St. Joseph’s Catholic a leader from humble origins

GREENVILLE — The following information about St. Joseph’s Catholic School was provided by Keith Kiser, headmaster.

History: St. Joseph’s opened in 1993 with 13 students in a small house donated by a Lutheran Church. Six months later, it moved to a larger facility. In August 2000, Bishop Robert J. Baker recognized St. Joseph’s as a school approved by and within the Diocese of Charleston.

Principal: Keith F. Kiser.

Number of students: 508, with a capacity for 704.

Faculty: The school has 55 full-time and nine part-time faculty and staff members.

School motto: Striving to form the minds, hearts and souls of its students in the likeness of Christ.

Grades: Sixth through 12th.
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except Wednesday, when school ends early. The late-stay program is available to all students until 6 p.m. and provides snacks, study time and recreation.

School meals: The school has a cafeteria and students may choose a pre-ordered lunch for $3.50, prepared and delivered by an outside vendor, or items from our school store. Students have snack time instead of lunch on Wednesdays as they are dismissed at 1:15 p.m. Our parent guild volunteers help staff and serve at lunchtime.

School colors: Royal blue and white.

Mascot: Knight.

Sports: Soccer, cross-country, girls’ volleyball, basketball, swimming, baseball, softball, golf, cheerleading, tennis and wrestling.

Let us brag: The school has consistently been named one of America’s Best Catholic High Schools by the Catholic High School Honor Roll.

Foreign language: All of our students take Latin; French and Spanish start in eighth-grade.

Advanced classes: We offer Honors and AP classes for high school students who meet the prerequisites.

Academic teams: Quiz Bowl/Academic Team, Mathematics Team, Youth in Government, Junior Academy of Science, Junior Classical League, and Speech and Debate.

Facilities: We recently added a middle school wing, a library/media center and a new gymnasium. Baseball legend Tommy Lasorda and his wife Jo, whose family name already appears on the school’s baseball field, gave the initial contribution leading to the gym’s completion.

Biggest change over the years: In one word: growth. More students and teachers, a 36-acre campus, and an annual budget that went from $800 to almost $5 million.
What sets us apart: St. Joseph’s is unique among schools in the state in that it teaches middle school students in single-sex classrooms, allowing us to tailor our teaching methods to the particular needs of each sex. This practice also keeps a bit of middle school drama out of the classrooms.

Community projects: Stewardship hours are required of high school students, and everyone contributes to a year-long community service project.

Our parish: Our students come to us from various parishes across the Upstate, including Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson. We are in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish and our full-time chaplain is Father Dwight Longenecker.

Wishes for our school: We would love to retire the school’s capital debt, expand our facility, establish a scholarship endowment, and provide our faculty and staff with competitive salaries and benefits.

One change we would make to our school: We would like to see the Catholic culture of our school continue to mature so every aspect of school life is infused and informed by Christ’s living presence and will. We also would like to have band and strings programs.

How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: The student-driven Campus Ministry Team sponsors events such as orientations, class retreats and service projects. Father Longenecker has initiated summer mission opportunities for students to travel, serve and learn about the worldwide church.

Our top awards or honors are: Outstanding Christian Athlete, the Father Fox Award, and the St. Joseph Redemptoris Custos Award.

Music/art: Along with regular classes, we have many extracurricular opportunities for students.

Average scores on the IOWA test: Well above the national average.

Do you have programs for students with disabilities? Yes, we have the St. Thomas Aquinas Program.

What percentage of students are Catholic? 78 percent.