What is the Lea-Penn Partnership?


Among its many and varied partnerships, the Lea-Penn Partnership is one of Lea’s oldest and most wide-ranging relationships. The Lea-Penn Partnership is an institutional partnership between Henry C. Lea Elementary School, the School District of Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) that endeavors to foster student academic achievement and support the holistic interests and needs of Lea students, families, and staff. The Lea-Penn Partnership accomplishes this by providing a variety of strategically aligned resources to the school community while employing mutually agreed upon partnership practices and metrics.

Lea has cultivated partnerships with a number of partner programs, organizations, and initiatives connected to the university, including a variety of Penn schools, departments, centers, organizations, programs, and courses. Lea’s “Penn-connected” partners include the Graduate School of Education, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, the School of Social Policy & Practice, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Arts and Sciences, and Penn Libraries. As of the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, of Lea’s 37 partner organizations, 15 of them (41%) are Penn-connected organizations, and of Lea’s 54 partner programs, 40 of them (74%) are Penn-connected programs.

Penn Partnership Schools

The Lea-Penn Partnership makes Lea one of two “Penn partnership schools,” which are K-12 schools engaged in institutional partnership with the University of Pennsylvania. The other Penn partnership school is the Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School, also known as the “Penn Alexander School,” or “PAS.” Both Lea and PAS are public elementary schools in the School District of Philadelphia, and with student populations of a similar size. Both schools reside in the same neighborhood in West Philadelphia — Lea at 4700 Locust Street, and PAS at 4209 Spruce Street — in close proximity to the Penn campus and with catchment areas that border one another.

Both Lea and PAS partner receive support from the university, yet the character and quantity of Penn support differs between the two partnership schools. While both schools receive in-kind support from different Penn schools, departments, and organizations/groups in the form of the varying categories of programming outlined above, Lea hosts over 30 such Penn-connected programs, while PAS hosts just a handful. And while Penn provides both schools with financial support to complement the in-kind support it receives from different Penn-connected programs, PAS receives an annual operating contribution from Penn of $1,330 per student, while Lea receives an annual operating contribution of over $300,000 from Penn.

While both Penn partnership schools certainly benefit from their institutional partnership with Penn, each school also contributes in significant ways to the vision and mission of the university. Lea serves as a site of learning, apprenticeship, or service for nearly 400 community-based collaborators every school year, of which the majority are connected to Penn. Lea staff mentor Penn interns studying in a variety of fields in the social sciences, while Penn undergraduate and graduate students serving in a variety of roles in different partner programs have the opportunity to develop skills and learn lessons that cannot be acquired or experienced in a Penn lecture hall. The Lea school community — students, families, staff, and members of the wider community — welcomes these Penn-connected individuals into their community and supports them as they make mistakes, learn, and grow as volunteers or professionals, as citizens, as human beings.

Community Partnerships Coordinator & Lea-Penn Liaison

Penn has increased its engagement with Lea in recent years, with one of the most significant developments being the expansion of the Lea-Penn Partnership during the 2013-2014 academic year that resulted not only in increased financial support from the university, but also in the creation of the Lea-Penn Liaison position responsible for coordinating the institutional partnership between the school and the university. Under the direction of the Principal, during the 2017-2018 school year, the Lea-Penn Liaison assumed the title of Community Partnerships Coordinator due to the position’s added responsibility of coordinating all of the school’s partnerships, including organizations that are not connected to the university.

The Community Partnerships Coordinator/Lea-Penn Liaison is responsible for all school-partner coordination, collaboration, and communication at Lea, and serves as the primary point of contact for all school partners. More detailed information about the Community Partnerships Coordinator/Lea-Penn Liaison position can be found on the Partnerships Coordinator page.

From the 2013 through 2016, the role of Lea-Penn Liaison was filled by Dr. Caroline Watts, a Penn Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) faculty member who currently serves as the Director of School and Community Engagement at Penn GSE. In the summer of 2016, ShaVon Savage was hired by the School District of Philadelphia to serve as the new Principal of Lea Elementary School (2016-2020), and she collaborated with Dr. Watts to identify a new Lea-Penn Liaison. Since August 2016, Richard Liuzzi has served as the CPC and Lea-Penn Liaison at Lea. Mr. Liuzzi — known to everyone at Lea as “Mr. Rich” — works closely with the Principal in managing the design, coordination, and sustainability of all Lea partnerships. Mr. Liuzzi is a doctoral student at the Penn Graduate School of Education studying educational leadership.