After closing Saint Michael parish school in 1999 because of economic conditions and changing demographics in the neighborhood, the pastor Father Herb Sperger felt the loss of a strong Catholic educational presence. He researched different innovative educational models and reached out the the Christian Brothers to form a San Migeul school. The Christian Brothers and Sisters of Saint Joseph met to work on creating a unique collaboration. On December 2, 2002, a group of a group of 16 dedicated men and women including Brother Kevin Dalmasse, FSC, Brother Rene Sterner, FSC, Sister Judy Oliver, SSJ, and Sister Anna Schuck, SSJ, gathered to create a school with the mission to serve and educate the underprivileged children in West Kensington and in Philadelphia.
Through the hard work and generosity of hundreds of people, the doors opened in September 2003 in the former convent of Saint Michael’s parish, with thirty students in grades three and four. Open to students of all faiths and backgrounds; La Salle Academy now educates 92 students in grades three through eight who are uniquely diverse; 56% of our students are Latino, 34% are African American, 9% Caucasian, and 1% are Vietnamese. Our students’ average family income is $18,200, with 97% qualifying for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program. Also, 62% of our students are from single-parent homes, 8% live with a grandparent or with another family member, and 23% of our students have one parent incarcerated. Despite these statistics, each of our families shows their support with a nominal $200 yearly tuition. The remainder of our operating budget is sustained almost entirely by donations.
La Salle Academy offers its students an academically rigorous education designed to prepare them for future success in high school and beyond. Based upon a unique, transformative, and successful model for elementary and middle schools dedicated to serving poor and at-risk students, known as the San Miguel Model, our school operates an 11-month school calendar, extended school day from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., and class sizes not exceeding 15. These features allow our students to more readily retain lessons learned and reduce the time our students spend unsupervised outside of school.
Our curriculum is enhanced by a Graduate Support Program, designed to provide our students with the assistance necessary to be successful in high school and to be prepared for higher education and the workforce. The services begin in eighth grade with the search for a proper high school, followed by applications for admission and financial aid, and continue with caring encouragement through the social and academic challenges of high school.
La Salle Academy is more than a school. It is a place where our students are loved, nurtured, and feel safe. From our morning Assembly, which includes prayer and character development lessons, to daily community circles, liturgies, religion classes, and our peer-mediation program, our students are taught to think, speak and act with respect toward each other. Armed with our Five Goals – to be Peaceful, to be Responsible, to be Consistent, to be Motivated, and to be Respectful – La Salle Academy students infuse their homes and neighborhoods with this unique spirit.