Former Phila. Archiocese schools gain new life as independents

PHILADELPHIA - September 4, 2013

It was the first day of a new way of doing business at some beloved institutions that were once slated to be closed.

To survive, they took matters into their own hands.

Sister Nancy Fitzgerald, principal of St. Martin de Porres Catholic School in North Philadelphia, said there is only one way to describe those last few years under the Archdiocese.

"Very stressful. They were shutting down right and left. We didn't know about being able to make payroll sometimes, or bare bones in terms of the curriculum," she said.

Now, St. Martin and several other schools are part of a recently developed organization called Independence Mission Schools, or IMS.

It's a group dedicated to breathing new life into Catholic schools that were once on the chopping block.

Sister Nancy says that while these schools are still faith-based, the primary goal is to produce well-educated, well-rounded young men and women.

"We're not trying to make anyone Catholic. But it kind of speaks to those character issues and those life issues and faith issues that our students need," she said.

Under IMS leadership, St. Martin's enrollment is now at capacity for the first time in years. Overall enrollment to Independence Mission Schools is up 7 percent.

Keisha Mack, who is putting all 6 of her kids through St. Martin de Porres, told Action News she is very happy that her kids' school is staying open.

"It's hard. They have a longer day now. But it's important for the kids that they know what responsibility is and accountability is. And they get that here," she said.

And while most of the families enrolled in Independence Mission Schools receive some form of financial aid, covering the tuition can still be a challenge. But the parents we spoke to say it's worth it.

"I continue working two jobs. I do whatever I have to do so my children can go to this school. It's very much worth it," said parent Demae Brown.

RELATED: Independence Mission Schools website

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