Archdiocese of Washington Selects Charter Operator for New Charter School Group

Seven Catholic schools to pursue conversion to charter

December 06, 2007

The Archdiocese of Washington has selected Center City Public Charter Schools, Inc. (CCPCS), a District-based non-profit, to manage the conversion of seven Catholic elementary schools in the District of Columbia to a group of academically excellent and values-based public charter schools. CCPCS is an independently organized and operated corporation that has no affiliation with the archdiocese. The schools serve 1,100 students in grades Pre-K to 8. A conversion means students, administration and faculty could continue at the same site, though as charter schools, not Catholic schools.

Four potential charter operators were evaluated by the archdiocese. Each was assessed on several criteria: educational philosophy, standards and goals; vision for the schools and leadership; financial viability and funding commitments; knowledge of and support in the local community; ability to successfully transition the schools, including the staff and administration; and ability to successfully seek approval from the DC Public Charter School Board.

“We were very impressed by the quality of the charter operators with whom we met,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Ph.D., superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington. “The groups were clearly committed to ensuring the children in our city have access to a quality education. The vision and enthusiasm we saw during this process give us great hope for the future of education in our nation’s capital.”

The board of CCPCS has deep roots in the District of Columbia and experience both with public charter schools and with the city’s Catholic schools. Board members include Jack Griffin, a real estate developer, community volunteer and former chairman of the Center City Consortium Board of Directors; S. Joseph Bruno, president of Building Hope, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and real estate and back-office expertise to DC public charter schools; and Ralph F. Boyd, executive vice president for community relations at Freddie Mac and chairman/CEO of the Freddie Mac Foundation. The board has named Mary Anne Stanton, who retired as executive director of the Center City Consortium in June 2006, as executive director of the new charter group.

The group’s familiarity with and commitment to the academic programming will be significant in maintaining continuity for the families and the staff who choose to continue with the charter group. The leadership of CCPCS is expected to meet with administrators, faculty and parents at the seven schools within the next few weeks to plan the transition, and to begin the application process with the DC Public Charter School Board, which must approve the conversion.

Background

Twenty-eight Catholic schools in the District enroll more than 7,700 students. Next year there will be 21 Catholic schools in the city, including 12 archdiocesan/parish schools, and approximately 6,500 students.

For the past ten years, the Archdiocese of Washington has made a significant financial investment to sustain Catholic schools in the District of Columbia. In 1997, the archdiocese established the Center City Consortium, bringing shared administration and new resources to eight struggling Catholic schools. Six additional schools that parishes could not support and were on the brink of closure were added between 2002 and 2005. As costs rose last year, two of the schools were consolidated.

Since 1997, more than $60 million have been invested in the schools by the archdiocese, Consortium board and other donors. Students have demonstrated significant academic progress and buildings have undergone extensive improvements, yet enrollment has declined by 19 percent, due in part to a loss in the city’s population and the growth of the tuition-free public charter schools, and deficits have continued to rise. Last year, the archdiocese spent more to support Consortium schools than it had budgeted to assist more than 70 elementary schools archdiocesan-wide. Deficits for the Consortium are projected to exceed $7 million this year. The 12 schools serve 2,200 children, 71 percent of whom are non-Catholic.

In the face of these serious problems, a team of 40 people, including parents, principals, pastors and experts in education, theology, finance and business, undertook a study of the Center City Consortium schools, starting in spring 2007. A proposed framework to continue with a four-school Catholic consortium and to convert eight schools to a quality charter group was announced on September 6, 2007. Parishes also could explore their ability to financially support a school with their own resources; one parish, St. Augustine, submitted a proposal to do so and it was accepted.

Consultations were held with six archdiocesan boards, including the Board of Education, Finance Council, Pastoral Council and Priest Council. All of the boards indicated consensus with the proposal to continue with a smaller Catholic consortium and convert several schools to a public charter group. Throughout September, consultations were held with more than 1,300 staff, parents and parishioners at all 12 schools.

In early November, the Archdiocese of Washington announced that five of the 12 schools will continue as Catholic next year and seven will become part of the public charter group. The schools in this new charter group are Assumption School, SE; Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian School, SE; Holy Name School, NE; Immaculate Conception School, NW; Nativity Catholic Academy, NW; St. Francis de Sales School, NE; and St. Gabriel School, NW.

The five that are continuing as Catholic are Sacred Heart School, NW; St. Anthony School, NE; St. Francis Xavier School, SE; St. Thomas More School, SE; and St. Augustine School, NW.

All of the 12 schools will continue as Catholic schools this year.

Additional information on the new framework for education, including the charter conversion is online.

Contact:
Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
301-853-4517
[email protected]