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Catholic, Parochial & Private Christian Schools

by Susan Kaufman

At the beginning of the twentieth century, several Catholic schools were already established in the county. St. Joseph Catholic School of New Brighton held its first classes in 1885 in the basement of the newly constructed St. Joseph Church. These classes were taught by lay teachers until 1890, when the Sisters of St. Joseph from Mount Gallitzen Academy in Baden were employed as teachers. By 1922, a three-story, eight-room building on the corner of Sixth Street and Seventh Avenue was completed. Here the school grew and in 1959 boasted an enrollment of 425 students in eight grades. The school remained open until 1973, when, due to the pressures of the day, it closed its doors."'

In 1886 the first parochial school for children of St. Cecelia parish in Rochester opened in a vacated carpentry shop on Adams Street. St. Cecelia School then progressed to a one-room building which, in 1888, was expanded to two rooms when the Sisters of Charity were brought in to teach. A one-story building constructed in 1898 provided sufficient space until 1926, when another building was erected on the present site of New York Avenue and Jackson Street. The number of classrooms in use gradually expanded from five to eight, and in 1958 an addition, including a gymnasium, was built. The school remained open until June, 1970.

St. Mary's Catholic School in Beaver Falls was founded in 1889 under the direction of Father Herman Joseph Frueling. The Sisters of Divine Providence taught the first classes in a four-room frame building in the rear of the church.

Enrollment continued to increase until, in 1923, the school moved to the present twelve-room structure. From 1925 to 1931, St. Mary's also operated a commercial school that included typing, bookkeeping, and shorthand, and many of the graduates went into the business world. In the late 1930's a school of music began training students in piano, voice, and instrumental music. It lasted for about forty years .131 In 1959 the enrollment peaked at 664 students. The original building had been expanded to include three additional classrooms, and the cafeteria, gymnasium, and auditorium were expanded and remodeled.

The first lay teacher was hired in 1952. By 1970 the teaching staff was 50 percent lay persons, and by 1980 only 25 percent of the staff was religious. Due to the continuing decline in enrollment and the drop in religious vocations, the religious left the school after the 1983-1984 school year. Sister Emmanuella Riddle, principal at that time, was replaced by Mrs. Kathy Dabrowski, who presently serves as principal."' Kindergarten was added to the program in 1985. Presently enrollment has stabilized at about 140 students. In addition to the regular curriculum, computer education, fine arts, band, and boys' basketball are also part of the program .

Mount Gallitzin Academy in Economy has its roots in Ebensburgh, Pennsylvania. The Sisters of St. Joseph founded a boarding school in 1869 for boys in grades one through eight. It remained there until 1900, when the site shifted west to its present location. There 475 sisters made their home, 125 of them living at the Mount Gallitzin grounds."' The name of the academy was derived from Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, a Russian prince who was instrumental in founding the original school. He had been sent to America in 1791 to complete his academic studies, but instead embraced the Catholic religion. His religious vestments, a gift from his mother and constructed from her wedding gown, are preserved in the Prince Gallitzin room of the Academy.

With an enrollment of 50 boys in grades one through eight, Mount Gallitzin remained a boarding school only until 1934, when a girls-only, non-boarding high school was added. This high school, established under the encouragement of Bishop Hugh C. Boyle, offered academic and commercial courses with a broad cultural program."' It remained open until 1966, when Quigley High School opened its doors. The Sisters decided to close their high school rather than compete with the new co-ed high school. The closing of the high school afforded more space for Mount Gallitzin elementary school. It expanded its library and science laboratory and, more importantly, became co-ed. Kindergarten was added three years later, and in 1972 the boys' boarding school concept was phased out. Enrollment increased from 91 students in 1968 to 291 in 1979. Students from 23 districts attend the school, and, with an average of 22 students for every teacher, emphasis is on individualized learning."' Swimming and gymnastics are included in the physical education program. There is great emphasis on the fine arts. Sister Celine Mutscheller, principal, directs the curriculum with a staff of nearly 35 volunteer aides. The school philosophy is based on the development of the child spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially.

Holy Trinity Catholic School in Beaver Falls opened in 1910 and was dedicated in 1916. Father W. Pawelkiewicz dedicated the new church and school combination with the Bernardine Sisters comprising the teaching staff. Reverend Casimir Koscisz, known as "Father Casey," was appointed pastor in 1933. During his 27-year stay, the original school building was remodeled. Fr. Frank Kuczinski was pastor until the closing of the school in 1969. At the time of the closing, Sisters of St. Joseph, as well as lay teachers, were on the staff. 113

A special feature of this school was the teaching of the Polish language and history in addition to the regular curriculum."'

