The History of St. Joseph Catholic Elementary
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School, located at the corner of Menard Street and Cardinal Drive, opened its doors in September of 1962 to welcome just under 300 boys and girls in grades K-6; two years later 7th grade was added. Currently the grade level configuration is Pre-K 4 through 7th grade. It was originally formed as a consolidation of elementary students from 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 building 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, gymnasium, and 2nd and 3rd grade classroom building, new suspended ceilings and LED light fixtures in the main building, cafeteria, and 2nd and 3rd grade building, new flooring throughout the cafeteria, new LED lights in the gymnasium, upgrades to the electrical system and restrooms, a wrought iron fence surrounding the campus, a security camera surveillance system, an elevator in the main building, and numerous technology upgrades involving computers, iPads, and Promethean board installations in all classrooms. A new playground structure was installed in the summer of 2018.
St. Joseph Catholic Elementary is the educational ministry of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish. The school is co-educational and exists to educate the youth of the area spiritually, morally, socially and academically, in a Christ-centered environment. Thirty-five lay teachers plus an administrative and support staff are dedicated to fostering self-discipline in its students by providing a values-oriented curriculum which fosters total growth and preparation for the future.
St. Joseph became the first Catholic elementary school in the diocese to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS), culminating a two-year effort. It enjoys strong results on standardized testing programs and feels its educational quality to be above the norm. Furthermore, St. Joseph students traditionally graduate well prepared for the rigors of grades eight through 12 at E.D. White Catholic High School or other schools of parents’ choosing.
Currently St. Joseph teaches about 676 students each year in grades pre-kindergarten through 7th grade. While the school primarily serves families of St. Joseph Parish, it also serves 18 other Catholic parishes and non-Catholics who embrace Catholic values and traditions. St. Joseph’s current ownership/governance model is based upon a “Consultative School Board” 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 Consultative School Board 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 board is a close one.
St. Joseph is blessed to have active involvement from its families. The Parent Teacher Club (PTC) 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, 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, Advent and Lenten Reconciliations at school, Christmas Pageant, weekly Stations of the Cross, Passion Play, May Crowning, and an active service-oriented Student Council and 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 identity.