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Seven inner-city independent Catholic schools in New York to revert to archdiocese

The Partnership for Inner-City Education nonprofit had administered the schools, some of which are majority-Black, for more than a decade.

Students from St. Athanasius Catholic School in the Bronx. (Leila Sutton/Partnership Schools)

Seven majority-minority independent Catholic schools in New York City will be back under the authority of the Archdiocese of New York starting this summer. This follows more than a decade of administration by the Partnership For Inner-City Education network, which operates in New York and Cleveland.

The news was announced by the archdiocese on June 20, with a message from Cardinal Timothy Dolan thanking the nonprofit organization for their service.

“We have a debt that we can never repay to Russ Carson and the Partnership Schools, as well as their loyal benefactors, for guiding these schools during the past ten years, enabling thousands of students to receive a first-class, faith based, excellent education,” said Dolan. 

“The Archdiocese of New York is proud of what they have accomplished, and now stands ready to carry on that work. We’ve learned much from the ten-year Partnership experiment.”

Of the seven schools that will revert to archdiocesan control on July 1, three are in the Bronx: Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart, and St. Athanasius. Four others, Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary, Our Lady Queen of Angels, St. Charles Borromeo, and St. Mark the Evangelist, are located in the Greater Harlem section of Manhattan. Several of the schools in the latter neighborhood are predominantly African American, while the others serve mostly Black and Hispanic student populations.

Partnership, founded by Carson—a private equity investor and philanthropist—in 2010, has been praised in recent years for its work to transform struggling inner-city Catholic schools by using a lay-led model that emphasizes access for disadvantaged communities. The work began in New York, where several Catholic schools in the Bronx and Manhattan were near closure due to financial struggles.

Though well over a hundred Catholic schools have closed in the archdiocese since the turn of the millennium, Carson and his team were able to save some using their unique model which has proved successful over the past decade-plus. Their agreement with the chancery began with six preK-8 schools, later adding St. Charles Borromeo in 2019.

In their latest annual report, released in March, Partnership touted enrollment of 2,521 across its schools in New York, a 28% increase from 2020. They also reported test scores above the city average in English, and increased math performance year-over-year.

The organization did run a significant budget deficit however, and has noted that its future explorations in other dioceses would depend on the local availability of school choice funding—which is not available in New York State. (Partnership has been described as having a charter-school style framework, but its schools are not state-affiliated or state-funded.)

The archdiocese did not give a reason for its decision to take back its schools from Partnership, but the announcement of the decision comes just weeks after the arrest of a former Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary School teacher for statutory rape. Daniel Haines was charged in May with serial sexual assault against a 13-year-old student dating back to 2022. The archdiocese has since noted that it did not exercise direct “operational” control over the school at the time of the alleged crimes.

Sr Mary Grace Walsh, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who serves as superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, spoke of the reacquisition of the Partnership schools with comments that appeared to be related to staff oversight and student safety.

“Our focus must always be on the boys and girls entrusted by their parents to our care,” she said in a statement. 

“Together with our amazing teachers, principals, and administrators, we are ready to incorporate the Partnership Schools back into our system and carry on the sacred task of ensuring that our schools are both academically excellent with sound teachers of the faith.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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