Catholic School Consortium Prepares for a Successful Future

March 12, 2008

Four Catholic schools in the District of Columbia are preparing for the future as the Consortium of Catholic Academies (CCA), with former Mayor Anthony Williams and other business leaders joining the current board. The parish schools, Sacred Heart (NW), St. Anthony (NE), St. Francis Xavier (SE), and St. Thomas More (SE), along with St. Augustine School in NW, had been part of a larger Center City Consortium for several years.

An in-depth study of the very serious enrollment and financial challenges facing the Center City Consortium concluded in fall 2007 that the Archdiocese of Washington had overextended itself in trying to sustain 12 struggling schools. The original Consortium began with eight schools, eventually expanding to 14 between 2002 and 2005 in an effort to keep schools from closing. Two schools consolidated following the 2006-07 academic year.

Deficits topped $60 million over 10 years and enrollment in the Consortium declined 19 percent. After consultation with more than 1,300 people in 12 parish and school communities, approval was granted to continue with a smaller Consortium, which will be named the Consortium of Catholic Academies next fall; to return St. Augustine School to parish oversight; and to seek the conversion of seven schools to values-based charters operated by a separate and independent organization.

The Consortium of Catholic Academies will build upon the successful structures already in place including some shared administration, intensive professional development, standards-based instruction, inter-school collaboration and outside funding support. In addition, the schools will benefit from enhanced technology integration; full-time, on-site resource specialists; and excellent fine arts programs. There will be a strong emphasis on parent involvement, with a Home School Association for each school, and closer ties with the community and alumni, as well as increased involvement by the local parish communities, particularly in the areas of Catholic identity and values.

“The principals, pastors, staffs of the Catholic Schools Office and Center City Consortium, and others have been working collaboratively since November to put in place a plan for the future that not only sustains the success of these schools, but builds upon it,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, Ph.D., superintendent of Catholic schools.

A board with a proven commitment to serving schools in the city will continue to provide support and oversight. Chaired by Vincent C. Burke, III, an executive with the Bank of Georgetown, members include Bruce Baschuk, Randall Hagner Ltd./J Street Development; James Boland, Jr., Sundquist Anthony LLC; Thomas Burnford, Archdiocese of Washington; Thomas Cullen, Esq., Jones Day; Michael Harreld, PNC Bank; Thomas O’Hara, Mount St. Mary’s University; Jack Quinn, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, LLC; Meghan McMurtrie Quinn; Sandra Rojas, Sacred Heart School; Anthony Williams, Primum Public Realty Trust; John Williams, Salomon, Smith, Barney; Rev. C. Gregory Butta, St. Francis Xavier Parish; Rev. Stephen Carter, O.F.M. Cap, Sacred Heart Parish; Rev. Frederick J. Close, Jr., St. Anthony Parish; and Rev. Raymond Moore, St. Thomas More Parish.

The CCA staff will include an executive director, still to be selected, a director of development, and finance and technology positions. The staff will work closely with the senior staff in the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools Office.

The four CCA parish schools serve 831 students this year; 62 percent are non-Catholic and 30 percent receive DC Opportunity Scholarships. A total of 21 Catholic schools will serve students in the District of Columbia next year, including 12 parish-based elementary schools. More than 100 Catholic schools educate 31,000 students throughout the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes Washington, DC and five Maryland counties.

Susan Gibbs or Kathy Dempsey
Office of Communications
[email protected]