Students from St. Martin de Porres School in North Philadelphia sang loud with enthusiasm today as their principal signed an agreement with the archdiocese and business leaders to become an independent Catholic school.
From now on, finances and fundraising will be handled by the friends of St. Martin de Porres, an 18 member board.
"When I bring people to this school, if I am fundraising, the stereotype goes right out of the window of what they consider an inner city child to be. As soon as they see it, they support us," Board Chairman Jack Donnelly said.
"We now are up from 380 to 400. I think when the parents hear about the programs and the commitment of the board and see tangibly what we are accomplishing, they're with a winner," Sister Nancy Fitzgerald, Principal of St. Martin De Porres, said.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will still provide curriculum and other cost saving measures, but the independent board will run the school. It is a new idea for parish schools here and may serve as a model for other struggling Catholic schools especially in the inner city.
"To generate that kind of enthusiasm and interest in other parishes would be a wonderful development for the church," Bishop Timothy Senior of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said.
Only 10 percent of the students are Catholic and most get assistance to help with the $2,400 tuition. But everyone seems to agree the facility is a beacon in a rough North Philadelphia neighborhood.
"They really work hard to make us feel welcomed and this is our home so that's why I really respect and love this school very much," student Danielle Clark said.
The St. Martin de Porres family is proud that it hasn't had to raise tuition in 3 years. It has, however, raised standardized test scores.