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Catholic schools get final OK to become charters

April 8, 2010

The City-County Council gave its official blessing to two Catholic schools converting into secular charters, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis announced Thursday.

Two of the six schools within the Archdiocese's Mother Theodore Catholic Academies will start a new school year in the fall with new names—and a new source of funding.

As charters, the two schools—St. Anthony on the west side's Warman Avenue and St. Andrew & St. Rita on East 38th Street—will be eligible to receive roughly $7,000 per student that signs up. That money will come from taxpayers through the state government.

Previously, the schools were funded by the archdiocese and private tuition. But many families in the schools’ respective neighborhoods were no longer able to pay.

At St. Anthony, which offers preschool through sixth grade, 98 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, a standard measure in education of children from impoverished families.

At St. Andrew & St. Rita, which offers preschool through eighth grade, 77 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

"Many urban Catholic schools are closing across the nation and we did not want to leave the students or communities we currently serve," Monsignor Joseph Schaedel, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, said in a prepared statement. "Through this transformation, an urgent and unmet need within urban Indianapolis will be filled."

The two schools will be operated by ADI Charters Schools Inc., a not-for-profit governed by a seven-member board that is separate and independent of the archdiocese.

All teachers and staff at the schools will be asked to reapply for their jobs. But ADI is searching for a head of each school.

Once the school leaders are in place, ADI plans to hold parent focus groups to develop names and brands for the schools, and communicate with all students’ parents.

"We expect to be under a microscope as the schools transform and look forward to staying in the communities currently served,” Connie Zittnan, director of the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies, said in a statement.

The Academies first indicated their desire for charter status in December. The conversion received unanimous support from the Indianapolis Charter School Board, a part of Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration, as well as the City-County Council.

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