tails of the new agree­ment.

There are more than 14,000 stu­dents in the arch­diocese’s 17 Cath­ol­ic high schools, but they have the ca­pa­city to handle double that en­roll­ment.

“We are open for busi­ness,” Han­way said.

Chaput and Han­way are hope­ful that busi­nesses will con­tin­ue to sup­port the state Edu­ca­tion­al Im­prove­ment Tax Cred­it and em­brace the new Op­por­tun­ity Schol­ar­ship Tax Cred­it.

An out­pour­ing of sup­port has al­lowed the sec­ond­ary school sys­tem to cut its de­fi­cit in half. Han­way wouldn’t spe­cify what the cur­rent de­fi­cit is, but he called it “not sig­ni­fic­ant.”

St. Hubert was se­lec­ted to host the news con­fer­ence, Han­way said, be­cause of the large num­ber of small donors  who stepped for­ward when the school was on the chop­ping block.

The school has a new pres­id­ent, Frank Far­rell, whose job is as tough as his 16 col­leagues — bring­ing in stu­dents at a tu­ition of $5,850, not in­clud­ing fees.

Loc­al schools seem to be do­ing well as the 2012-13 aca­dem­ic year ap­proaches.

St. Hubert, an all-girls school, has 167 fresh­men en­rolled. Far­rell cred­ited the stu­dents and all oth­er sup­port­ers with help­ing to save the school with ral­lies on the front steps and dona­tions of all sizes. He thinks the found­a­tion’s net­work of po­ten­tial donors could in­crease tu­ition as­sist­ance.

“I’m ec­stat­ic. It’s a great op­por­tun­ity,” he said.

Arch­bish­op Ry­an, a co-ed school, has 360 fresh­men signed up, which is high­er than its pro­jec­tion.

Mike McArdle, the school pres­id­ent, deals with a budget that in­cludes main­ten­ance of 40 acres. He hopes that the found­a­tion will sup­ple­ment Ry­an’s cur­rent re­cruit­ment ef­forts.

“We would have more kids if we had more tu­ition as­sist­ance,” he said.

Fath­er Judge, an all-boys school, will wel­come 250 fresh­men.

The Rev. Joe Campel­lone, the school pres­id­ent, cred­its his power­ful board with set­ting high goals and meet­ing them. Judge has se­cured more EITC dona­tions than any oth­er school and has been able to build ath­let­ic fields and an activ­it­ies cen­ter, yet has no de­fi­cit.

Campel­lone be­lieves the found­a­tion can help make things even bet­ter at his school.

“It’s a wel­come ad­di­tion. I’m look­ing for­ward to it,” he said. ••

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