School Choice & Charters

City’s Movers and Shakers Rally

By Karla Scoon Reid — September 03, 2003 2 min read

A shrinking student enrollment, dwindling funds, and a crumbling school building threatened to shutter Cardinal Ritter High School in St. Louis forever.

The tale is a familiar one for Roman Catholic schools in urban centers across the nation. But closing Cardinal Ritter wasn’t an option that the St. Louis business and philanthropic communities would consider.

Instead, they rallied behind Cardinal Ritter High, raising $30 million with the city’s archdiocese to construct a new school building and increase enrollment. When classes started at Cardinal Ritter last month, it became the first new private high school built within the St. Louis city limits in 50 years.

George J. Henry, the superintendent of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said relying on the business community to raise money to replace the 50-year- old building that housed the school and keep it located within the city was an unprecedented move.

But David Kemper, the chief executive officer of Commerce Bancshares, a $14 billion regional bank based in St. Louis, had faith.

“The business sector really wants to help, but it’s frustrated,” he said. Searching for academic models that work in urban education, he added, can be difficult.

With Cardinal Ritter, most believed that St. Louis was banking on a proven winner.

Since its founding in 1979, the school has graduated college-ready black students, many from underprivileged city neighborhoods. Students aren’t handpicked to attend the school, and some are accepted on academic probation.

Paid Internships

In recent years, the 220-student school has had a 100 percent college-acceptance rate. Almost half the 2003 graduating class received scholarship offers, exceeding a total of $1.7 million.

For St. Louis, Mr. Kemper said, the business community was trying to find a model that would foster a critical mass of minority professionals to hire locally.

To that end, the St. Louis-based Danforth Foundation, which focuses its efforts on revitalizing the city, donated $2.5 million to endow scholarships and pay for an internship program for Cardinal Ritter students.

The program offers students paid internships with St. Louis companies, where they must commit to work for four years after college graduation.

The school is located at the edge of a part of the city that has been redeveloped into an entertainment and cultural area. Mr. Henry said he’s encouraged that Cardinal Ritter High will draw students from throughout St. Louis now. The school’s freshman class doubled to 105 students this year.

Mr. Henry also predicts a continued partnership between the archdiocese’s schools and the city’s business leaders.

“Their agenda isn’t Catholic schools,” he said. “It’s quality schools for all of our children.”

Related Tags:


School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Head of School
Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
AIM Academy
Head of School
Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
AIM Academy
Superintendent, Coeur d'Alene Public Schools
Coeur D'Alene, Idaho
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor Are NOLA Charters a Mixed Bag?
To the Editor:
The opinion essay by Douglas N. Harris about how New Orleans’ education reforms post-Katrina are relevant to the COVID-19 era (“As Schools Recover After COVID-19, Look to New Orleans,” Sept. 30, 2020) highlights some basic improvements in the NOLA system but downplays the most significant aspects of those changes: the impact on people of color.
1 min read
School Choice & Charters Home Schooling Is Way Up With COVID-19. Will It Last?
The shift could have lasting effects on both public schools and the home-schooling movement.
10Homeschool IMG
School Choice & Charters Opinion Challenging 3 Common Critiques of School Choice
A new volume from Corey DeAngelis and Neal McCluskey challenges some of the familiar but suspect assertions that pepper public debates about school choice.
3 min read
School Choice & Charters Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read