When students returned to three urban Catholic schools in Minneapolis-St. Paul this fall, operational changes at those schools were not evident to them. St. Peter Claver, Ascension Catholic, and St. John Paul II Catholic Prep schools are part of a recently launched Catholic Academy, a new paradigm for urban Catholic schools that teams two struggling schools with another that is successfully addressing the achievement gap and delivering a whole child experience. The Catholic Academy centralizes governance and operations of the three K-8 schools, and provides greater stability, sharing of best practices among staffs, and increased ability to strengthen academic outcomes and the whole child experience. The Academy concept was evaluated and approved by the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis this summer.
“In light of generally declining enrollment in private parochial schools, the Academy will help ensure urban Catholic schools continue to be important cornerstones in the spectrum of educational options,” said Patricia Stromen, president of the Catholic Academy and parish administrator of Church of the Ascension. “The Twin Cities community is transformed by the spirit, growth and success of Catholic Academy schools. Our scholars and alumni are well-educated, passionate members of their communities, and are prepared to thrive and contribute to society in a thoughtful, well-rounded way.”
The Academy offers several benefits:
- Centralized operations lead to economies of scale and more efficient operations – from accounting and communications to advancement and admissions.
- Each school will be able to maintain its unique culture and long-held relationships with colleagues, its parish and its parishioners, families and the community.
- Staff members will be able to collaborate across schools, replicate best practices employed by Ascension Catholic School, and improve student outcomes.
- The schools will continue to add to the health and vitality of the communities in which they’re located.
The Academy concept originated with, and is initially funded by, GHR Foundation, which applies entrepreneurial creativity and universal catholic values to foster hope and opportunity where it is needed most. In 2015, GHR Foundation staff presented the concept to several urban Catholic schools and the Archdiocese, and facilitated governance and logistical discussions to ensure the most promising outcomes for the participating schools and the families they serve.
Each participating school primarily serves scholars from racially and ethnically diverse, low-income families. All three schools depend upon fundraising to support tuition assistance for scholars and general operations. Collectively, the three schools serve approximately 500 scholars.