History of St. Justin Martyr School



THE HISTORY OF ST. JUSTIN MARTYR SCHOOL

During the mid and late 1950’s, Catholic schools in Anaheim and the surrounding area were overflowing with students. Some parents camped out in tents and sleeping bags in church parking lots the night before school registration in hopes of reserving places for their children. With the opening of the new St. Justin Martyr Parish in 1958, parents were delighted with the prospect of their own new Catholic school.

Construction of the church and the front portion of St. Justin Martyr School began in November, 1958, on land that had previously been a chicken ranch and orange grove owned by the Stehly family. Eight classrooms and the offices of the school were completed during the summer of 1959. On September 13, 1959, the new school hosted its first Open House, and the next day, September 14, the doors opened to receive approximately 300 students in Grades 1, 2, and 3.

Fr. Hugh O'Connor, pastor of the new parish, had finalized a contract with the Felician Sisters to teach at the school, however, they were unable to provide their services that school year. To begin operation of the school, Fr. O'Connor enlisted five lay teachers to assume the task of teaching the children. There were sixty students in each of the two first grades, two second grades, and one third grade, all under the leadership of the first principal, Mrs. Juliet Rock.

Three Felician Sisters, including the new principal, Sister Mary Nazarita, arrived in the fall of 1960 to teach in the school. There was no convent, so they lived in a nearby house rented to them by the Stehly family. The sisters were able to move into the new convent built for them on Empire Street in September, 1961.

By September, 1961, eight more classrooms were added to the school building. With the arrival of the sisters, one grade was added each year until 1964, when the school enrollment peaked at 964 students. Each of the Grades 1 through 8 consisted of two classes, averaging sixty students each. This high enrollment continued throughout the 1960’s.

In 1969, because of a decrease in enrollment, a vacant classroom was converted to a permanent library and resource center, and in 1975, as a result of a change in socio-economic conditions in the area, the enrollment was reduced to 512, and some grades consisted of only one classroom. In 1980, the population of Southwest Anaheim stabilized and the number of families with school-age children decreased. The enrollment remained at approximately 440 for five years, and as a result, vacant classrooms were utilized as a faculty lounge, religion center, and music room.

In 1983, a kindergarten class was established, and in 1986, an Extended School Day Care facility was added in response to the needs of working and single parent families. In 1987, the pastor and principal decided that as a result of an additional decrease in enrollment, and because many families with young children could not afford homes in the area, it would be necessary to limit the number of classrooms to nine, i.e., one each for Grades K-8. During the years 1986 to 1988, science and computer labs, and an art room were established in vacant classrooms. A part-time counseling service has been available to the students since 1995. An Outdoor Education science program has been offered to the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders since 1996.

Through the years St. Justin Martyr School has had many dedicated and talented faculty members on staff. The Felician Community generously provided sisters to teach in the school, and at one time, the faculty consisted of ten sisters and six lay teachers. The sisters maintained supervision of the school until June, 1993. Then, because of a lack of vocations, it was no longer possible for their community to provide St. Justin’s with teaching sisters. The school’s current faculty and staff consists of: the principal, vice principal, nine lay teachers in Grades kindergarten through 8, and part-time music, computer, physical education, and art/drama teachers. The supportive staff includes: aides in grades K, 1, and 3; two part-time counselors; an Extended School Day Care Director and three assistants; four coaches; a secretary and two receptionists.

Since the beginning of the parish, the parents and parishioners have been vital to the success and growth of the school. Beginning with their initial tithing and pledges for the building fund, and continuing through the years with countless participation in fundraisers, their financial support has proved to be an invaluable means of sustaining the school in its efforts to provide a holistic Catholic education for the students.

In the early days of the parish, the Men’s Club and Women’s Council gave countless volunteer hours towards the development and maintenance of the school, and helped the teachers with various jobs. Since then, other parent groups have been organized including a Parish Board of Education in 1967, the Parent Teacher Organization (P.T.O.) in 1981, and the School Board in 1988. The advisory members of the School Board assist the pastor and principal in promoting the long range educational mission of the school, and determine its financial planning, development, and public relations.

The P.T.O. is a very important aspect of parental involvement and is still very active today. This organization offers parents the opportunity to promote communication, good will, volunteerism, and cooperation among parents, faculty, administration, the School Board, and the parish. In addition, it offers financial support to the school by coordinating fundraisers. Some of the fund-raisers held over the years include candy sales, gift wrap sales, bingo, car raffles, bake sales, fish fries, pancake breakfasts, dances, Las Vegas nights, silent auctions, rummage sales, scrip and e-scrip sales, craft fairs, fashion shows, the Parish Festival, and Country Fair.

The students are also encouraged to take pride in their service to the parish, community, and church. For years the students have contributed money during Advent and Lent to the Holy Childhood Association. They collect funds for the American Heart Association and other charities through participation in the Jump Rope for Heart and Math-a-Thon programs. They have canned food drives for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and collect candy and treats for poor children in Mexico. They regularly participate in parish liturgies by providing altar servers, readers, cantors, and a choir. Collections and drives for various other worthy causes have also been held. Information on these events and all the news of the school can be read weekly in the school newsletter, called Informative Tidbits, or the IT.

Perhaps the most significant tribute to the influences which St. Justin Martyr School played in their lives, is evidenced by the number of former students who have sent their children and grandchildren to the school to perpetuate the legacy of the Catholic education which they themselves received.

Since its establishment in 1959, many changes have taken place in St. Justin Martyr Parish School and the local community.  St. Justin is now the only Catholic elementary school remaining in Anaheim; declining enrollments caused the closure of both St. Boniface School and St. Anthony Claret School.  But commitment to the Catholic message and goals has not changed. Because of the dedication and support of countless sisters, lay teachers, parents, priests, and parishioners, the school has produced thousands of students and graduates who remain firm in their faith and are productive and loyal Catholic citizens of our country.

The school's principals:  Mrs. Juliet Rock, 1959-1960; Sister Mary Nazarita, 1960-1966; Sister Mary Theogenia (Sister Jeanne Marie Slovina), 1966-1969; Sister Mary Bernardia Jenrush, 1969-1972; Sister Joan Marie Slovina, 1972-1978; Sister Mary Doris Scheberle, 1978-1983; Sister Alice Mary Pruss, 1983-1986; Sister Christina Marie Conroy, 1986-1993; Mrs. Kathleen Falcone, 1993-2008; and Mrs. Jan Balsis, 2008-present.

St. Justin Martyr Parish History

Sacred Heart Mission History