Roman Catholic high schools in the Philadelphia area will soon be managed by a church-affiliated foundation, an unusual arrangement that officials hope will reinvigorate a system decimated by high costs and low enrollment.
Archbishop Charles Chaput has scheduled a news conference Tuesday to announce that the private Faith in the Future Foundation will oversee 17 secondary and four special education schools starting Sept. 1.
Chaput said before the announcement that he ultimately hopes the relationship will lead to a sustainable model for local religious education. The lay group can "provide a level of creativity we wouldn't be able to achieve on our own, and a broader level of community participation," he said.
"I very comfortably made the decision this is direction we need to go," said Chaput.
The independent foundation was established six months ago following an outpouring of support for four Catholic high schools that were targeted for closure in June. Impromptu fundraising of about $12 million eventually led Chaput to keep the buildings open.
The original mission of the foundation, led by former Cigna Corp. chief executive Edward Hanway, was to strengthen all local Catholic high schools through fundraising and marketing.
Now, the group will do that and manage a new independent school system that serves about 15,000 students on a $128 million budget.
"We want to marry an outstanding educational system with 21st-century business management techniques to improve the overall health of the system," Hanway said.
The Faith in the Future Foundation will not be paid during its five-year contract with the archdiocese, he said.
The schools will still get religious and academic curricula from the archdiocese's Office of Catholic Education, but those administrators will now report to the foundation, said Hanway.
"We expect that, through this new structure, we will be able to bring some creative programming to the schools, increasing partnerships with colleges and universities in Philadelphia," he said. "And we intend to insure that we use independent assessments to measure our educational progress in our schools very objectively."
The archdiocese also educates about 49,000 elementary students. Chaput said they will not be affected by the new arrangement.