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Benefactors take over ailing Philly school

PHILADELPHIA -- An independent group of benefactors announced an agreement Tuesday to take over a struggling Roman Catholic school from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, pledging to keep its religious identity while making it financially sustainable.

The arrangement, the first of its kind in the archdiocese, transfers responsibility for St. Martin de Porres elementary from the church to a lay board. Board members want to ensure St. Martin's continued existence and affordability in North Philly, where many public schools are considered unsafe or deficient.

"We are not simply just giving support to a school, we are giving support to a neighborhood and the families who call this parish and its school home," board Chairman Jack Donnelly said.

Church officials, who have shuttered more than 30 cash-strapped schools in the archdiocese in five years, applauded the agreement. Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior said he hopes it can be replicated at other strained schools.

Similar set-ups have saved schools in other cities.

Church leaders, voters talk on Va. gay adoption

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of opponents and supporters weighed in on proposed regulations that would allow state-licensed groups to turn down prospective adoptive and foster parents because of sexual orientation.

The Virginia Board of Social Services set a 30-day public comment period after gay-rights advocates complained about new regulations that were approved in April that didn't bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, physical disability and family status. Critics said the board stripped protections from the proposed regulations without much public notice, and that the board discussed the issue in closed session without public consideration.

The ACLU and other groups say the state should restore the protections. Some church leaders say organizations should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

Virginia allows married couples and singles to adopt or become foster parents, regardless of sexual orientation, but bars unmarried couples, gay or straight, from doing so.

Wire reports

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