The History of St. Joseph Catholic Elementary
In September 1962, St. Joseph Catholic Elementary opened its doors to welcome just less than 300 boys and girls in grades K-7 located on the corner of Menard Street and Cardinal Drive. It was formed as a consolidation of elementary students at Mt. Carmel Academy and Thibodaux College, continuing a tradition of Catholic education in Thibodaux since 1855, when Pere Menard, the third pastor of St. Joseph Parish, established the first Catholic school in what is now the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. The pastor, Msgr. Raphael C. Labit, championed the cause for the new school, which was staffed by the Sisters of Mt. Carmel and a number of dedicated lay teachers. The classroom/administration building, convent and cafeteria served as the school’s campus for many years. In 1977, the school added a multi-purpose building/gymnasium, a small classroom building in 1978, a music building in 1996, and an early childhood classroom and media center building in 2009. In the last several years, many enhancements have been made to the school plant and facilities including a new roof on the cafeteria and gymnasium, upgrades to the electrical system and restrooms, a wrought iron fence surrounding the campus, a security camera surveillance system, a new telephone/intercom system, numerous technology upgrades involving computers, iPads, and Promethean board installations in all classrooms, and a complete ceiling/lighting/window treatment renovation of the main building and cafeteria.
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary is the educational ministry of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish. The school is blessed with 58 exceptionally dedicated and talented full/part-time faculty and staff members, 99.9% of whom are Catholic. They embrace their role, not as a job, but a ministry, striving to develop self-discipline in their students by providing a challenging, values-oriented curriculum which fosters total growth and preparation for the future.
In 2006 St. Joseph became the first Catholic elementary school in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS) and is now accredited by AdvancED along with all other schools in our Diocese via the systems accreditation process. The school achieves excellent results on standardized testing and is confident in the quality of its curriculum. Furthermore, St. Joseph students traditionally graduate well prepared for the rigors of grades eight through twelve at E.D. White Catholic High School or other schools of parents’ choosing.
Currently St. Joseph educates about 680 students each year in grades pre-kindergarten through 7th grade. There are three sections of each grade level with a third section of Pre-K added in the 2013-14 school year. 71% of the families it serves are St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parishioners. 22% are Catholics from surrounding church parishes and 7% are students of other faiths who accept and embrace the school’s Catholic values and traditions. Currently 95% of the student body is classified as white with the remaining 5% split between African-American, Hispanic, and other nationalities. St. Joseph’s current ownership/governance model is based upon a “consultative council” serving in an advisory capacity to the pastor and the principal. Although the pastor has the final decision-making power regarding the school, the day-to-day operation of the school is in the hands of the school administration. The Advisory Council is largely responsible for recommending school policy, developing and approval of the annual budget, and for establishing a basic direction that the school undertakes, predicated upon approval of the pastor. The relationship among the pastor, principal and council is a close one.
St. Joseph is blessed to have very active involvement from its families. The Parent Teacher Club (P.T.C.) consists of elected volunteers who participate through various committees to generate funds through sponsored projects to assist with classroom supplies, computer software and hardware, playground equipment, facility enhancements, and similar needs. In addition, many parents and friends volunteer their services in numerous ways, such as substitute teachers, assisting teachers in the classroom, administering health/eye screenings, chaperoning field trips, and helping in many other ways. The endless energy and involvement of parents provide the children with wonderful role models of how to make a difference by getting involved in school and community matters.
The focus on being renewed in order to renew is ever-present and tightly woven throughout the school year by means of participation in a wide variety of religious oriented activities. These include weekly school mass and monthly parish liturgies, The Living Rosary, Thanksgiving Food Drive for needy families, Christmas Pageant, St. Joseph Altar, weekly Stations of the Cross, Passion Play, May Crowning, and an active service oriented Builders Club. The Catholic identity of St. Joseph School is visible to all who enter its doors and resonates through word, action, and deed. The daily operation of the school, the physical environment, and scheduled activities all reflect its strong Catholic identity.