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St. Pius X Catholic High School was opened in 1958 as the first high school of the newly established Diocese of Atlanta. It was the first large educational effort of the new diocese, and it was meant to be the first of several regional high schools located around the metropolitan area.
The founder of our school was in a very real way the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Cornelius L. Maloney, Ph.D. As the first Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the fledgling diocese, he was, with the support of Bishop Francis E. Hyland, our first bishop, the moving force behind the building of this school. A truly remarkable man in many ways, Msgr. Maloney was not only the superintendent of the diocese's schools, but simultaneously the founding pastor of neighboring Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.
As the school opened its doors in September, 1958, few of the classrooms had even enough furniture to accommodate the 418 students entering St. Pius that year. Both the building and the school community were new and incomplete. Under the leadership of our first principal, Fr. James Harrison, M.A., and the staff of 15 sisters, six lay teachers, and one priest, the school quickly developed a unity and a spirit all its own. Many of these first students came from the recently closed parish high schools at the Cathedral of Christ the King and Sacred Heart Parish. They brought with them the experiences and traditions of their former schools and contributed these to this new community.
From the very beginning St. Pius was unique among the Catholic high schools of Georgia. It was the state's first Catholic co-educational secondary school. Although most other Catholic high schools in the state were staffed by single religious orders, St. Pius was staffed by four different religious orders of women (Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy) as well as lay teachers and diocesan priests. Like some dioceses in other parts of the country, the school administration invited these religious orders each to staff specific departments in the school. St. Pius has been truly blessed by the ministry of so many religious sisters and priests over its history.
During the first decade of its life while under the leadership of Fr. Harrison and the school's second principal, Fr. Jack Cotter, St. Pius grew rapidly both in numbers and academic reputation. By 1969 the school had almost doubled its enrollment and in that year graduated 180 students -- quite an increase from that first graduating class in 1959 of 64 girls and 8 boys! The school's faculty consisted of 49 members with 24 sisters and priests and 25 lay teachers. Having attained accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools early in its history, the school rightly boasted of a fine college-prep program along traditional lines. It is perhaps no accident that by the late 1960's, St. Pius X held State Champion titles in both football and debate for, by then, excellence in both sports and academics were a well-established part of the school's program and spirit.
During this period of the 1960's, the school community continued to grow and to be fed by new life and diversity. With the closure of Drexel High School in 1967, the first black students entered St. Pius. These students brought with them the hopes and aspirations that had been a part of Drexel. Two years later D' Youville Academy, a private Catholic school for girls, closed and students from this school also came to St. Pius and contributed from their own traditions and experiences. This period of our history also saw the arrival of sisters from the Monroe, Michigan, Province of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Community.
As the first decade of our history was closing, the school community began a period of serious self-evaluation. St. Pius X had a solid reputation for academic excellence. It had always sought the best ways to help its students to learn. It had always been a creative school, never fully content with any singular approach to instruction or syllabus of studies. It was natural, therefore, that as the school community looked at itself and sought ways to do a good job better, it should seriously consider the new and innovative techniques of instruction and curriculum development which were an important part of educational development during the late 1960's and early 1970's.
Under the leadership of our third principal, Fr. Richard A. Kieran, M.A., St. Pius began in the early 1970's experimenting with a number of these educational innovations which, for want of a better term, are generally called "open classroom" techniques. It was an exciting and creative period in the school's history. Class times and meeting days were varied through "modular scheduling systems." Curriculum was developed at an accelerated pace. Greater individualization was sought through materials such as "LAPS" (Learning Activity Packets). Students were challenged to assume greater responsibility for their education and personal decision making.
In 1973 Fr. James Sexstone, M.A., assumed the principalship of the school and continued the process of developing the school's program along "open classroom" lines. While St. Pius adopted and adapted programs and techniques that had been developed in other schools and universities, it also created programs which were the fruit of its own labors, and it was proud of its accomplishments. With the 1975-76 school year, however, Fr. Sexstone and the school community began a serious evaluation of the six years of experimentation. While everyone was impressed with the tremendous development that had taken place in curriculum during this time, there were serious concerns about the ability of students in this school community to assume the large degree of personal responsibility for their education demanded by the "open system" and the ability of our school plant to house such a program.
