Partnership for Inner-City Education to Manage Six Schools in Harlem, Bronx
By CHRISTIE L. CHICOINE
Maria R. Bastone
Aug 01, 2013 Honors Violin Ensemble, grades 4 to 8, of Mt Carmel-Holy Rosary School rehearse before leaving for performance at the Waldorf Astoria to benefit the St Francis Food Pantries and Shelters. W/ violin teacher Jeffrey Wang, pianist Phil Tambakis, principal Suzanne Kaszynski; building manager Miguel Ramos paints and oversees new multi layered roofing. Front row: Andres Almonte, Ibraheim Hugie, Victoria Chyrack [also sings], Bianca Hill, Eddie Avila, Abigail Valera [also sings], Johnet Walden. Back row: Austin Morales, Tianna Hall, Melanie Torres, Sharee Powell, Aaron Read, Desiree Perez. Tariq Schinnery only sings. NOTE: All photos require the written permission of copyright holder Maria R. Bastone for usage. WEB USAGE [IF GRANTED] MAY REQUIRE MODEL RELEASE. NO MODEL RELEASES; NO SALES; NO TRANSFER OF RIGHTS TO THIRD PARTY NOR REPRODUCTION IN ADDITIONAL NON ORIGINAL FORMS. Client will indemnify photographer from any use of image. Embedded copyright info must remain and may not be deleted.

The archdiocese and the Partnership for Inner-City Education have signed an historic agreement that grants the Partnership authority to offer educational, administrative and operational services to six inner-city Catholic elementary schools in Harlem and the Bronx.

Slated to launch in September, the arrangement marks the first time an independent organization has been given the opportunity to manage a set of schools in the archdiocese.

The Partnership will assume financial responsibility for all capital costs and operating expenses of the schools, manage all school finances, budgets and operations, and honor the terms of the current union contract of the Federation of Catholic Teachers.

The archdiocese will retain governance oversight of the schools and continue to own the buildings in which they are located, as well as supervise and implement all religious curricula and programs.

“We need to try new administrative models to address the challenges faced by Catholic education today and to ensure that our schools thrive and stay strong for future generations,” Cardinal Dolan said in a July 24 statement from the archdiocese announcing the arrangement. “We can’t afford ‘business as usual.’”

The six schools have had a long working relationship with the Partnership. Serving more than 2,000 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, they are:

Harlem

• Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary, 371 Pleasant Ave.

• Our Lady Queen of Angels, 229 E. 112th St.

• St. Mark the Evangelist, 55 W. 138th St.

Bronx

• St. Athanasius, 830 Southern Blvd.

• Immaculate Conception, 378 E. 151st St.

• Sacred Heart, 1248 Nelson Ave.

“We at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School look forward to extending the relationship we already have with the Partnership for Inner-City Education as we enter this new, exciting phase,” said Suzanne Kaszynski, who is principal of the East Harlem school.

“The board and staff of the Partnership…are deeply committed to the development of the six network schools,” she added. “We are happy to be one of them and we look forward to working in a true partnership to provide the very best Catholic education to our inner-city students.”

The network will complement the archdiocese’s strategic plan, Pathways to Excellence, and the current regionalization process, which introduces regional boards as part of a new elementary school governance model, said Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese.

“We share a common vision: support the long-term success of Catholic elementary schools and their essential role in our inner-city communities,” he added.

Working together with school leadership, the Partnership will strive to improve academic achievement levels. As part of the effort, the students’ academic day will be extended by 90 minutes, Monday through Thursday. (Four of the six schools already had extended hours in place.) The result will be 45 additional minutes of ELA (English Language Arts) and mathematics. Additional professional development opportunities for faculty will also be offered.

The Partnership will ensure the schools offer a broad program that includes art, music, sports, technology, community service and after-school programming.

“We’re going to bring them the resources to give them programs that will allow them to develop into great citizens and have that academic preparation, and values and skills they need to lead fulfilling lives in their college and in their career,” said Jill Kafka, executive director of the Partnership.

Students can expect additional after-school programs. Offerings could include critical thinking games such as chess, as well as specialized arts and sports programs “that can give the students an advantage, a new skill, something that they would love to explore that they wouldn’t be able to do during the school day,” Ms. Kafka said.

A five-year plan calls for $9 million in capital projects, collectively, at the six schools.

“The Partnership’s model is creative and bold, and I am truly excited about it,” continued Cardinal Dolan in his statement. “We need to follow the exhortation of Jesus to ‘cast out to the deep,’ as we lead Catholic education with a sense of vigor and dare.”

A chief academic officer and chief operating officer have been hired by the Partnership to work with the schools to ensure a smooth transition and ongoing management.

The Partnership, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit, was formed in 2010 following the merger of the Endowment for Inner-City Education and the Patrons Program. It has more than 20 years combined experience working with Catholic inner-city schools in New York City and has invested more than $200 million in scholarships, academic and enrichment programming, an adopt-a-school program and capital projects.

Russell L. Carson, chairman of the Partnership’s board of trustees, said the organization has always celebrated the Catholic schools’ ability to educate the whole child and its long-standing legacy educating the city’s neediest children. “We want to ensure that excellent Catholic schools remain a viable option for low-income families,” he added.

Adherence to and an amplification of Catholic identity is integral to the program, according to Ms. Kafka. “It’s a real key to our success,” she said.

Collaboration with pastors, parishes and the archdiocese are other common denominators.

There is also a community aspect to the arrangement. “We believe strongly that Catholic schools are, in some cases, the bedrock of their community,” Ms. Kafka said. “We want Catholic schools to be there for the long term and continue to be known for excellence and for providing a well-rounded experience, grounded in the Catholic faith.

“Our donors feel very strongly that the student result is at the heart of what we’re doing,” Ms. Kafka added. “Great results for kids means that we’ve done our job in making a good investment.

“We’re excited and very honored to have this responsibility given to us,” Ms. Kafka said. “It shows confidence in our organization and a mutual respect between us and the archdiocese because of the success we’ve had in supporting a lot of these schools for many, many years. It feels like a win-win for both of us.”

When students return to school next month, they should notice some physical changes to their campuses. “At every school, we have a little spruce-up job going on,” such as renovating, painting and landscaping, as well as capital projects that range from replacing a roof or boiler to installing a new security system, Ms. Kafka said.

Attention has also been given to the marketing and branding of the schools, including a redesign of their respective websites.

Ms. Kaszynski, principal of Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School, acknowledged the advantage of the plan that calls for capital improvements at each of the schools.

“If you have to worry less about the physical plant, as a principal, you can put your energy into what you should be doing—being the spiritual and instructional leader of the school.”

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