The new school is the result of an effort to consolidate the four parochial schools in Bayonne to provide a Catholic education that is more economically sound.
All Saints Academy was scheduled to open its doors on Sept. 3 and, for many, the level of excitement hasn't been this high about the opening day of school since the building was opened for the first time in 1962 (then as St. Mary, Star of the Sea School).
Sponsored by Our Lady of the Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Saint Andrew, Saint Henry, Saint Joseph, Saint Michael, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Mary, Star of the Sea churches, All Saints Academy was established as a result of a meeting in 2006 between the pastors of the churches, who recognized that Bayonne could no longer sustain four parish schools.
In a release published earlier this year, Brother Ralph Darmento, deputy superintendent of schools, said the pastors determined that one strong Catholic elementary school could serve Bayonne and would be supported by the various parishes and governed by a Board of Pastors. With the approval of Archbishop John J. Myers, the school opened its doors to the public this year for the first time.
The school has already received its Middle States accreditation for pre-k through grade eight, and consolidates some of the students who formerly attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Mary Star of the Sea, Saint Vincent, and Saint Andrew schools.
Located at 19 West 13th Street - the site of the former St. Mary Star of the Sea School -All Saints is expected to have more than 500 students. The site was selected because of its central location, as well as its modern facilities. It has a full-sized gym, science lab, library and cafeteria.
In preparation for All Saints' opening, the school's staff has been working diligently to install computer tables, mini-blinds, and new floors, as well to perform electrical work and carpentry. Every classroom will be internet connected.
Councilman Gary La Pelusa, who participated earlier on in discussions for the new school, said that a search committee unanimously selected Sister Eileen Jude Eileen as the new school's principal, who took duties on July 1.
Sister Eileen holds a bachelor's degree in history from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, and has a master's degree in counseling and human relations as well as a master's degree in school administration from Villanova University. She also holds state certifications as both a principal and social worker.
"This is really absolutely amazing," Sister Eileen said during a phone interview. "This has been a very busy place over the last weeks. So many people worked so hard to prepare this building. We're going to be more than ready. Is everything complete? No. But we'll be open."
Sister Eileen said All Saints Academy has a large population, and that her previous experiences at large schools have prepared her for the chores here. She previously served as principal at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Oakland and Saint Rocco School in Newark. She also spent seven years as principal of Our Lady of the Rosary School in Philadelphia. For the past five years, Sister Eileen has been principal of Saint Matthias School in Somerset.
"We have well over 460 students, and another 58 in preschool," she said. "In the past, students attended schools with about 180 to 200 students."
To help students get used to the new surroundings, the school held open houses, which allowed students to meet their teachers and familiarize themselves with the environment, Sister Eileen said.
"My last school had 600 children, and I bring that experience to this school," she said. "I know what it means to run a large school and what needs to be done. I think God has a great sense of humor. He prepared me for this by sending me to that other school first." But a great part of the successful transition comes from the attitude of the parents and kids.
"More than 95 percent of the parents are positive and excited about this," Sister Eileen said.
In preparing the new school, four project managers were used: Bill Conway prepared the existing building; John Gilson dealt with contracted services, such as electrical; Mary Beth Carey coordinated activities between the four other schools that eventually merged into All Saints; and Alex Calabrise handled computer management.
"We met every other week to find out where we are and what we had to do," Sister Eileen said.
All in all, with a few exceptions, she said the school would be ready to open on Sept. 3.
"Our goal is to provide quality education within a Catholic school, and it is very exciting knowing that we are establishing a Catholic education in Bayonne for the next 100 years," she said. "This is, of course, a work in progress."