PSP Invests $350K to Support Planning for Growth and Turnaround of 3 Philadelphia Schools

Great Schools Fund has granted more than $34 million to Philadelphia schools since 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP) today announced it has awarded an additional $343,600 in incubation grants to three Philadelphia schools to support expansion and turnaround plans so they can provide a high-quality education to more students. The Great Schools Fund will award $275,000 to support turnaround plans at St. Thomas Aquinas School and St. Helena-Incarnation School, and $68,600 to Independence Charter School to support planning of a new K-8 school or high school. To date, the Great Schools Fund has invested $34.7 million to create 15,620 seats in great schools of all types, including nearly $3 million in growth grants earlier this month.

“To improve education across the city, there needs to be continuing innovation in all three sectors – district, charter and private,” said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership. “These grants address the unique needs and opportunities of two school models in both the public and private sector and the demand from families for more high-quality schools.”

St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Helena-Incarnation, PreK-8 schools in South Philadelphia and Olney, respectively, serve predominantly low-income and minority students. Both schools are part of the Independence Mission Schools (IMS) network, which assumed management of 13 Philadelphia Catholic schools last year. The schools have historically struggled to achieve high academic results and maintain and grow enrollment. The school leaders, both newly appointed by IMS, will work with IMS leadership to develop strategic plans to improve academic achievement and long-term financial sustainability. Last year, PSP made an investment in DePaul Catholic School, another IMS network school, to implement a blended-learning model that has resulted in dramatic academic gains as well as an increase in enrollment of over 100 students in just one year.

“IMS is identifying opportunities to provide a high-quality education to more students while instituting strong business practices in order to achieve financial stability,” said Jessica Pena, Director of the Great Schools Fund. “As we have seen in most turnaround schools, we expect the transformation initiative to result in increased enrollment of up to 30 percent.”

Independence Charter School (ICS) is a K-8 school that serves approximately 800 students and is one of the highest-quality public schools in the city. ICS scored 79.4 on the PA School Performance Profile, and the school has a waitlist of over 900 students. The ICS leadership team will use the grant to develop a plan to expand or replicate the highly successful school and meet the demand from families across the city.

“Demand for Independence Charter School is extremely high; they receive hundreds of applications every year for less than 50 kindergarten slots,” said Pena. “ICS is responding to this demand by planning for expansion, and our funding will help the leaders to develop a plan to either replicate or grow into the high school grades.”

St. Thomas Aquinas School

Approximately $137,000 will support the development of a strategic turnaround plan for St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas School currently serves 240 students but has the capacity to serve as many as 450 students. The student body is largely low-income and racially diverse: 63 percent of students are non-Catholic, 48 percent are African American, 34 percent are Asian and 17 percent are Hispanic. The school performs below the average reading and writing levels compared to other Catholic schools. Approximately 57 percent of students are doing math on grade level and 49 percent are reading on grade level. The school’s new principal, Vince Mazzio, joined the school in the fall of 2013 and is preparing to lead a dramatic turnaround in academic performance.

St. Helena-Incarnation School

Approximately $137,000 will support the development of a strategic turnaround plan for St. Helena-Incarnation
St. Helena-Incarnation was formed as a result of the merging of Incarnation of Our Lord Parish and Saint Helena Parish before it joined Independence Mission Schools. The school currently has 480 students enrolled but has the capacity to grow to 600. St Helena’s serves a very diverse student body: 57 percent of students are non-Catholic and 78 percent are minority. The school is underperforming city averages; Just 42 percent of students are doing math on grade level and 52 percent are reading on grade level. The school’s principal, Genevieve Torres, was hired in October 2013 and has spent the year laying the ground work for bold transformation.

Independence Charter School

$68,600 over 10 months will support strategic planning for growth of the existing school or the possible development of a new K-8 school ICS is a K-8 school that serves 814 students and is one of the highest-quality public schools in the city, as demonstrated by their academic results and parent demand. It serves a diverse student body: 72 percent are minority and 56 percent are economically disadvantaged. ICS offers unique “enhancement” or “immersion” programs, which involve a Spanish-language curriculum so that students have the ability to graduate from the programs bilingual and bi-literate. The school’s mission is to provide an intellectually stimulating curriculum with a global focus designed to develop independent and thoughtful leaders.

About the Great Schools Fund

PSP’s Great Schools Fund provides grants for the turnaround of low-performing schools, expansion of high performing schools, and the creation of new high-quality schools in Philadelphia. Grants are provided to district, charter, and private K-12 schools that have the capacity to deliver outstanding educational outcomes for children in the city. The goal of the Great Schools Fund is to create 35,000 seats in high-performing schools in Philadelphia by 2016-17. PSP’s investment team conducts a rigorous screening process for grant applicants to evaluate their capacity for delivering strong educational outcomes; its recommendations are vetted by an investment committee before being presented to the PSP Board of Directors for approval.

About the Philadelphia School Partnership

The Philadelphia School Partnership is a nonprofit organization that funds the creation and expansion of high-quality K-12 schools in the City of Philadelphia to give more children access to a great education. PSP also facilitates the sharing of best practices among school leaders that improve the quality of education for students. PSP is raising $100 million in philanthropic funds to provide grants for the transformation, growth and startup of high-performing public and private schools in Philadelphia. It measures success by the number of students in Philadelphia who move out of failing schools to better-quality school options based on student academic outcomes.

About the Independence Mission Schools

The Independence Mission Schools (IMS) is a nonprofit organization formed by a group of business leaders and philanthropists who initially worked together as founding board members of the St. Martin de Porres School in North Philadelphia. IMS assumed responsibility for the administration and oversight of 13 additional parochial elementary schools from the Archdiocese on July 1, 2013. The focus of IMS has been on helping schools to operate more efficiently as well as increase student enrollment. IMS has spent the past year building capacity to address the structural and financial deficits and has generated impressive results with 7.5% enrollment growth in their first year and expected 10% growth in the 2014-15 school year as well as improved school and network financial results. To date, PSP has invested nearly $1.3 million in IMS schools.

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