Another Update on North Catholic

Betty Palmieri (center) talks with students Robin Amberson (left) of West Chester and Gary Pitman of Philadelphia at the tech academy at North Catholic. The academy would remain open, should North Catholic convert to a Cristo Rey school.

My colleague Val Russ didn't have enough space in today's Daily News to delve into all the particulars of the feasibility study currently under way to investiate the  possible conversion of North Catholic High School to a Cristo Rey school.

So I'll share details here.

Val spoke at length with John "Jason" Marquess, a Haddonfield, NJ attorney and one of the four North Catholic High alums who began researching the Cristo Rey Network almost as soon as the Philadephia Archdiocese announced, last October, the planned closings of both North and Cardinal Doughterty High School.

Marquess stressed that community support for the Cristo Rey model is crucial because each Cristo Rey student will be required to spend one day per week at a work study job, whose pay will go into a fund to support the tuition costs for students.
He said that Cristo Rey officials had required his group to guarantee, by Feb. 28, that at least 25 employers will hire the North Catholic/ Cristo Rey students.
"We've already got 25 jobs lined up," Marquess told Val. "We're going to need 92 to 100 jobs lined up by the start of the school year, and we plan to do that."
He also noted that there is no requirement for a North Catholic/Cristo Rey school to be run by the Society of Jesus
order of Catholic priests (even though the network was founded by Jesuits and some of its schools are Jesuit-run).

He said that The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who are currently teaching at North Catholic, have promised to stay on to teach at the school should it convert to the Cristo Rey model.

Intriguingly, Marquess said that his group has had discussions with interested officials at St. Joseph's University, La Salle University and the University of Pennsylvania about the possibility of providing college-level courses to adults living in the North Catholic community, as a way to generate funding for the school.

Marquess anticipated that the tuition for such college courses would be higher than, say, the tuition at Community College of Philadelphia, but much lower than tuition for courses offered on site at the universities.

He also said that the existing North Catholic IT Academy at North Catholic would continue to operate if North goes Cristo Rey. That's good news for academy director Betty Palmieri, whom I interviewed last fall about the impact North's closing would have on her thriving school.