History of our School
Notre Dame Catholic School (NDCS) opened its doors to the Hernando County community as St. Theresa’s School in 1985 with fourteen students in a combined first/second grade class. Its founder, and first school pastor, Msgr. John Scully, held the pastoral leadership from 1985 to 1991. St. Theresa School entered an interparochial agreement in 1991 with Rev. Anthony D’Angelo appointed as school pastor. Msgr. Scully resumed the pastoral leadership from 1993 to 1999. Rev. James McAteer, IC, was appointed pastor at St. Theresa Catholic Church in 1999 and assumed the role of the school pastor until 2000.
The first appointed Principal was Sister Giovannina Saleeb, SNJM (1985-1989). The school was originally housed in small classrooms in the church buildings. As the enrollment increased, portable classrooms were added. A model home was donated by Mackel Brothers Builders which became the first permanent building structure, housing the school office and classrooms. The enrollment continued a steady growth in the following years resulting in the addition of the early childhood program, kindergarten classroom and new grades added each year. The first class of students graduated from eighth grade in 1991.
From 1989 to 1997, Mrs. Mary Johnson held the position as Principal of the school. During her tenure she oversaw the transition of the school from St. Theresa School to Notre Dame Interparochial School in 1992. She initiated the financial campaign for the two-phase construction of a permanent school building.
Mrs. Maureen Wickert became the third administrator in the fall of 1997. The school reached its maximum occupancy to-date in 1999. She led the completion and dedication in 1999 of Phase I of the construction of the permanent school building and the gymnasium. The St. Theresa Church community funded the building of Msgr. John Scully Gymnasium to benefit the needs of the school’s physical education, sports programs and the church community. Students in early childhood (age 3) through grade 4, middle school science classroom, an administration office and guidance services remained housed in portables, awaiting the completion of Phase II.
Msgr. John Cippel, Pastor at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, was appointed School Pastor in 2000. The decline in enrollment, budgetary constraints, administrative changes, faculty transitions and deterioration of the portable buildings presented challenges for the Administrative team beginning in 2000. In consultation with the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey, Msgr. Cippel secured the assignment of four religious sisters to NDCS. Sister Eileen Marie Woodbury, FSSE, joined the faculty as Principal in 2001, while the other Sisters were assigned faculty positions.
A continued decline in enrollment, and increased financial difficulties, contributed to the need for further re-organization of NDCS. In 2004 Most Rev. Bishop Robert Lynch, in consultation with the interparochial Pastors, the Superintendent of Schools and Centers and the School Administration, dissolved the interparochial agreement, and NDCS was placed under the direction of the Principal, Sister Eileen Marie Woodbury, and the Superintendent of Schools and Centers of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, Brother John Cummings, F.M.S.. Msgr. John Cippel continued his support of the school in the capacity of Spiritual Director.
In July, 2006, Bishop Robert Lynch appointed Rev. Richard Jankowski (Pastor at St. Frances Cabrini) as School Pastor and reinstated the interparochial status of the school.
The name of the school remained Notre Dame Catholic School, rather than Notre Dame Interparochial School, facilitating its continued recognition as a Catholic School.
In January of 2005, the St. Francis of Assisi Building (modular building) was purchased by the Diocese of St. Petersburg for NDCS. This building held classrooms, administrative offices, guidance services, music and art classes, and a faculty lunch-/work-room. In 2010, the classrooms were rearranged to better meet the needs of the students, including the remodeling of the Early Childhood (three-four year olds and Kindergarten) building and the construction of a new computer lab. The staff received new laptop computers and SMART Boards were added to the majority of the classrooms. In the fall of 2011, the janitorial building was remodeled into a classroom for Extended Day and Title I services. The current facilities at NDCS can accommodate a total of 310 students, grades EC-3 to 8th.
Sister Eileen Marie Woodbury, FSSE was principal of NDCS from 2001 through the spring of 2010. At that time, Dr. Lou E. Whitaker was appointed principal for a two year pilot program relating to having one administrator for two Catholic schools.
From 2010-2012, Dr. Whitaker was the principal of both Notre Dame Catholic School and St. John Paul II Catholic School in Lecanto, Florida. The One Principal/Two Schools model had an Assistant Principal, Mr. Fred Pendleton for the first year at NDCS. In October of the second year, Mr. Pendleton resigned and Ms. Tonya Peters stepped forward to complete the school year. She was currently the Assistant Principal at St. John Paul II Catholic School and agreed to assist Dr. Whitaker in the administration of both schools. At the end of the school year, the pilot program was completed and the current principal returned to St. John Paul II, June 2012.
In April 2012, NDCS was named one of seven schools to join the new diocesan model. Notre Dame became part of the Catholic School System of the Diocese of St. Petersburg under the direction of Superintendent, Mr. Alberto Vázquez Matos. This required an adjustment to both the governance and financial support of the school.
In July of 2012, Deacon Scott J. Conway was appointed to lead the school. Under his guidance; Notre Dame transitioned from an Early Childhood 4 program into a Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK), the Early Childhood three year old program was reinstated, the interior walls of the Hurley Building and Gym were painted school colors, a School Store was founded, the Hurley Building classrooms and offices were remodeled along with the Media Center/Library, a variety of school spirit logos were created and the technology on campus continued to expand and improve. Enrollment grew to over 200.
Beginning in July 2015, Mrs. Florence Buono was appointed principal of Notre Dame. Under her leadership the school enrollment has increased to over 245 students; Our school has become a SMART school: (Science, Mathematics, Arts, Religion, Technology); We have continued the 1:1 initiative for laptops for the students; Our Middle School has increased in rigor and academic challenge with offerings of Algebra 1, Intro to Physics, Intro To Biology and Intro to Chemistry, while continuing to be very strong in Language Arts and History curriculum; a more centralized school office area was constructed giving space for a school office lobby, receptionist area, administrative offices, teachers’ lounge/work room and much need storage; externally, the school received a new prayer garden housing a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We have increased awareness of the needs of others in our community and have initiated and completed yearly, many service projects to help our community at large. Our school continues to grow as a family of Christ and our students continue to be inspired by each other and our staff’s love for Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother Mary!