Firms to assist Catholic schools Corporations commit to $1 million in tuition for needy children

December 09, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

In the first such partnership program in its history, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has commitments from corporate donors to provide more than $1 million to shore up 12 city Catholic schools by providing tuition to youngsters who could not otherwise afford it.

The program -- similar to efforts in Philadelphia, Boston and New York -- already counts among its contributors seven private sector donors, six of them corporations that an archdiocesan spokesman would describe only as "household names."

When the formal announcement of the long-sought program is made next year, the financial commitments are expected to be close to $2 million, said a source close to the negotiations.

The money will be used for tuition assistance and may attract new students to fill empty seats at the 12 schools. As of Friday, only one school -- Father Charles A. Hall Elementary School in West Baltimore -- was being identified by the archdiocese.

"This is the single most important new initiative for inner-city Catholic school students since I arrived here," said Cardinal William H. Keeler, who has been in Baltimore since 1989, in a statement released by his office in advance of what was to have been a formal announcement last Friday.

The announcement was postponed to include additional corporate partners whose commitments are not final, said Bill Blaul, spokesman for the archdiocese. "We're picking them up at a good pace," he added.

Corporate partnerships have been talked about for several years and worked on for at least nine months, Blaul said. It is the archdiocesan schools' first attempt at broad corporate support -- something the public schools have tapped into for at least 20 years.

The Archdiocese undertook the program to deal with the problems posed by changing demographics and economic situations in many city neighborhoods, where the Catholic schools have lost students even while turning away families that could not afford their tuition.

While enrollment in the 101 archdiocesan schools grew about 2 percent this year, enrollment in the city fell about half of 1 percent. Slightly more than 6,500 students attend Catholic elementary and middle schools in Baltimore this year, down from nearly 6,700 last year.

The schools that will receive the aid have common characteristics, Blaul said. They have a significant number of minority and non-Catholic students, many from single-parent homes, and a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, under federal poverty guidelines.

"The funding is going where the need is. These are good schools in challenging neighborhoods," said Blaul.

"We have a waiting list of interested families who, because of their financial situations, could not choose to send their children here," said Kathleen Filippelli, principal of Father Charles A. Hall Elementary School.

The school has 172 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, and could accommodate 185 students, she added. As of Friday, she did not know how much money she would receive under the program.

"Many more area families will be able to choose a Catholic education because of this partnership between the businesses and the archdiocesan leaders," said Filippelli. "The other principals and I are extremely grateful for this blessing a generous gift to the families of the children."

In his statement, Keeler said this initiative "represents a new direction in community support for our schools which are beacons of hope, faith and courage in some of the toughest neighborhoods."

The Archdiocese of New York will raise $7 million from corporations, foundations and individuals for its inner-city scholarship fund, which benefits 115 schools in three boroughs, said Paul Krebbs, that archdiocese's director of educational development.

And in Philadelphia, the archdiocese there will provide about $3 million in assistance to students and schools through its corporate program, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools (BLOCS). Most of this assistance goes to students in Catholic high schools in the city, said Jill Prendergast in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia development office.

Public schools also seek corporate support.

In Baltimore City, the schools have more than 500 business partners, who provide an array of in-kind services and equipment, rather than cash contributions, said Judy Wereley, partnership coordinators for the Baltimore City Public Schools.

"Our partnerships are definitely not focused on raising money," but rather on providing human resources aimed at achieving specific goals, she said.

Pub Date: 12/09/96

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