St. Philip School's storied history begins as far back as 129 years ago in 1887, when pastor Reverend James Keenoy established a two-room schoolhouse at the base of Crafton Boulevard near the Thornburg Bridge, now known as “Backbone Road.”
Three Sisters of Charity successfully taught approximately 70 students of all grades until the school was forced to close due to the major recession of 1892. During those years, the precedent had been set for a premier Catholic elementary school to serve as a backbone of the Crafton area and its surrounding communities.
An ambitious young priest by the name of William Charles Kelty became St. Philip’s pastor in 1898 when the parish was outgrowing its original small brick church. In 1903, Kelty broke ground on the stately, Cathedral-esque current church that has become a beloved icon of the Crafton community. Twelve years later in 1915, Kelty built St. Philip School and a convent for the Sisters of Charity, whom he asked to return to staff the school. Local newspapers lauded SPS as one of the finest schools of its day.
Steady growth over the ensuing years, led to the building of two school additions – one in 1929, and another in 1954. During the baby boom era and up through the 1970s, St. Philip was among the largest elementary schools in the Diocese with enrollment soaring as high as 1,200 in Grades 1-8. When the collapse of Pittsburgh’s steel industry forced many neighboring Catholic schools to close in the 1980s, SPS remained steadfast in its determination to sustain the school.
Legendary principal Sister Mary Jane Catherine Farrall, S.C., who served the school from 1968 through 1995, joined forces with Pastor Monsignor Robert P. Garland and a group of resolute school parents to sequentially open a Kindergarten, Pre-K and Preschool. The enthusiastic response to these early childhood learning programs – and the loving and devoted teachers who ran them – began a new era of thriving enrollment. Today, large portions of our student body spend 11 school years at St. Philip - from 3-year Preschool through Grade 8.
The mid-1990s began the expansive era of Principal Sister Geraldine Marr, S.C., who is widely lauded for preparing the school to meet the needs of “digital-native students” – the first generation of students to grow up in a world of widespread digital technology. As one of her first orders of business, she oversaw the modernization of the computer lab and was also a leader in obtaining smartboards and distance learning equipment. In 1999, St. Philip School was awarded a three-year Heinz Foundation grant in conjunction with Bishop Canevin High School and Duquesne University to pilot a continuum of educational technologies.
As it entered the 21st century, St. Philip also began expanding programs in other areas of educating the whole child. In addition to adding a wide-range of academic enrichment programs, sports options and extracurricular activities, the school also developed the ANGEL way program, which stands for “Achieving Natural Goodness in Everyday Life.” This practical daily application of our Christian faith, in conjunction with similar programs like GRACE, (Gifts Reaffirming a Catholic Education) led to St. Philip winning the Sadlier Catholic Identity Award at the 2014 National Catholic Educational Association annual conference. Other Awards include a Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Innovations in Technology Award, a Best Robotics Middle School Award from Grove City College, and eight Golden Apples in teaching.
In 2015, SPS became one of only 16 schools in the history of the Pittsburgh Diocese to achieve a Centennial. Not one to take a 100th birthday lightly, the school held a yearlong celebration that raised $100,000 to be used in the areas of refurbishment, scholarship and technology.
As SPS embarks on its second century, we remain – as we were from the start – a leader in Catholic education. Our student body continues to draw from strong local communities as well as many Western and Southern suburbs. We are proud to be educating the fifth generation of legacy families.
Our ongoing success emanates from the solid foundation provided for students to thrive both in and out of the classroom and as followers of Christ.
To learn more, contact us at 412-928-2742, ext. 4 or schedule a tour today!