School History

A History of St. Mary of the Assumption High School

Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish was organized in 1844 when Bishop Hughes of New York assigned the newly ordained Reverend Isaac P. Howell to minister to 25 parishioners. Many of these parishioners were Irish laborers working on the Morris Canal. By the time of his death in 1866, the number of parishioners had increased to 5,000.

Father Howell, in 1851, constructed the first school building next to the Church on Washington Avenue. It consisted of two large rooms and his teachers were laymen. In 1867 Reverend Michael E. Kane, the second pastor, added an addition to the front of the building.

In 1866, Father Kane also requested from Mother Mary Xavier a few Sisters of Charity to help run the school. Mother Xavier thus sent Sister Veronica and two Sisters to assist her to Saint Mary’s. Unfortunately, Father Kane gave them the additional duties of running an orphanage and they were withdrawn by the order. By 1869 the school, again staffed by Sisters of Charity, was well established. It was called “Catholic Institute – A Classical School”. It consisted of three grades with a faculty and staff of seven. The principal was Mr. John Dwyer, later Superintendent of Schools of Hudson County. Subjects offered included English, Philosophy, Astronomy, History, Bible History, Latin, Algebra, Surveying, Book-keeping and Penmanship. In addition, offered to the girls of the First Grade were Needlework, Embroidery and Music- vocal and instrumental.

In 1919 work was completed by Father James A. Lundy on a new school building located at the corner of South and South Broad Streets. It was called Saint Mary’s Grammar School and consisted of two stories only. The school, in addition to the classrooms, contained an auditorium complete with balcony and the largest stage in the city.

In 1930 extensive renovation was made. A third story was added, the auditorium converted into a gymnasium and Saint Mary’s High School was born. The school consisted of 18 boys and 27 girls of which 41 were from the parish and 4 were from other parishes. The first principal was Sister Maria Matthews.

The first class to graduate was the Class of 1934 which consisted of 7 boys and 11 girls. By this time the school had grown to a student enrollment of 149. The courses offered were “Classical and General”. In addition a two-year commercial course was offered. Approximately 33% of the students were in commercial. The school was accredited by the New Jersey Department of Education in 1933.

The school was re-accredited in 1948. Four years later 6 new classrooms, 2 in the grammar school and 4 in the high school, were added. This reflected the steady increase in the school enrollment which peaked in 1961- 62 with an enrollment of 730.

1961-62 was a turning point in the school’s history. Because of the construction of many archdiocesan regional high schools, the student enrollment began to decrease steadily reaching a low of 518 in 1972-73. Also during the decade the number of teaching nuns began to decrease, with a resultant increase in the number of lay teacher. An expansion of course offerings was also begun.

Since the mid ’70’s, enrollment had remained relatively constant at approximately the 400 mark. For the size of the school facility this is deemed ideal by the administration and staff. Course offerings have also expanded greatly with electives available on the sophomore, junior, and senior levels. Other than Religion, English, and Physical Educations, the non-commercial students now have the opportunity to elect all their courses on the senior level. Transcription has recently been introduced to the commercial students as a required course. In the future we hope to introduce word processing. The wide array of course offerings has been made possible in part , by the introduction of an open-end schedule.

The school facility was modified somewhat in the late 70’s and early 80’s by the construction of three resource centers and a school Chapel. During the summer of 1983 a computer center was established and Computer Science was introduced into the high school curriculum in September of 1983.