City school getting $1M

Onyea Cropper, 16, solders an accelerometer at Roxborough High School.

Roxborough High School will receive $1.1 million to continue its transformation, a city nonprofit is to announce Monday.

The money is coming from the Philadelphia School Partnership, which has amassed $75 million to give away to charter, private, and traditional public schools and aims to raise more.

The grant - which will allow Roxborough to continue its shift to a career and technical education model - represents PSP's first grant to a Philadelphia School District comprehensive high school, widely viewed as the toughest type of school to reform, given its mandate to take all students, regardless of needs.

Roxborough, which educates more than 600 students, has a "career academies" model, which means it is divided into small learning communities with a dedicated faculty and theme.

After a year in the school's freshman academy, teens choose from among visual arts production; business, technology and entrepreneurship; or health sciences and research. Each has its own faculty and focus.

PSP has been interested in Roxborough for several years, said Mark Gleason, the group's executive director, and is impressed by the career academies' work, which has yielded higher graduation rates than those of comprehensive high schools.

Dana Jenkins, the Roxborough principal, is a strong leader, Gleason said, and the school's faculty has bought in to a new vision for Roxborough, which also has upward of 50 community partners working to move it along.

The influential nonprofit gave Roxborough an initial planning grant of $150,000 in 2013.

Funding new schools has been important for PSP, Gleason said, but he is also conscious that most district students attend comprehensive high schools.

"The city needs good neighborhood options, and a strategy for improving options in neighborhood schools," Gleason said.

Even as the district was battered by budget cuts, Jenkins and her team were moving toward the academy model. But now that PSP is opening its checkbook, that work becomes much easier, she said.

"We want to get our students prepared for careers of the future," Jenkins said. "This helps us get there."

The grant money will pay for new curriculum and professional development to help align academics and technical courses. It will also pay for technology, building improvements and even a permanent substitute teacher - the school, like many in the district, suffered last year during a substitute-teaching crisis.

Roxborough, on Ridge Avenue, sits in a neighborhood where many families choose Catholic school for their children. At the end of last year, its enrollment dipped below 500, Jenkins said, but its reputation is strengthening, and it now has close to 650 pupils.

"We're working really hard," she said. "It's more of an option for students in the neighborhood."

The school now has a three-year plan to be receive the National Career Academy Coalition's "model" status, said Jenkins. Students can already choose from courses of study in biotechnology, kinesiology, and web design, among others; some receive industry certifications.

The grant to Roxborough brings PSP's total contributions to district schools to almost $16 million. It is now the school system's largest private funder.

Citywide, it has given out more than $50 million to schools of all types.

kgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-5146@newskag

www.philly.com/schoolfiles

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