Camden’s Catholic Partnership Schools deliver three times the results for a third of the cost of a public school education
Catholic Partnership Schools (CPS) is moving into its fifth year of running Camden’s five Catholic elementary schools independently from the Diocese of Camden.
Each year, CPS raises a minimum of $3.6 million in revenue from individuals, area business leaders and foundations and “delivers three times the results for a third of the cost of a public school education in the City of Camden,” according to its Board chair, Christine L. Healey.
With just 120 employees, CPS serves more than 1,000 students and is positioned as what its Executive Director, Sr. Karen Dietrich, PhD calls “a unique but replicable model for Catholic urban education.”
Winner of the Innovations in Education Award from Today’s Catholic Teacher and the Jefferson Award for Public Service, CPS has created a formal structure that has successfully transitioned five schools into “one, new, urban, Catholic model with buy-in from the principals and pastoral leadership.”
“The whole idea behind our organization,” adds Dietrich, “is to strengthen and sustain this critical school option for the families of Camden, where quality education is the single most important factor in breaking the cycle of poverty.”
“The Camden community is in crisis and is receiving national attention and the need for good educational options could not be greater,” Healey adds.
According to Dietrich:
• The Catholic Partnership Schools are the only five schools in the city of Camden to have secured full Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation,
• 50% of CPS students are non-Catholic,
• CPS is completely debt-free and its cost-to-educate is 1/3 the cost-to-educate in the Camden District Schools where the per student allocation is currently $24,000 annually,
• 88% of CPS families live below the poverty line defined as $24,000 for a family of four, and
• Thanks to benefactors of CPS who have generously donated scholarships; 43% of the 2013 graduating class were able to enroll in and are currently successfully completing their work at a number of local, private, college-prep high schools.
And, adds Healey, “All financial management has been centralized, internal controls are now in place, the organization has been audited and receives a clean opinion, academic growth is clear and measurable, family and student resources have been established to meet the unique needs of the urban environment, educational priorities have been set with a focus on innovative programing in literacy.
“In addition, initial fundraising has been robust and the organizations brand established.”
Dietrich and Healey both agree that CPS is a “rock solid educational leader that is closing the achievement gap with clear and measurable outcomes.”
They note that “three times a year every student in our schools knows where they stand. Every teacher knows what is needed to close the gap. All the schools are wireless and every student takes an online, adaptive test (NWEA) three times a year resulting in an individualized instructional plan. Data driven instructional design and professional development and coaching strategies matter.”
Adds Healey, “Everybody’s got skin in the game. Everybody antes up. Every parent pays something, teachers/administrators work at modest salaries because they believe in the mission, parishes contribute what they can to the children of their community, and funders back the play.”
“Tuition at CPS represents only 18% of the revenue going into the overall operating budget. The typical Catholic school receives about 70% of its income from tuition,” according to Healey.
For all of these reasons, CPS is the winner of SNJ Business People’s Impact Award for March.
Responding to the selection Dietrich said that CPS is “honored and delighted to be recognized by such a wonderful group of business professionals for the critical and meaningful services we provide. We are most grateful for the opportunity this provides us to share our story with a broader community.”
CPS measures its success in five ways, says Dietrich:
• By engaging students in a rich offering of curricular and co-curricular activities and opportunities,
• By providing a strong academic foundation that supports students to be successful in a college-prep or career readiness high school experience,
• By ensuring an environment that instills faith-based values, confidence and hope,
• By maintaining enrollment through parental choice, and
• By remaining debt free.
While the goal of long-term sustainability is yet to be achieved, says Dietrich, “we have been successfully educating the children of Camden, many of them immigrants, for almost 100 years. Generations of successful, truly good people continue to graduate from our schools with a belief in God and in themselves.“
“CPS is eager to partner with a community of professionals with the heart and financial means to invest in an endowment that will insure the long-term sustainability of its proven model.
“Since only public schools are supported by public money, it becomes imperative that those who have benefitted directly, or indirectly, from private education pay that opportunity forward by investing in our next generation of children who are eager for the academic excellence and faith-based values inherent in a Catholic education. It offers an outstanding ROI,” she adds.
Dietrich and Healey also like to point to the accomplishments of their students both inside and outside the classroom.
An example is the Von Nieda Park Task Force, a group of fourteen 6th to 8th graders from St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden. The Task Force has won city, county, state, and national awards for its work transforming Camden’s Von Nieda Park, which the Courier-Post has called "the nation's most depressing park.”
The students are responsible for many improvements such as getting the city and county to demolish abandoned properties, remove tree stumps, pick up illegal dumping within 48 hours, paint over graffiti, put in new swings, also by planting flowers and gardens.
In addition, because of the effective lobbying by the students, the county has agreed to patrol the park at night, put new lighting in the park and install “Eye in the Sky” cameras in the park as well as addressing the flooding problem when it rains.
“The students have gained a tremendous amount of confidence which has led them to work closely along with city and state officials and engaging the entire community with positive and tangible results.,” says Healey.
Pictured: Karen Dietrich