St. Gabriel School in the Gray’s Ferry section of Philadelphia welcomed Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Brian McElwee, chairman of the Independence Mission Schools (IMS), to officially designate 14 Catholic schools as part of the IMS system on Monday, July 15.

The schools had been designated mission schools since the release of the report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Catholic Education in 2011 and had been run as parish or regional schools. (See a related story on Independence Mission Schools.)

Archbishop Chaput signed an agreement transferring control over the schools to IMS.

The umbrella organization that oversees the 14 independent Catholic schools represents a new model of sustainable urban education that combines the best attributes of private education with entrepreneurial business management practices and academic accountability.

Through the mission schools, IMS provides an alternative approach to educating Philadelphia’s underserved children, by offering student-centered academic programs defined by Catholic identity and values. (Photos by Sarah Webb)