In just a little more than two months, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s parochial schools will close down for the summer. When they reopen in September, 14 of them will be under new management.
They are the Independence Mission Schools (IMS), and although they will retain their old names, they will no longer be under the control of their respective parish or parishes but by the Independence Mission Schools organization that will assume responsibility for all aspects of operation.
(See the current list of schools below.)
One thing that does not change dramatically is the fundamental mission – that is to provide a quality Catholic education to the students, in this case in neighborhoods where because of shifting demographics the majority of the children are not Catholic and most families cannot afford typical parochial school tuition.
The schools will also have a tuition charge, but because of the group’s aggressive fundraising and utilization of available state programs the burden on parents should be vastly eased.
Just recently it was announced that IMS had received a $500,000 grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership, as well as a $100,000 grant from the Maguire Foundation.
The grant money is basically related to administration needs of the organization for the next six months, explained Aldo Cavalli, president of the Independence Mission Schools.
They will still fundraise, especially through Pennsylvania’s Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC) and Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC). Both allow companies to take credits against their Pennsylvania taxes for donations given to the schools.
“We want to encourage Pennsylvania businessmen to be involved,” Cavalli said.
IMS is leasing the 15 schools in Philadelphia and one in Delaware County for $1 a year for 10 years initially. They will assume all expenses, for example maintenance, insurance and utilities.
The faculty and staff will no longer be employees of the parish or Archdiocese, they will be employees of IMS; the principals will report to Cavalli.
“We will look to develop local boards that will have some oversight, but the operation of the schools will fall to the Independence Mission Schools administration,” Cavalli said.
Everything is coming together for a fall opening and on the whole, the schools are expecting a slight enrollment increase.
“At this point we are very pleased with how we are progressing,” he said. “The families have been very good on jumping aboard with us. This has been a lot of good, caring people working very hard for a long time.”
Given the fact that a majority of the children served will not be Catholic and a good bit of the money raised will be through state programs and secular foundations, it is not an unfair question to ask, just how Catholic will the schools be?
“That’s an important issue,” Cavalli said. “We will have affiliation agreements with the Archdiocese that all of the schools will be run as Catholic schools, and we will use the Office of Catholic Education curriculum for Catholic education and other services. Again, this is a collegial partnership, it is friendly and we are all in this together.
“It is absolutely important that the pastors remain actively involved in the schools and remain spiritual leaders of the schools. We are absolutely going to remain Catholic elementary schools in every sense of the word,” he said.
Cavalli himself is a product of Catholic education as are his children and so is Anne McGoldrick, the chief financial officer. “The only reason we are doing this is to save the Catholic schools. We truly believe it is worth the effort,” he said.
Cavalli’s own most recent experience is with charter schools, but he emphasized Independence Mission Schools are not at all similar to charters.
“The biggest difference, we are offering a Catholic education, a quality education. We are offering something the charter schools can’t offer: the spiritual side of the child’s life and bringing this into the family. It is very difficult to educate children with that part of their life – spiritual development.”
Current list of Independence Mission Schools:
St. Frances Cabrini Regional School, 405 N. 65th St., Philadelphia, 19151
St. Gabriel School, 2917 Dickinson St., Philadelphia, 19146
St. Martin de Porres School, 2300 W. Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia, 19132
DePaul Catholic School, 44 West Logan St., Philadelphia, 19144
St. Veronica School, 3521 N. 6th St., Philadelphia, 19140
St. Thomas Aquinas School, 18th and Morris Sts., Philadelphia, 19145
St. Raymond of Penafort School, 7940 William Ave., Philadelphia, 19150
St. Rose of Lima School, 1522 N. Wanamaker St., Philadelphia, 19131
St. Martin of Tours School, Roosevelt Blvd & Sanger St., Philadelphia, 19124
St. Malachy School, 1419 N. 11th Street, Philadelphia, 19122
St. Helena/Incarnation School, 6106 N. 5th St., Philadelphia, 19120
Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius of Loyola School, Philadelphia, 19104
(Grades K-3: 636 N. 43rd St.; Grades 4-8: 1008 N. 48th St.)
Holy Cross School, 144 E. Mt. Airy Ave., Philadelphia, 19119
St. Cyril of Alexandria, 718 Emerson Avenue, East Lansdowne 19050