by Pete Mazzaccaro
Three years ago, Our Mother of Consolation Parish School faced a challenge that threatened its existence.
The school had been identified by a group working for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as a school that should merge with Holy Cross school of Mt. Airy. The school’s leaders appealed the decision and managed to convince the archdiocese to let them continue to operate independently. Attendance was on the way up as was the school performance, both academically and financially.
Last week, those days couldn’t be further away as the OMC community celebrated a significant achievement: It was recognized by the Great Philly Schools as one of the top-performing schools in the city, scoring a 10 out of 10 possible points for excellence across the board.
“We are thrilled to be recognized as a “High Performing” school and to be ranked so highly,” said Colleen Amuso, OMC’s director of advancement. “It is public acknowledgement of what we at OMC have always known: that we are a strong school providing academic excellence and Catholic values since we were founded in 1862.”
OMC was part of a genuinely strong showing from the city’s archdiocesan schools. According to a press release sent out by the archdiocese, 25 of its schools made a list of top schools in the city. OMC was second on a list of five diocesan schools that had earned a perfect 10 score.
Great Philly Schools is an online and print informational tool produced by a group of education-minded nonprofits in the city. The purpose, according to greatphillyschools.org, is to provide parents and caregivers in the city with the information they need to make choices about the schools to which they will send their children. The main nonprofit behind the site is the Philadelphia School Partnership, an organization that raises funds for public and private schools in the city.
Amuso said recognition from Great Philly Schools is confirmation of the vision leaders had for the school and proof that a five-year plan those leaders put into place in 2010 has worked.
“They showed that they were two years into a five-year strategic plan, and they were able to back up their case with clear data,” she said. “A month after presenting their appeal to archdiocesan leaders, they learned that their appeal was successful. OMC remained a parish school.”
In January 2012, the archdiocese announced a wave of school mergers (throughout the city and the suburbs) in which new regional schools would be formed. Initially, OMC was slated to merge with Holy Cross (Mt Airy) and the new regional school was to be established in the current OMC school building.
Backed by strong leadership from the Rev. Bob Bazzoli, pastor, and Principal Bruce Hagy, OMC appealed. OMC showed that attendance was growing with a strong base in the lower grades. They showed that they were financially stable and planning for long-term sustainability.
Amuso is quick to point out, however, that the school’s academic performance is not new.
“While attendance and sustainability was the focus of the archdiocese’s mergers in 2012, strong academics have always been a hallmark of Catholic schools,” she said. “OMC has had a reputation for academic excellence for years. OMC student standardized test scores rank among the highest in the archdiocese, and are well above the national averages across all areas of the curriculum.”
The good news for OMC in earning the recognition, Amuso said, is that the story of the OMC that its community already knows will spread. It’s a school marked by small class sizes, a dedicated core of volunteers with a strong academic curriculum with an emphasis on character.
“OMC is a place where families are friends,” Amuso said. “When asked why they chose OMC for their children, parents almost uniformly answer that the exceptional academics and welcoming community are what drew them to our school.”