St. Joseph School of West Aliquippa opened in 1914 under the pastor, Fr. Michael McGarey. Originally housed in two portable buildings and staffed by the Irish nuns of the Immaculate Heart order from Scranton, the school included grades one through seven. In 1926, under Fr. Edward Zauner, six rooms, a principal's office, and an auditorium were built and eighth grade was added. The curriculum expanded to include kindergarten and ninth grade in the late 1940's. Beginning in 1923, the school was staffed by the Vincentian Sisters of Charity from Perrysville. In June, 1968, declining enrollment and the decreasing number of teaching nuns forced the closing of the school."'

St. Felix School in Freedom was built in 1915 and first put into operation in September, 1924. Staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis of Millvale, the opening enrollment consisted of 110 students. Pastor Father Francis X. Vogel, O.F.M. Cap., was the director of the school. For a time, a two-year commercial course was offered in addition to regular classes. In 1967, after 43 years of operation, the school closed due to decreasing enrollment and lack of vocations in the order."'

When Reverend Martin B. Rucicky was appointed First Resident Pastor of Saints Cyril and Methodist Church of New Brighton in 1921, he fulfilled his dream of building a school for his parish. The land directly behind the church on Seventh Street was acquired in 1922, and by 1925 a portable building was purchased and erected on the site. By September, 1926, the school, staffed by the Slovak Vincentian Sisters of Charity from Perrysville, opened its doors to 230 children. Its purpose was to serve the Croation and Slovak Catholic children of the community. However, by 1934 the enrollment had dwindled to 123 children. It continued to decrease until, in 1947, due to the lack of Sisters and not enough children, the teachers were withdrawn and the school was closed."'

Parochial education became available at St. Titus Parish in Aliquippa in 1926 when Father John Greaney invited the Sisters of St. Joscph in Baden to staff the school. The original enrollment of 282 children ranged from grades one through eight and was taught by a faculty of seven religious. The enrollment continued to increase, and a third floor was added to the school in 195 1. By 1955, 900 pupils attended St. Titus School. A cafeteria was added in 1957, and lay teachers were added to the staff."' After experiencing a gradual drop in enrollment, by 1973 there were a total of 437 students, with a staff of twenty persons. Eight were religious, and twelve were lay teachers.'"

In 1985 a computer science program was implemented, and in 1986 kindergarten was added. Presently, St. Titus School has an enrollment of 247 students and a teaching staff of three religious and fifteen lay teachers. In addition to a strong curriculum of basic subjects, extra-curricular activities including basketball, band, and cheerleading are also available. Enrollment consists of students from Aliquippa, Hopewell, and Center school districts. The present principal is Sister Celine Mutscheller, C.S.J. The pastor of St. Titus Church is Father Thomas Cassidy.

Under the direction of Father John Breen, Presentation School in Midland was dedicated in 1928. Staffed by the Sisters of the St. Francis Motherhouse of Millvale, the school first served grades one through eight with its dual purpose of spiritual growth and a strong academic foundation. The school enrollment was once as high as 247 students, but that number has been dropping steadily in recent years. In 1984 a "Save Our School" program was initiated by the parents when Crucible Steel of Midland closed its doors. Some families left the area and others withdrew their children because of the tuition, resulting in a threat of school closure."' However, at the present time the school enrolls 74 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. A pre-school for four-year-olds was added to the curriculum in 1986. A further change occurred after the 1987-1988 school year when the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades were discontinued. The staff is made up of one religious and three lay teachers and is under the direction of Sr. Francella Vohzing, O.S.F.

St. John the Baptist School in Monaca opened in September, 1952, on the corner of Virginia Avenue and Fifteenth Street. Under the direction of the pastor, Monsignor Farri, and staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence, the original enrollment was 180 students in grades one through four. Each year another grade was added until, in 1957, an enrollment of 516 students was realized in eleven classrooms. The number of students peaked in 1959 at 574 students, the same year that the first class to complete all eight grades graduated and school uniforms were introduced.

An addition housing four classrooms, a gymnasium, and a bowling alley was begun in 1960. Kindergarten was added to the curriculum in 1976, and computer classes and a foreign language program were begun in 1985. Instrumental music was added one year later. The present enrollment of 173 students is taught by a staff composed of four sisters and eight lay teachers. The principal of the school is Sr. Angelina, C.D.P.

Saint Teresa School of Koppel was established in 1951 under the direction of Reverend Edmund J. Sheedy. Staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Ghost, the school served both the parish of St. Teresa as well as that of St. Monica until it closed in 1966.

Ground was broken in 1953 for SS. Peter and Paul School in Beaver, and in 1954 the school opened its doors to 219 students. Four Divine Providence Sisters and one lay teacher conducted classes for grades one through four. Father John T. Flaherty was pastor and Sister Ursula Clarke was the first principal.

