St. Leo the Great School (San Jose)

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1051 West San Fernando Street
San Jose, California, (Santa Clara County) 95126
 United States
Coordinates 37°19′45″N 121°54′38″W / 37.32919°N 121.910662°W / 37.32919; -121.910662Coordinates: 37°19′45″N 121°54′38″W / 37.32919°N 121.910662°W / 37.32919; -121.910662
Type Private, Coeducational
Motto Community, Cooperation, and Collaboration
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic, Institute of the Incarnate Word
Patron saint(s) Pope Leo I
Established 1915
Oversight Diocese of San Jose
Superintendent Kathy Almazol
Principal Antoinette Cosentino
Pastor Rev. Marcelo Javier Navarro, I.V.E.
Faculty 40 lay
Grades PK-8
Enrollment 307[1] (2012-2013)
Average class size 30
Student to teacher ratio 8.125:1
Campus size 3.28 acres (13,300 m2)
Campus type Urban
Color(s) Blue and Gold         
Athletics 20 teams in 5 sports
Athletics conference Diocese of San Jose
Mascot Leo the Lion
Nickname Lions
Accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges[2]
Yearbook Lion Pride
Tuition US$7,898 (2012-2013)
Athletic Director Joe Ramirez

St. Leo the Great School is a private Catholic Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade school serving Silicon Valley. It is associated with Saint Leo the Great Parish and located in the St Leo section of the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood in San Jose. The school was founded in 1915. The campus consists of five buildings and three play areas.


Original school building

St. Leo the Great School was originally begun by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of Amiens, France and opened in 1915 with 90 students. Tuition was $2 a year.[3] The original school building is still used today as the PreKindergarten, gym, parish hall and kitchen. In 1919 the Sisters of Notre Dame were supervising four schools, the others being St Joseph, St Francis Xavier, and St Mary.[4]

In 1925 the Sisters of Notre Dame closed the school; there were then eight grades and 200 students.

In 1927 the Reverend Henry J. Lyne reopened the school with the support of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[5]

St Leo students won the Bellarmine College Preparatory four-year scholarship in 1937 (Franklin Lawrence)[6] 1938 (Dick Wehner),[7] 1939 (Robert Wehner), 1940 (Louis Mattiesen), and 1940 (Walter E. Rankin, Jr; the third consecutive year a St Leo student scored top marks on the exam).[8]

A new school building was built in 1950 to accommodate the school's 445 students, and the original building was converted into a gym.

In 1948 Principal Sister Dorita Clifford, BVM, was mentioned in the New York Times for her early adoption of computers at the school.[9]

In 1985 the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary turned over school administration to the lay staff of the Diocese of San Jose's department of education; in 1994 their convent home was turned over to the school for use as extended care, middle school math, science and administrative offices.

The gym was remodeled in 2006 with $280,000 in donations.[10] In 2007 a "Little Lions" pre-school was added for 4-year-olds, with a purpose-built addition to the front of the original school building with its own classroom, bathrooms and play yard. It was the first school in the diocese to have a pre-school.[11] This is now the pre-kindergarten program.

The school celebrated its centenary in 2015.[12][13]


The school is accredited through WASC, WCEA, and the Diocese of San Jose.[14]

The school puts a heavy emphasis on using technology throughout the curriculum. Google Android tablets are used for small motor skills and story reading in PreK-2nd Grade. Students in 3rd-8th grade are assigned Google Chromebooks[15] to access their school email and Google docs throughout the school day. At home students use a web browser to access their homework. The school's 1:1 computer initiative was started in 2009; it was one of the first schools to adopt Google Docs.

Earth sciences are taught through a partnership program with Middlebrook Gardens,[16] where students take weekly lessons doing hands on experiments and learning about environmental sustainability. This began in 2010.[17]

For math, an inverted methodology is used: students watch the math lesson online as homework and demonstrate their understanding through their class work.[18]

The school runs on a trimester system with letter grades starting in 4th grade. All online homework and group projects are completed using Google Apps for Education (GAFE). All grades are posted weekly on Blackboard Engage(edline). First and second honors are given to top achieving middle school students. The school recognizes students of the month at prayer service. The school has monthly goals for each grade, and students achieving the goal are recognized.

