July 4, 1954
The birth of St. John the Baptist School
When ground was broken for the new St. John the Baptist School on July 4, 1954, it brought to fulfillment the dream of the Pastor, Fr. Thomas J. Duffy. Through a very successful fundraising campaign, the school opened on September 12, 1955 with Sr. Maria Cecilia, SSJ as the first principal. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill were placed in charge of the school’s daily operations. The student population increased rapidly.
Boy’s Department established and new wing added
Six years after the school opened, The Boy’s Department of St. John’s School was established by the Brothers of the Holy Cross. A new wing was added to the school and a residence for the Brothers was built and blessed in 1961. A strong academic and athletic program was established, including a very successful track program for both boys and girls.
Administration transfer and co-ed opening
In 1971, the Brothers of the Holy Cross resigned the administration and staffing of the Boys Department. In September 1971, the school opened as co-educational under the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill.
25th Anniversary and national honor
In May 1980, the school celebrated its 25th anniversary and an excellent educational facility with an award winning student body, and having the honor of being the only school in the country to ever win the President’s Physical Fitness Award three times.
In 1990, St. John’s Parish became interparochial, co-sponsored by St. Andrew’s in Westwood; Our Lady of Mother of the Church, Woodcliff Lake and St. Gabriel the Archangel in Saddle River. The school co-sponsorship helped to benefit the financial condition of the parish.
Prestigious accreditation and 40th Anniversary
In 1992, the school received its first accreditation by the prestigious Middle States Association. Today, the school still remains a Middle States accredited school, with a successful review in 2018. In 1995, St. John’s Interparochial School celebrated its 40th anniversary with an all school liturgy and extensive celebration supported by Msgr. Philip D. Morris, Pastor of St. John’s Parish.
Name change to St. John’s Academy
In 1996, the name of the interparochial school was changed to St. John’s Academy, which remains the school’s present name. Known as SJA by many, the Academy distinction stressed the development of the whole person – moral, academic and physical. The rigorous curriculum led to the permanent award as a National Blue Ribbon School for Academic Excellence in 2011.
School expansion and renovation
As the new millennium approached, SJA outgrew its space and a fundraising effort “St. John’s 2000” led to the ability to fund a school addition that included four full size classrooms, three small classrooms for special needs, a library, and expanded technology room as well as renovations to the original school in the science, art and music rooms. Along with Msgr. Morris, Academy Principal Eileen McCabe, Vice Principal Kathy Pontillo and Joseph Bruno of Held Associates, a number of parents of the school children helped to see the $2.5 million dollar project through to completion on time.
New governance model
In 2016, under Principal Betty Viola and Pastor Fr. John Korbelak, SJA moved from a school that was co-sponsored by 4 parishes to a school following the governance model established by the Archdiocese of Newark, Lighting the Way. All schools in the Archdiocese became part of this governance structure that provides a partnership between the Pastor, Principal, School Advisory Board and Archdiocesan Catholic Education Services (ACES). At this time, SJA was struggling with enrollment and a large subsidy from the Archdiocese.
New principal and a time of renaissance
In July 2017, a new principal, Suzanne Socha, was selected upon the retirement of Principal Viola. The school has entered a time of renaissance since 2017 and as of June 2020 is financially self-sufficient, having received no subsidy monies for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Enrollment has grown substantially with students hailing from over 40 zip codes. SJA’s Early Childhood program has evolved to include a PreK3 program for 3-4 year olds, an expanded PreK4 program, and the continuation of our full day Kindergarten which has long been a foundation of our students’ early development. SJA continues to be highly regarded academically and will become accredited once again by the Middle States Association in 2022.
2020 & beyond
65th Anniversary Year and a bright outlook
As the school entered its 65th anniversary in the Fall of 2020, St. John’s Academy remains an example of what is right in Catholic education – a strong commitment to the whole child within a strong, supportive faith-based community. “The SJA Difference” has always been evident, since 1965.