Catholic Schools Week Arrives Amidst More Changes for Philadelphia Archdiocese

Friday, January 25, 2013

As parishes across the region prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, more changes are affecting Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. New initiatives have recently been announced aimed at reviving Catholic education and ensuring its sustainability.

“Since the restructuring was announced last spring, the landscape of Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has shifted considerably,” explains Anne Marie Borneman, Ed.D., senior fellow at Saint Joseph’s University’s Center for Catholic Urban Education in Philadelphia.

While most Archdiocesan elementary schools remain parish schools, supported in part by parish funds, 16 schools have begun the process of gaining independence from their parishes and joined together under a new structure as Independence Mission Schools (IMS). Borneman thinks this move is significant for a couple of reasons.

“Taken together, these schools educate more than 4,000 students, mostly from low-income and traditionally underserved areas.  In addition, the majority of these students are not Catholic, reflecting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ renewed commitment to Catholic schools as viable options for all families,” she says.

While new ventures are generating hope, there are still considerable challenges. Borneman points to the loss of teachers during the restructuring and the gap in salaries as a critical areas.

“Some teachers did choose to move to public and charter schools, but the vast majority of talented, highly qualified teachers were able to, and chose to, remain in their positions or transfer to surviving schools for the current school year,” she explains. “For many Catholic school teachers, Catholic education is a mission, even a vocation. It is a moral imperative that we align their salaries with those of their public and charter school counterparts.  I believe that everyone associated with Catholic schools in Philadelphia is committed to seeing this happen.”

Borneman can be reached for comment by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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