ROXBOROUGH >> The C.B. Community School located in Roxborough is now halfway through its third year of operation and is anticipating a 100 percent graduation rate for the 2017-18 school year.
The community school, which was founded by Roberta Trombetta during the 2015-16 school year, serves children throughout the Roxborough community who live in foster homes, group homes or other similar situations. As of the 2017-18 school year, the community-based high school has a total of 70 students enrolled, up from 50 students during the first year of operation.
Trombetta, the school’s founder and CEO, said while technically classified as a high school, C.B. Community School doesn’t operate in the same way as other high schools in the city. She explained students there range in age from 16 to 20 and are taught based on where they’re at personally, as opposed to what grade level their transcript or age reflects.
The school is licensed by the Pennsylvania Board of Education, so its curriculum follows that of a traditional Philadelphia high school. However, Trombetta explained, teachers meet students where they’re at, focusing on the skills and subjects they’re ready for, as opposed to those a grade-based curriculum would dictate.
“Competency-based education allows kids to learn skills, and then they are either competent within those skills or they’re not,” Trombetta said.
She went on to explain that if a student is found not to have gained competency in a specific subject or skill, they’re afforded the opportunity to try again, as opposed to receiving a failing grade.
Becky Fawcett, the publicist for the school, said, “They give them the skills so that they can move on, post-high school, and become a contributing part of society.”
Because of the community-based approach to education that C.B. Community School focuses on, Trombetta explained, the school boasted a 100 percent graduation rate during the 2016-17 school year. Comparatively, the average graduation rate for children living in foster or group homes throughout Philadelphia is about 30 percent.
While this focus on skills-based learning is at the core of C.B. Community School’s curriculum, Trombetta explained academics aren’t the only focus for teachers and faculty there.
“On site, we have a full-time social worker, a full-time nurse and an on-site outpatient clinic,” she said.
“So kids are oftentimes struggling, where they’re homeless or they haven’t eaten. They can check in with our social worker,” she explained, indicating this morning check-in allows students to be fully present by the time they make it to the classroom.
Prior to founding C.B. Community School, Trombetta worked as a lawyer. Her experience with at-risk children inspired her decision to start a school.
“I’m a lawyer that has worked in child welfare most of my life, in many different roles,” she said. “I believe that education is the way to independence and post-secondary opportunities.”
While the school faces an annual operating cost of about $1.5 million per school year, Trombetta explained, the students are all there on scholarship. In total, it costs about $20,000 per year for each student who attends C.B. Community School, the entirety of which is fundraised by Trombetta and others within the school
“Because we don’t get any government funding, we go out to individual foundations and corporations, and we raise our budget to run the school,” she said.
The school has grown in size since opening three years ago, but Trombetta explained she’s happy with the current class sizes and doesn’t anticipate that they’ll grow much more. With 70 students currently enrolled, every teacher works with a small class size of 12 students.
“We created this school because these children are invisible to the Philadelphia School District and have been under-educated for years,” Trombetta said. “Without a school that offers [what we do], they wouldn’t have the opportunity to graduate or go onto post-graduate opportunities.”