By 1957 all eight classrooms were in use, and a peak enrollment of 480 students was reached in the 1958-1959 school year. A gymnasium was added in 1970. A learning center contains supportive learning materials for small group work, and computer training begins with first grade. Fine arts, instrumental music, and basketball for both boys and girls are available, as well as an instrumental program for students in grades one through eight.

At present there are 250 students, taught by three religious and ten lay teachers. Msgr. Raymond T. Schultz serves as pastor and Sister Peggy Flaherty, as principal.

Ground was blessed and construction begun in 1955 for Our Lady of Fatima School in Hopewell Township. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in August, 1956, to staff the school for grades one through eight.

In 1986 kindergarten was added. The present enrollment of 180 students is under the direction of a staff of nine full-time lay teachers. In addition to the regular curriculum, there is an instrumental program and a newly-formed band, as well as a school newspaper, a yearbook, and a basketball program. A recent addition to the school is a half-day preschool program for three- and four-year olds. Located on Fatima Drive, the school is under the direction of Sister Jane Fadgen, R.S.M.

In 1958 under the direction of Rev. Francis J. Hungerman, Saint Philomena School in Beaver Falls was built. Three religious from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth conducted the first classes for 149 children in grades one, two, and three. One grade each year was added until all eight grades were included and the enrollment reached a high of 383.

Presently, nearly 160 students in grades kindergarten through eight are taught by a staff of ten lay persons. Computer education begins in kindergarten, and instrumental music and basketball programs are available from fourth grade. Special emphasis is placed on the fine arts program, including music and drama.

Plans are presently being made to add a nursery for three- and four-year-olds in the 1988-1989 school year. Reverend Lawrence R. Smith is the current pastor, and Mrs. Brenda Pigsah is principal.

St. John the Baptist School in Baden was constructed under the direction of Father J. Walter. The school opened in September of 1962 and remained open until after the 1971-1972 school year, when it closed its doors due to the withdrawal of the religious.

Ambridge Area Catholic School in Ambridge came about in 1969 as a result of a consolidation of several Ambridge schools. St. Stanislaus School had its beginnings in 1919, with four classes taught by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In 1924 it expanded to eight classrooms, and the Felician Sisters took charge of the education. The school was located at Sixth and Pine streets. St. Veronica School was founded in 1922 on Melrose Street by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The enrollment in grades one through eight quickly reached 500 by the 1923-1924 school year. In that same year, St. Veronica High School opened. This was to be the only parish-affiliated high school in Beaver County. In 1968 the high school merged with Mount Gallitzin High School to form Quigley High School.

Divine Redeemer's Church School, founded in 1920 by the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Mount Assisi, was located on Merchant Street.

In 1969, when the Ambridge Catholic consolidation took place, three buildings were used to house the students. The first, second, and third grades formed a primary school at St. Veronica's, Divine Redeemer became a middle school for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, and St. Stanislaus took the seventh and eighth grade students. A combination of fifteen Felician Sisters, Franciscan Sisters, and Sisters of Saint Joseph taught 468 students in the first year of consolidation."'

A further change came in 1972, when grades one through eight were all housed in one location, the former St. Veronica school building. Kindergarten was added in 1981, and the school began to reverse the decline in enrollment gradually.

At the present time, Ambridge Catholic School is considered to be the fastestgrowing Catholic school in the Pittsburgh Diocese. Basketball, instrumental band, and computer education supplement the academic program. In the 1988-1989 school year a major change will occur: grades six, seven, and eight will move to the former Christ the King building to form a separate junior high. The present student body of 220 students is taught by a staff consisting of one religious and 10 lay teachers. Principal is Sr. Marie Francette Holes, C.S.J.

Quigley High School, under the direction of Bishop John Wright, opened its doors on September 7, 1967, as a consolidation of the girls' high school at Mount Gallitzin and St. Veronica High School in Ambridge. The sisters of St. Joseph, who staffed both of the established high schools, continued to serve as teachers of the new school. Located in Franklin Road Extension, Baden, the school opened its first year to 449 students under the leadership of the headmaster, Father Robert J. Reardon, and vice-principal, Sister St. Bede.

Quigley is coeducational with an emphasis on its college preparatory program. The school building includes a large hall that serves as an assembly area and numerous activity and class rooms. The 18-acre campus has ample space for sports and recreation."'

Due mainly to economic pressures, enrollment decreased from a high of 570 in the mid-to-late 1970's to 432 in 1984. Further decreases brought that number lower, but presently enrollment seems stable at 270. While primarily a Catholic high school, it has a student body of which 25 percent are non-Catholic. The faculty consists of one priest, two sisters of Saint Joseph, one Felicain Sister, and 25 lay teachers. The school is under the direction of the principal, Sr. Anna Maria Gaglia, C.S.J.

