St. Mary is blessed by a long history with sisters

GREENVILLE — Sister Anna Grace Neenan, principal of St. Mary School, provided the following information.

History: St. Mary dates back over 107 years to the founding of Sacred Heart Academy by the Ursuline Order of Sisters. In 1930, the present elementary building was constructed and named St. Mary School. Three years later, operation of the school was taken over by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy of the Diocese of Charleston. In 1962, a middle school was opened. Today, the school is under the guidance of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation of Nashville, Tenn.

Principal: Dominican Sister Anna Grace Neenan.

Number of students: We have 293 and can accommodate about 300.

Faculty: The school has 11 full-time and five part-time teachers with a support staff of 11.

School motto: Tradition, Virtue, Excellence.

Grades: K-4 through eighth-grade.
Hours: 8:10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After-school program: Before-school care begins at 7:30 a.m. and the after-school program runs until 6 p.m. with snacks, playtime and homework.

School meals: Our PTO coordinates lunch with food provided by vendors or cooked on-site by volunteers.

School colors: Blue and white.

Mascot: St. Mary’s Duck.

Sports: Our middle school students enjoy membership in the Carolina Middle School Conference (CMSC) and compete in basketball, golf, girls’ volleyball and cross-country. Our boys won the State Diocesan Basketball Tournament in 2006 and the girls won it in 2007. Both basketball teams won the CMSC in 2006 and the girls volleyball team placed second in the conference in 2007. Our students also compete in a city-wide church basketball program.

Let us brag: We are especially proud of our current middle school program, which offers a unique blend of academics, enrichment programs, technology, spiritual formation and leadership opportunities.

Foreign language: Students study elementary Spanish in grades K-5 through seventh, and elementary French in sixth- and seventh-grades.

Advanced classes: Our eighth-grade students take algebra and English honors classes, and Spanish or French for high school credit.
Academic teams/clubs: Math Counts, Kids Are Authors, Book Club and Chess Club.
Facilities: In 2006, our middle school reopened after a $2.2 million renovation. Among the enhancements was the installation of SMART boards in each classroom, student laptops, handheld computers and wireless technology.

Biggest change over the years: In 1998, K-4 was added to the school community and the Msgr. Charles J. Baum Recreation Center was dedicated, followed in 2000 by the complete restoration of Gallivan Hall into a performing arts center for the school, and in 2001 the Jamile J. Francis Athletic Field was dedicated.

What sets us apart: St. Mary’s has been blessed to be under the guidance of religious sisters since its opening. Currently, four Dominican sisters are on the staff as principal and teachers.

Community projects: Student outreach includes community service to the Meyer Center for Special Children, Magnolia Manor, Camp Courage, Birthright of Greenville, Diamonds in the Ruff, United Ministries Charity Walk and Saturday Bag Lunch.

Our parish: St. Mary Church with Father Jay Scott Newman, pastor.
Wishes for our school: To continue cultivating our heritage steeped in Catholic tradition where our students grow in an environment with a love for learning, a spirit of service, and a deep faith rooted in the truth and love of Jesus Christ.

One change we would make: To increase the diversity of extracurricular activities that are offered.

How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: This year, we began a Virtue Education Program, which includes the study and application of virtues as well as a study of saints who have lived out those virtues.

Our top awards or honors are: This year, St. Mary’s Middle School students submitted non-fiction essays to Creative Communications, a nation–wide essay contest. Of the 70 entries, 48 were invited to be published. This ratio placed St. Mary in the top 10 percent of participating schools. A seventh-grade student won first place overall at the Greenville County and South Carolina Regional Science and Engineering Fair in 2007 as well as the Director Award, and first place in engineering. An eighth-grader won second place overall at the Stella Watson Piedmont Math Counts Competition in 2006.

Music/art programs: The Fine Arts Program strives to cultivate a love for beauty, truth and goodness. We offer a Performing Arts Class as part of our music curriculum, as well as music appreciation and the fundamentals of reading music. Students sing in church choir and the Christmas program, and a spring play is presented by our eighth-graders. We are excited to announce the formation of a band program for the 2008-09 school year.

Average scores on the IOWA test: The eighth-grade average is in the 90th percentile and the school average is above the 85th percentile.

Alumni of national or local note: Father Michael Cassabon; Rita McKinney, a former S.C. Secretary of Labor; Mills Gallivan, a senior partner of Gallivan, White & Boyd; Steve Francis, president of Francis Produce; and Jimmy Francis, president of Easlan Capital.

What percentage of students are Catholic? About 95 percent.