Part of the turnaround of the Allentown Catholic schools was the adoption of methods pioneered by the Healey Education Foundation, based in the Camden Diocese and founded with the expressed intention of assisting struggling Catholic schools.
It was founded by Robert Healey Sr., a product of the Camden diocesan schools and St. Joseph’s University. In addition to his career as a lawyer, Healey was a cofounder of the Viking Yacht Co., one of the world’s largest builders of luxury yachts.
The Healey Education Foundation, which is now headed by Christine Healey, the daughter of Robert Healey, was founded in 2004. Because of its success in the Camden Diocese it was chosen to help develop plans for sustainability by the Allentown Diocese.
“We were one of several models they explored and they decided they wanted to work with us,” explained Greg Geruson, vice president of the Healey Foundation. “We formed a trinity, so to speak – the Bishop’s Commission, the diocese and ourselves to focus on sustaining Catholic schools in Allentown. It is a focus not only on enrollment but rolling out governing boards in all of their schools and rolling out a more sophisticated approach to fundraising and communication.”
Right now the Healey Foundation is working directly with six Allentown high schools, three schools of special education and nine elementary schools.
In the elementary schools they worked with these past two years, there has been an average enrollment increase of 3.2 percent and a high school enrollment increase of 2.5 percent.
“One of the big things is focusing on engaging with the laity in a way that they have a real sense of ownership of the schools,” Geruson said. If they have that, he believes, they will truly want to give their time, expertise and financial support to help make it work.
Now the Healey Foundation, assisted with funding from the Connelly Foundation, is also working in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, at this point in six elementary schools.
The pilot project, which represents a real cross-section of schools in the archdiocese, includes Holy Family Regional School, Levittown; St. Christopher, Northeast Philadelphia; Our Lady of Port Richmond Regional School in Port Richmond, Philadelphia; St. Katherine of Siena in Northeast Philadelphia; St. Peter the Apostle in Lower Northeast Philadelphia and St. Peter and Paul, West Chester.
“Probably the most distinguishing factor in these schools are the boards that are being put in place that have real responsibility in terms of marketing, fundraising and finances, which is really innovative for the archdiocese,” Geruson said.