Philadelphia Academies, Inc.
“It’s not just about the numbers….”
Philadelphia Academies, Inc., did not set out to re-imagine high school when it originated the career academy model back in 1969 as a solution to the dropout crisis. But that’s exactly what happened and their experiment became a game changer, now replicated in some 7,000 high schools across the U.S. The All-Academy Model transforms the traditional high school learning environment – where students often have difficulty seeing the relevance of their subjects to their career paths – into a hands-on, career-connected learning strategy that provides students with the skills they will need to be competitive in a 21st Century workplace. By making high school personally relevant, Philadelphia Academies’ programs mix academic and career classes within small learning communities organized by industry themes. The program develops career pathways in such fields as biotechnology and kinesiology by engaging students with working adults and applying what they have learned to real-world problems.
After several years as Director of School Operations, Jay Vazquez was named President and CEO in 2017, and he immediately relied on YPTC’s intimate knowledge of the organization’s finances. “I was in transition, and Philadelphia Academies needed to change part of its career-connected learning strategy, so it was important for me to have Your Part-Time Controller,” he says. The associate who had been serving Philadelphia Academies for several years was Jim McCormick, and Vazquez is quick to sing his praises. “Jim understood us and kept our resources aligned with our programming. As we were examining new strategies it was extremely helpful to be getting timely information.”
Philadelphia Academies had also recently transitioned from being a direct services provider to an organization offering technical assistance to Philadelphia School District leadership. “It took a lot of effort and time, we had to ramp up, we had to identify new funding sources, and we had some staff turnover,” he recalls. Through it all, YPTC was there to help.
“My board needed new reports and they were asking tough questions,” he adds. But YPTC’s timely information made it easier to make good strategic decisions.
When McCormick was promoted within YPTC, Associate Liane Decker was named as his replacement, and Vazquez is impressed with how smoothly the transition went. “It gives me comfort as a new CEO that the right individual was selected. Care was taken to identify the person with the right skill set and that was very important. Liane has been phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about her.”
But above and beyond the technical expertise of YPTC’s associates, Vazquez marvels at a more intangible quality. “You have to really want to work in this environment. The service is one thing but it’s the personality of the people they hire,” he says. “It’s not just about the numbers. They understand our mission and know what questions to ask. They take a real interest in us, and that’s important.
“We don’t see ourselves as just surviving but rather as thriving as a nonprofit. I know that if I need advice I can pick Liane’s brain.”
This mutual respect, fostered over many years, has built a strong relationship between YPTC and Philadelphia Academies. “Your Part-Time Controller’s people are really personable. It’s important that we understand each other, and they help us to think things through. It’s comforting, and it’s real.”