Critical Partnerships: An Opportunity to Support Philadelphia Area Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

A group of supporters of Philadelphia-area Catholic schools have welcomed the "National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools" and have found it to be invaluable in an initiative to support Philadelphia archdiocesan schools. This is a time of great transition for Philadelphia Catholic schools- a time of closures, mergers and restructuring.

In November 2011, in anticipation of the planned restructuring, a group of approximately 50 stakeholders, comprised of representatives of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education, administrators from 11 area Catholic colleges and universities, representatives of several Philadelphia area foundations and leaders of various Catholic school models from both Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, met to determine how they might most effectively support Philadelphia archdiocesan schools during this time of transition and into the future. The meeting, titled A Roundtable Discussion on the Sustainability of High Quality Catholic Schools, was convened by the Center for Catholic Urban Education (CCUE) of Saint Joseph's University and co-hosted by Business Leadership for Catholic Schools (BLOCS), the Connelly Foundation and The Maguire Foundation.

Prior to gathering, the invitees were provided with a copy of the third draft of the NSBECS and were asked to review the document and submit their comments, queries and suggestions to the CCUE. The CCUE received feedback on the draft from several invitees. The Standards and Benchmarks were discussed at the roundtable meeting and the feedback was compiled and forwarded to Lorraine Ozar at Loyola University Chicago for her and the drafting task force's consideration.

A second roundtable discussion on the Sustainability of High Quality Catholic Schools was convened in January 2012 in response to the announced restructuring plans for the archdiocesan schools. The purpose of this second meeting was to determine how best to support the schools that would be transitioning (i.e., closing or merging) as well as the schools that would remain unchanged. The participants of this second roundtable determined that it would be essential to focus their efforts on ensuring that the remaining Catholic schools were, in the words of the National Standards and Benchmarks document, "the most mission-driven, programeffective, well-managed and responsibly governed Catholic schools. …