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History of Saint Clare School

St. Clare's Church, Great Kills, Staten Island, was originally a Mission of St. Patrick's Church, Richmondtown, during 1918-1925. The Presentation Sisters began St. Clare's Religious Education program in the church's rented hall on Giffords Lane in 1922, and planning soon began for a parish school.

On September 14, 1936, after a cost of approximately $175,000 despite the burden of the Great Depression, St. Clare School opened its doors on Lindenwood Road, staffed by the devoted Presentation Sisters commuting daily. The cornerstone was inscribed "PRO DEO ET PATRIA" (For God And Country). The main floor housed four classrooms and a gym/auditorium that doubled as a lunchroom (seating capacity 700). The second floor contained four more classrooms as well as a Teacher's Lunchroom and Principal's Office. The School was designed by parishioner Daniel P. Higgins, who also designed St. Clare's old Church (today's Chapel) and many prominent American buildings.

St. Clare School recorded a milestone in the spring of 1938 when a class of 16 eighth-graders became its first graduates. By the following year, the Senior Class had nearly doubled to include 28 students. Kindergarten began in 1945 when World War Two ended. The Mothers' Club (1945) and Fathers' Club (1950) soon became active organizations supporting the School with enthusiastic family involvement.

During the 1950s, Great Kills grew at an extraordinary rate, and the newly approved Narrows Bridge (today's Verrazzano) was sure to bring even more residents to Staten Island from Brooklyn. The time had come to move ahead on expanding the parish facilities. In February 1956, the Mansfield House and property, adjacent to the Church, were purchased to serve as the site for the new Church and the expanded School.

Construction preparations involved relocating classes to make way for the School's new wing, as well as physically moving the old Church to allow space for the new Church's foundation. By September 1959, the School addition was ready for students. The three-story annex, faced in brick and limestone, doubled the capacity of the School by adding ten classrooms and a fully equipped cafeteria. Finally, it seemed, there was enough space to accommodate the student body. The new St. Clare Church and the expanded School (connected by two indoor passageways) were officially blessed and dedicated on May 22, 1960, by Francis Cardinal Spellman, followed by St. Clare's Presentation Convent in April 1964 and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in November.

St. Clare's challenges of the 1960s were met head-on. The Second Vatican Council brought about many important reforms for the Church and its education programs, including the change from Latin Mass to English. In 1965, there was an integration of St. Clare's male and female students, who had been taught in separate parts of the School for years.


Architecture award for Pre-Kindergarten
Pre-kindergarten started in 1977, initially using the same rented hall on Giffords Lane where St. Clare's began more than a half-century earlier. Pre-K received its own space in 1979 with the opening of the parish's Cardinal Cooke Center on Nelson Avenue. A major 2001 renovation added playfully modern colors and shapes that earned an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

In 1987, more construction ensued for the "Big School," creating the Hicks Center to meet the growing needs of St. Clare students. This new wing of the School building included a library, computer lab, science room, and offices. Saint Clare's congregation continued to expand, becoming the largest in the entire Archdiocese of New York.

June 2004 saw, with the retirement of Sister Rosemary Ward, the end of the long and dedicated ministry of the Presentation Sisters at St. Clare School. The selfless devotion of these good women helped immeasurably to make St. Clare the school of "Faith, Service, Excellence" that it is today, and the Sisters' tremendous contributions will never be forgotten.


Innovation award for St. Clare School
The School's science and technology aspects were greatly modernized through the 1990s and into the 21st century. In 2008, St. Clare received a "Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award for Innovations in Education," one of only twelve schools nationwide. Students in the science enrichment program have earned frequent recognition for major community projects, and have been strong competitors in international robotics tournaments.

In 2011, St. Clare School marked its 75th Anniversary with events including a pair of special Masses led by Father Edmund Dobbin (Class of 1949) and Archbishop Timothy Dolan. The archbishop returned as Cardinal in 2018 to lead a prayer service for the School and a feast-day Mass for the Religious Education students, as well as blessing the updated computer lab.

Centered on a strong Catholic foundation and spiritual values, St. Clare School continues to provide a solid education based on New York State Standards and the archdiocesan Safe Environment Program. From pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, boys and girls who attend St. Clare are promised a safe and orderly environment in which to learn, as well as an excellent education preparing them for successful futures.

Principals of Saint Clare School:
1. Mother Mary Dominic Ward, P.B.V.M. (1936-1943)
2. Sister Mary John, P.B.V.M. (1943-1951)
3. Sister Mary Monica, P.B.V.M. (1951-1964)
4. Sister Mary Assisium, P.B.V.M. (1964-1986)
5. Sister Rosemary Ward, P.B.V.M. (1986-2004)
6. Mrs. Jo N. Rossicone (2004-2015)
7. Mrs. Theresa M. Signorile (2015- )


See also:
History of Saint Clare Parish