Zeal for Christian Education was the outstanding characteristic of pioneer Californians. Every effort was made by those who were leaders to further educational improvements in their own day and to ensure its permanency and progress for the future.
In 1903, when Saint Thomas the Apostle was founded, the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary undertook the education of the parochial school children, both the girls of girls or grammar and high school, and the boys of the primary school. In 1906, the boys of the junior high were added under the guidance of Sister M. Counsel. In 1908 a two-story structure was erected on Pico Street, next to the church by Pastor Monsignor J.J. Clifford. This building was quickly deemed inadequate to serve the growing parish and plans were begun for a new school building in 1921.
Through the cooperation and generosity of the parishioners, a state of the art school building was opened for students in 1930 on Fifteenth Street. It offered a Social Hall for the parish and an auditorium able to seat 250 people. Reverend John Gallagher was the pastor and Sister M. Gerard was the principal.
In its early days , St. Thomas School served the children of old California families. The population was predominantly German and Irish. The shift to the present predominantly Spanish-speaking population began in the 1940’s. Academic excellence has always been a priority at St. Thomas and serving large numbers of students has always been a tradition. As early as 1925-1926, the total number of students was 278. During the 1950’s, the total enrollment peaked to over 400 students.
The Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary served St. Thomas School for over half a century until 1968. The Sisters of Mercy assumed responsibility for the school in September, 1968 and served for twenty years. In 1988, the Sisters of the Holy Name assumed the role of administrators of the school. Two years later, in 1990, St. Thomas School employed a lay principal and an entirely lay faculty for the first time in its history. In 1992, St. Thomas was awarded a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the Unites States Department of Education. In 1996, our community initiated St. Thomas School Heritage, a development program to ensure the long-term stability of our great school.
The campaign for St. Thomas the Apostle began in the mid-1900’s with the design of a master plan that included the renovation of the existing school building, the addition of a new hall, kitchen, new classroom space and subterranean parking. The construction phase of this project began in late May of 2008 and was completed in May 2010. The new space allows us to offer secular and spiritual programming which enables the School and Parish to successfully serve and positively impact the lives of many more in the community by giving them the education, spiritual, and social service programs they need and deserve.
We honor the rich history of St. Thomas the Apostle School and we are committed to continue to grow as a faith community and leave our own legacy.
Several St. Thomas alumni have entered the priesthood. The three listed below are serving their communities as Bishops:
- Bishop Gabino Zavala, Class of 1965
- Bishop Gordon Bennett, Class of 1960
- Bishop Alex Salazar, Class of 1964