With the appointment of Fr. Terry W. Young, M. Div., M. Ed., to the principalship in 1976, the school community began a period of restructuring and reorganizing its program around the greatly diversified curriculum that had been developed during the "open classroom" period. In addition, new programs were introduced to meet the needs of underachieving students and students with learning problems. A pastoral ministry program was begun to better meet the spiritual needs of the students. In all, a new period of creativity and growth had begun for the school, a school now even more keenly aware of the richness which lay in the intellectual, social, and ethnic diversity of its people.
During the decade of the 1970's, the school continued to grow physically and to be enriched by new students and teachers. After 17 years of planning and hard work, a gymnasium activity center was dedicated in 1975. Four more classrooms were built to meet the needs of the new annual enrollment of 830 students and 59 teachers. With the closure of St. Joseph's High School in 1976, the school community was again enriched with the experiences and traditions of another great Catholic high school. The arrival of students and teachers from St. Joseph gave St. Pius the added blessing of increasing its black student population from 1% to 10% in one year! And, during this decade other communities, i.e., the Ursulines, Benedictines, and Humility of Mary, sent sisters to serve at St. Pius X.
By 1979 the growing number of students seeking admission to St. Pius and the need for new facilities to house its developing arts program, computer education, and ever-expanding library collection, all seemed to indicate the need for significant expansion of the school's facilities. In addition, as the school was aging, there was a need for renovation of the existing facilities. Fr. Young brought these needs to the Archdiocesan Board of Education but was asked to delay any further work on plans for alleviating these problems until the board finished its investigation on the possibility of building another archdiocesan high school. Within a year the board finished its study and determined that a new high school was not feasible at that time. Fr. Young and his colleagues then began an exhaustive study of the school's needs. The process of significant expansion had begun!
The next few years saw the creation of architectural plans for an expanded St. Pius, and the launching of an archdiocesan capital funds drive which included monies for the expansion of the school. Demand for admission to the school continued to be strong. Finally, on May 24, 1984, Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan broke ground for a new building. After some further delays, work actually began in late September, 1984.
The 1984-85 school year was a difficult one in many ways. Like the 1958-59 school year when students and teachers had to bear with the inconvenience of an incomplete facility, those who attended St. Pius during the great year of construction had much with which to contend! Yet, the good will of all and the common vision of a new and greatly expanded facility sustained everyone during those hectic days. Finally on October 26, 1985, Archbishop Donnellan dedicated the new 400-seat performing arts center, facilities for dance, drama, and music, a 36,000 volume library, a beautifully renovated chapel, a computer lab, additional classrooms, and a renovated cafeteria and gym. Later that year, in the spring of 1986, a new track was also constructed. Changes were experienced in all areas of the school. The Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and the Sisters of Charity of Mt. St. Vincent sent sisters to St. Pius as other sisters left to go on to new ministries. Finally, the biggest change of all was the addition of 100 more students as the school began the 1985-1986 year with 975 students!
At the end of the 1989-90 school year Fr. Young announced his resignation as principal which would be effective June 30, 1991. At the beginning of the next school year a committee composed of parents, teachers, alumni, and archdiocesan representatives was appointed to search for a new principal on behalf of Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM, Ph.D. The archdiocese had previously indicated that an archdiocesan priest would not be appointed to this position. At Fr. Young's last Mass as principal he talked about his long 15-year administration as one marked by difficulties and accomplishments, trials and fruitfulness. In all, he felt that his ministry during those years could best be summarized by the words of St. Teresa of Avila: "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo." ("I shall sing forever of the mercies of the Lord.")
Mr. Donald T. Sasso, C.A.I.S., was appointed principal on July 1, 1991, the school’s sixth principal. Under Mr. Sasso’s leadership the 90's were an exciting and vital period in the continued growth of St. Pius X.
The Donnellan Center, replacing the old “Lions’ Den,” was dedicated in October 1992 providing locker rooms, showers, coaches’ offices and weight rooms for our sports teams. Additionally, the building provided offices for the Development and Alumni staff. A renewed effort went into both these programs resulting in an active alumni organization and significantly increased and broad-based annual fund and other financial support to St. Pius from all those associated with the school.
Maloney Hall, the original school building, received a complete exterior facelift in 1993 with all new windows and a brick facade to enhance its energy efficiency and appearance.
