School History

School History


The history of the Parish of St. Agnes Cathedral reflects its faithfulness to the teaching mission of the Church. In the gospel, we read of Jesus’ command to His disciples: "Let the little children come . . . . . "  


It has been ninety-one years since the first children crossed the threshold of St. Agnes Elementary School, which was opened in1917. Built by Monsignor Peter Quealy (on what is presently the site of the rectory), it was staffed by five Dominican Sisters. Mother Petra, the first principal, served as Administrator until her death in 1939. The ten-classroom school was compact with each room having an entrance from the outside and interior access to an auditorium.



By the 1950’s the demand for Catholic elementary education in Rockville Centre, far exceeded the capacity of the ten-classroom school. In 1957, Monsignor Williams purchased the Clinton Avenue School from the Rockville Centre Public School District. Constructed in 1896, this building underwent extensive renovations, and with the addition of the north and south wings in the 1960’s totaled 32 classrooms. In 1957, after the establishment of the Rockville Centre Diocese, the school officially became known as St. Agnes Cathedral Elementary School. At its height, 1600 students were in attendance, a far cry from the 60 students who entered the school in its infancy.


 The dedication and commitment of over one hundred Amityville Dominicans, and the leadership of Mother Petra and her successors, Sr. Agnes Clare, Sr. Maureen, Sr. Clare Therese, Sr. Jane Doherty, Sr. Patricia Pich and Sr. Kathleen Carlin enabled thousands of children to experience the richness of a Catholic Education.


The Post Vatican II years radically changed the institution of Catholic Education. With the exodus of sisters from religious communities, and the expanse of Church ministries, fewer sisters were available to teach. Tuition once non-existent, or at least minimal, steadily rose, resulting in declining enrollment. Dedicated and qualified lay teachers replaced the sisters in the classroom.


The highlighted role of the laity in the Church and Education resulted in the establishment of the School Board, the Fathers’ Club and the Home-School Association. The Mothers’ Club, organized in 1938, continued to be a vital part of the life of the school.



The years of the seventies presented many challenges. Under the guidance and leadership of Monsignor Melton, and with the support of the parish and school organizations, St. Agnes Cathedral School continued to grow. The Kindergarten program was begun in 1979 and four classrooms were constructed. New programs were introduced; foreign language, guidance, special education, academically advanced, library and computer education. In addition to students from St. Agnes Parish, children from fifteen neighboring parishes attended the school. Historical roots were thus re-established, as the original Quealy School served children from similar areas.



In 1987 Monsignor Robert Mulligan became the Rector of the Parish of St. Agnes Cathedral. For the next ten years the school continued to excel. In 1989-1990, St. Agnes Cathedral School was Recognized as a "School of Excellence" by New York State and the United States Department of Education. After an in-depth self-study and the formation of a long range Action Plan, the school was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Three new rooms were added and the main office was renovated. In 1993, several thousand alumni, parents, teachers both past and present attended a spirited and exciting 75th Anniversary celebration. An Education Fund was started to provide for the long-term financial viability of the school.


The nineties brought about many educational challenges. New York State mandates for higher standards, new curricula, and challenging assessments impacted the learning of all students. The development of technology became a primary educational goal. The library was computerized, and the school was networked with each classroom having Internet access.



In 1997, Monsignor James P. Kelly was appointed Rector. For the next ten years enrollment and programs continued to expand. The small gymnasium was renovated in the summer of 2001 to provide four new classrooms. Full-day kindergarten was introduced in September 2002 and a portable classroom was installed in the schoolyard to accommodate additional instructional programs.


 Middle States re-accreditation was awarded in 2003.  The new Action Plan focused on Middle Level education.  As a result, extra-curricula programs for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were expanded to include basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball teams, in addition to cheerleading squads.  The Drama program and the school newspaper were revitalized.  Co-curricula activities such as Broadway and Beyond and the Television News Station were introduced.


In 2005, the Diocese of Rockville Centre agreed to lease the property adjacent to the north wing to the parish.  Through the financial generosity of the Mothers’ and Fathers’ Clubs a field and garden area were constructed to provide additional space for outdoor physical education activities and hands-on science experiences.   


The Cathedral School , under the leadership of Rector MonsignorWilliam Koenig, and Co-Principals Kathleen V. Carlin, O. P. and Helen Newman , continues to be a vibrant community committed to instilling the teachings of the Catholic faith and challenging its students to achieve academic excellence. With an enrollment over 800 students, it is the largest K-8 parish school in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

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