In general, the period from the 1930's to the 1950's was a time of fast growth for the Catholic schools. By the mid-50's more than half of the Pittsburgh Diocese's children were enrolled in Catholic schools. There was a parish school in nearly every community, and enrollment and class sizes were soaring. Lecturetype teaching and strict discipline were general characteristics of these schools. Following the fast growth period, the 1960's and 1970's reflected a decline in the enrollment and number of Catholic schools. Vocations declined; there were not enough sisters to teach in all the schools. Revisions in educational theories brought about an emphasis on smaller classes and more individualized teaching. Also, due to economic factors, Catholic schools began charging tuition. The Catholic Church was forced to abandon its goal of providing parochial education for every child.

At present there are nine Catholic elementary schools and one Catholic high school in Beaver County. General trends include decreasing enrollment in some upper grades and continuing increases in tuition. Despite these factors, officials in area schools are optimistic about the future of Catholic schools."' Financial support is made possible through a combination of support from the Pittsburgh Diocese, tuition, fund-raising campaigns, and parish support. Some schools have added kindergarten and pre-school programs to expand their curriculum and increase their enrollment.

The emergence of the private Christian school has been a relatively recent phenomenon in Beaver County. The first, the Beaver County Christian School, opened in 1969 in Beaver Falls with one teacher, two grades, and thirteen pupils. It gradually expanded until, in 1974, it acquired its present structure, a nineroom building on Penn Avenue in New Brighton.

The purpose of the Beaver County Christian School is to provide quality education from the Christian viewpoint. There is no specific church sponsorship for this school. Instead, it is operated by the Beaver County Christian School Association, made up of parents and other interested persons who elect a board of directors that administer school policies and programs."' The school includes a strong academic program of instruction in all levels from kindergarten through grade twelve, with special attention to Bible instruction and daily devotions. Emphasis is placed on basic skills, including computer education, but creativity is developed through the study of the arts, music, and drama.

Recent enrollment has varied from 180 to 199. A class for the learning disabled was added in 1983. There are presently eleven full-time and eight part-time staff members. The school principal is Ralph Phillips.

The Beaver Valley Christian Academy was founded in 1976 by Pastor Henry Howells and the members of the Church of the Living Christ in Bridgewater. Although primarily supported by that church, there are students from over forty congregations in attendance at the school.

Originally located in the old Monaca junior High School at Tenth Street and Indiana Avenue, the school makes its chief purpose the providing for the spiritual needs of children while meeting at the same time their academic needs. School policy is influenced by the fundamentalist full-gospel philosophy of the founding church."'

In 1977 the Beaver Valley Christian Academy purchased the former Rochester High School. In that year 149 students from grades one through eleven were enrolled at the new location.

Presently, the school has expanded to include nursery school through twelfth grade and offers remedial reading, special education, and computer education as well as the traditional curriculum. Plans include broadening the high school curriculum. Fourteen full-time lay teachers comprise the faculty led by Principal Gary Bryson.

Two new schools opened their doors in 1978 - the West Mayfield Christian School and the Pleasant Hills Wesleyan Methodist School. The West Mayfield Christian School, administered by the pastor of the Mayfield Baptist Church, Beaver Falls, uses a program known as Accelerated Christian Education, or A.C.E. In this program, individualized learning materials are used that allow each student to progress at his own rate. Originally including kindergarten through grade four, it gradually added to its program to include all twelve grades, as well as a limited number of college courses. Enrollment, which had been as high as forty students, presently numbers about seventeen. Present principal is Paul Miller.

Established in 1978 as an arm of the Pleasant Hills Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Pleasant Hills Christian School, located in Hookstown, also makes use of the Accelerated Christian Education individualized learning materials. Including grades one through twelve, enrollment averages 35 students. Principal is Rev. Paul Treese.

The Sylvanian Hills Christian School, established in 1979, is a ministry of the Sylvania Hills Baptist Church, Pittsburgh Road, Rochester. Six faculty members administer to its average enrollment of forty students in grades kindergarten through twelve. The principal of the school is Pastor M. L. Bailey, and the school supervisor is Tod Beegle.

Rhema Christian School was established in September, 1981, by Wildwood Chapel in Hopewell Township. The original school served nursery through grade twelve. Its policy of ministering to the whole child is accomplished through a Bible-centered curriculum and by balancing spiritual, academic, and personal development. In 1986 the school was incorporated independently and is now governed by a board elected by the membership of the corporation. The high school was eliminated in that year, and the school presently concentrates its efforts on a program of readiness through eighth grade. It also offers a child care center. The school principal is Mrs. Dede Hayes.

Throughout the twentieth century in Beaver County, the Catholic and the private Christian schools have left their mark on education. Thousands of children have received their education through them and continue to do so. In spite of continued economic pressures, the outlook for Catholic and Christian schools remains optimistic.