Philly Catholic high schools to be managed by a private foundation

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President Camacho

By Kristen A. Graham and David O'Reilly
Inquirer Staff Writers

The oldest and largest Roman Catholic education system in the nation is about to undergo massive organizational changes, as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hands over management of its secondary and special-education schools to a private foundation.

The recently incorporated Faith in the Future Foundation, headed by former Cigna chief executive H. Edward Hanway, aims to not only maintain but also grow an archdiocesan school system hit hard by declining enrollments, deficits, and closings.

Beginning Sept. 1, the foundation will manage 17 high schools and four special-education schools, under the five-year agreement signed Tuesday by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

The blockbuster move, affecting about 16,000 students, will create the first independently run Catholic school system in the country, the National Catholic Education Association confirmed.

"While this decision reflects a paradigm shift, it serves to change the organizational structure for Catholic education, not its mission," Chaput said at a news conference at St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls in Northeast Philadelphia.

Grade schools will still be managed by the parishes, with curriculum support from the archdiocese's Office of Catholic Education. That office, though, will now report to the foundation.

Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees education for the archdiocese, said in an interview that school costs have long been rising and enrollment shrinking.

"We've done a good job for years on the educational side," he said. "We still do. It doesn't mean that we can't do that in more creative ways, through some other entrepreneurial partnerships."