The Charleston Catholic School opened in 1991, following the closing of the predominately non-Catholic African American Cathedral School. Parishioners from St. Patrick’s and Cathedral met with Bishop Thompson and asked for his help to establish a Catholic school on the peninsula. Bishop Thompson formed a blue ribbon committee to study the feasibility of a school. The committee set forth four goals: financial independence, academic excellence, community acceptance and a Catholic identity.
Bishop David B. Thompson chose the 1935 building that previously housed the Sacred Heard Catholic School as the site. Sr. Carol Ann Kleindinst, founding Principal, opened the school with a discretionary budget of $50,000 to purchase books, desks, teaching supplies and to make needed repairs to the building and grounds. Additionally, she served 186 students; approximately half of these students were from The Cathedral School which had closed in June 1991. The school served children from the five Catholic peninsular parish churches.
During the 1st year, the arts curriculum was initiated with opportunities in Movement, Art, Chorus, Drama and Band. Instructional materials for these programs and for the standard elementary curriculum were provided by $50,000 of Diocesan Development funds which were earmarked for the school at its inception. Since funding was very limited in the first year, little development of the curriculum was possible, since large amounts of money had to be designated for the purchasing of standard textbooks. During the next three years DDF funding of $35,000, $25,000 and $10,000 respectively, allowed for the development of the science and religion curriculum.
At the same time, the level of parental involvement in the school grew past the minimal involvement of parents in the first year. A PTO and School Board were established and by the third year, parents took an active role in their children’s education. Teachers also, claimed ownership for the quality of instruction in the school.
The student make-up changed by the school’s third year of operation. The initial membership was represented by students who were 2-3 years below grade level in reading and math. Their self-disciplinary skills were poor. Within a three year period, 170 students had left the school and were replaced by a more intellectually able student body with a much greater degree of motivation in their studies. By the fourth year, the enrollment had increased to 203 students.
Throughout the first four years, a concern grew among parents, teachers and administration that the present school building was too small to house the arts and science activities for which the school was established. Varying options were considered by the school board including the lease/purchase of a vacant building across the street on King Street (cost $225,000), the possibility of a new building in order to open a pre-school (cost $90,000).
The request for a long range plan for the school came from Bishop Thompson at the time when permission was granted to build the pre-school addition in June of 1995. At their June meeting, the School Board willingly took up this task under the leadership of Martha Kanapaux, president of the School Board. Since the target date of December 15, 1995 was set by Bishop Thompson, the process for creating this plan began quickly as school opened. Included in the charge by Bishop Thompson was the consideration of the vacant Immaculate Conception School Building as a potential site for relocation of the school. Mr. Byron Geddings, a parent, school board member and architect from St. Patrick’s parish, did a brief evaluation of the ICS structure.
Two Visioning Saturdays were scheduled for September 15 and September 30th. Parents, teachers, parishioners and pastors of the five peninsular parishes were to answer these questions during these two sessions. The questions were:
· What do you believe about human beings?
· Knowing this, what do you think is most necessary for The Charleston Catholic School students to learn?
· What programs, materials, personnel, and learning opportunities do you envision in the year 2000 in order to achieve these learning standards listed as a result of question #2?
These questions were meant to lay the groundwork for the long-range plan. They would invoke a philosophy out of which action items might evolve.
Each Saturday saw 30 – 35 participants who worked in small groups. This work prioritized values, learner standards and action items, and it also looked at inconsistencies or areas of conflict in the items in the action plan. Eventually, a group of four writers were selected to pen this document.
Other interesting events to note in the school’s history include:
· K4 Preschool Building - started K4 class August 1995, they moved into new building Nov. 13, 1995
· A Development position was started Sept. 1998.
· K4 class time extended from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm to 8:00 am to 3:00 pm August, 2005.
· First Auction Nov. 1993 total income was $3668.15 (gross 2880.81) while the 14th auction raised $60,000
· Since the school opened its doors, more than 300 students have graduated from CCS.
CCS Principals include:
Sr. Carol Ann Kleindinst 1991- 1998
Sr. Bridget Sullivan 1998 - 2000
Mrs. Yvonne Tolley Orr 2000 - 2006
Fred McKay 2006 –