During the 1994-1995 school year, Mr. Sasso led a group of faculty and staff in the formation of a long range strategic plan to define the needs and vision of the school into the Twenty-first Century. Primary in that review was the need for additional and up-graded classroom and other space. With the approval and financial support of the Archdiocese, construction started in the summer of 1997 and was completed for the 1998-1999 school year. A science wing with seven labs and seven classrooms, an additional gymnasium, additional lockers, and major renovations in Maloney Hall as well as paint and carpet for all the buildings was included in the project. The “core” of Maloney Hall, known to generations of students as the science and home economics areas, was gutted and replaced with computer labs, classrooms, a hallway, and new guidance and campus ministry offices. Additionally, an extensive computer technology effort was completed resulting in computers being integrated throughout the curriculum and all aspects of the school.
In April 2000, Mr. Sasso was appointed Secretary for Education for the Archdiocese of Atlanta by Archbishop John F. Donoghue. Mrs. Ruth McCullough was appointed interim principal through June 2000.
Mr. Stephen W. Spellman, Ed.S. became principal on July 1, 2000. Mr. Spellman brought thirty years experience as a teacher and senior administrator in the Gwinnett County School System. Mr. Spellman is married to Maureen O’Shea Spellman, a graduate of the St. Pius X Class of 1970.
During the 2001-2002 school year, Mr. Spellman led the community in a strategic planning process which culminated in the 2002 Strategic Plan and a campus master plan. From there a fund raising feasibility study was performed and a final plan put in place for the school’s first major capital campaign, Building on Faith. The campaign’s silent phase was begun in February of 2003 with the campaign going public in September 2003. In March 2004, construction commenced on the renovation and enlargement of the stadium and cafeteria and the addition of 10,000 square feet of space to the fine arts wing. When completed in early January 2005, the construction had completely transformed those three parts of the campus.
The newly renamed George B. Maloof stadium was doubled in size. A new concession stand and press box were erected, and Sprint Turf was installed on the field. The cafeteria and kitchen were enlarged and renovated, reducing lunch periods to three during each school day. A new bookstore and copy room were located in former classroom space in Maloney Hall. The Fine Arts addition included a band/choral/guitar classroom with ample storage, practice, and office space, a new art room, enlarged dance and drama rooms, and new dressing rooms and storage space. The project also included a renovation of the journalism room, the breezeway, and student restrooms. In addition, a significant portion of funds was added to the school’s endowment.
The 2007-2008 school year witnessed the celebration of St. Pius’ 50 th year. The yearlong celebration included Mass in the stadium and a carnival to open the school year on the feast day of St. Pius X; a grand homecoming and reunion weekend extravaganza in the fall; the “Golden Gala” auction and dinner in February; and a May graduation which included the return of members of the first graduating class.
As one looks at St. Pius X now and compares it to that new, little Catholic high school which opened in 1958, one cannot help but be struck by both the changes that have taken place and the values that have endured. St. Pius has more than doubled its enrollment in the past two decades and increased its faculty by 150%. Many more lay people staff the school now as compared to the beginning years of St. Pius X which is a reflection of the drastic changes in the culture of our Church. The school still offers a comprehensive college-prep program with nineteen advanced placement classes. Also, it has greatly expanded its computer education programs as well as increased its campus ministry, guidance, and health services. Although the largest percentage of the students still comes from the northern half of the metro area, there is a growing number of students coming from other sections of metropolitan Atlanta. There are, in fact, students coming to St. Pius X from every public school district in the seven-county metro area! The sports program has grown and diversified greatly in the past 10 years. St. Pius X is represented in inter-scholastic competition by 24 varsity teams and nearly three quarters of its students participate in these events, with equal support for both girls and boys sports.
Yet, while one looks at all this change, there is a sense that this change is, for the most part, a growth stemming from seeds planted in the past rather than a departure from the past. What we are and what we are becoming is grounded very much in the goals and aspirations of those who have gone before us. The visions, achievements, and successes of our predecessors inspire the present community to work for excellence in academics, athletics, the arts, and everything in which it is involved. But, most of all, St. Pius is and always has been essentially a faith community. In everything, the community is always drawn back to its roots and its identity which is captured in the motto: "Domini Sumus," "We are the Lord's!"