Four years ago officials of the Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese, along with prominent citizens, including former Mayor Steve Goldsmith, approached Mayor Greg Ballard and his Charter Schools Office with a unique idea. Convert some inner city Indianapolis Catholic Schools into charters. This was before the state created tax-paid vouchers for students to attend private schools. An organization called ADI Schools was created and two Catholic elementary schools, St. Andrews/St. Rita on the east side and St. Anthony on the west side converted their private church based schools into public charter schools called Andrew Academy and Padua Academy respectively. The two schools were part of the charter schools chartered and authorized by Mayor Greg Ballard and the City’s Office of Educational Innovation (OEI). While the schools have had decent, but low enrollment and have been up and down in student performance, last last week ADI announced that they would be surrendering their seven year charters back to the City after four years of operation. Andrew and Padua Academies would be closing at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. In an exclusive interview on Afternoons with Amos, Margaret “Peggy” Elson of ADI Schools, Inc. explained the reasons for the changes and why ADI and the Archdiocese felt the time had come to get out of the business of charter schools.
When Andrew and Padua opened it marked one of the first instances in America of private schools converting into public charters; especially religious schools. Asked whether the concept was a failure, Elson said no. Elson also said they entered into this arrangement two years before the start of Indiana’s school voucher law, which has seen enrollment into Catholic and other private schools in the city and state increase. One of the biggest community concerns about the plan was that Padua, a nearly all Hispanic school would be converted back to a Catholic school. While Andrew, a nearly all Black school, would be in limbo. Elson said that “several charter operators” had expressed interest in the Andrew facility which was located adjacent to St. Andrews Catholic Church.
That building could hold up to 500 students said Elson. Elson told Afternoons with Amos that while Padua’s enrollment had remained steady, Andrew’s enrollment had been declining. Also, the percentage of Catholic students at Andrew was far smaller than at Padua. Asked whether the parishioners at St. Andrews/St. Rita had asked about resuming their Catholic school, Elson said she’s heard nothing from church members. Elson said ADI was proud of what they’d accomplished in their four years operating the schools. And that the staff was energized in making their final year of operation a successful one for the students. Elson also stressed that the ADI made the decision to provide ten months of advance notice of the closing of the charter schools to give parents and students plenty of time to prepare. Elson said ADI was committed to finding places for their students, in either public, charter or Catholic schools. Click the Media Player to hear Amos’ Interview with ADI, Operators of Andrews and Padua Charter Schools. Runs 17 Minutes ©2014/WTLC/Radio One.