Some Catholic schools in Chicago to get more than $90M investment over 10 years under new deal

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new partnership between the Archdiocese of Chicago and a local nonprofit is expected to funnel tens of millions of dollars into Catholic schools.

St. Ethelreda is one of 30 Catholic schools that will be receiving a big donation following what's being called a historic agreement between the archdiocese and the Big Shoulders Fund. The agreement is expected to invest more than $90 million into 30 schools located in low-income neighborhoods, primarily on Chicago's South and West Sides.

"I'm overjoyed. I'm just thanking God, singing praises of joy," said Dr. Denise Spells, St. Ethelreda's principal.

The school on the city's South Side has been around for decades but at one point, it was in jeopardy of closing until Spells worked to increase enrollment and test scores.

"This money will be given to the schools in the form of operational aid and other programming supports to help those schools continue to thrive," said Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Rigg.

The 30 schools chosen already had long-term relationships with Big Shoulders, an organization that helps support Catholic schools in low-income areas. Big Shoulders is kicking more than half of the money.

The agreement allows the nonprofit to take more control over hiring principals and teachers, as well as choosing curriculum.

"That allows us to say, look we are willing to put in close to $50 million, we want to have more control over involvement and support that frees up the Archdiocese to invest in other schools," said Joshua Hale, the nonprofit's CEO.

Spells welcomes their help and has no problem with Big Shoulders looking over her shoulder.

The financial commitment for all 30 schools chosen is for 10 years.

"A 10-year commitment, that is phenomenal," Spells said. "I want to be around all those years."
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