The school does not teach creationism, sex education or run a summer school program.


The school has a dedicated librarian and over 6,000 printed books available for checkout. Surplus books are donated to a school in Africa. Students can access e-books via Google Play and Kindle reader for Chromebooks.


The school hosts an open house in early November when parents can visit all grades and observe classes in session, and participates in Catholic Schools Week in late January with an open house after Mass on a Sunday.

PreKindergarten is for 4 year olds and is capped at 22 students. Kindergarten takes an additional 8 students. All other grades are wait listed unless there is an opening. Kindergarten through 8th grade requires a student screening test. Transfer students are assigned a buddy and are allowed to shadow classes before they join in the fall.

After-school enrichment[edit]

The school offers several after-school programs: Tabard Theatre, chess, HSPA preparation, science, art, Ink Writers, Odyssey of the Mind, band, choir, soccer, and also individualized learning with special resource teachers.

Athletic programs[edit]

The school participates in five competitive sports. 5th-8th grade students with good grades are allowed to join football (boys), basketball, volleyball, softball (girls) and track. The teams are no-cuts; everyone plays. The school has an active booster club and conducts several tournaments each season.

School traditions[edit]

St Leo Turkey Drive 2012

Turkey Drive - Each November the school initiates a 1-hour frozen turkey drive drop-off. The graduating 8th grade class routinely collect more than 125 Thanksgiving Day birds that are then donated to Sacred Heart Community Service.[19][20]

Spring Sing - A music and art show focusing on a different theme each year. A yearly favorite is the fashion show featuring handmade clothes from recycled and repurposed items.

Prayer Pals - Each grade is matched with another grade to provide mentorship to fellow students.

Feast of St Leo - A community wide dinner celebration of the school and parish's patron Saint, Pope Leo I that takes place on November 10 each year.

Atria Chateau Gardens - The school has adopted this senior citizen living center with regular visits from various grades. Activities include choir, trick or treating, arts and crafts.


  1. ^ DSJ.ORG. "Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California". Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  2. ^ WASC-ACS. "WASC-Accrediting Commission for Schools". Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  3. ^ 90th Anniversary of St Leo the Great School. Rose Garden Resident, April 11, 2005.
  4. ^ Historic Notre Dame Has Its 68th Birthday. San Jose Evening News, August 5, 1919.
  5. ^ "St Leo School History"
  6. ^ Local Lads Win Scholarships At Bellarmine Prep. San Jose News, June 14, 1937.
  7. ^ St Leo's Dick Wehner wins 3 year Bellarmine Scholarship. San Jose Evening News, May 23, 1938.
  8. ^ St Leo student wins Bellarmine scholarship. San Jose News, May 28, 1941.
  9. ^ "Technological Miracle". New York Times, July 19, 1984.
  10. ^ St Leo community comes together to remodel school's gym. Rose Garden Resident October 2006.
  11. ^ "Catholic Pre-Schools"
  12. ^ Liz Sullivan, Saint Leo the Great Celebrates 100 Years as a Parish. The Valley Catholic, August 21, 2015.
  13. ^ Sal Pizarro, St. Leo the Great alumni celebrate San Jose school's centennial. San Jose Mercury News, August 14, 2015, updated August 12, 2016.
  14. ^ Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Department of Education.
  15. ^ "Krause Center for Innovation: Free Technology in the Classroom - Chromebooks in 7th Grade at St Leo"
  16. ^ "ASLA Education Session: Opportunities to Design and Build Sustainable Eco-learning Labs on School Campuses"
  17. ^ "California Native Garden Foundation begins teaching classes for St Leo students"
  18. ^ "Differential Learning"
  19. ^ "St Leo Turkey Drive benefits the needy"
  20. ^ St Leo's Turkey Whist, advertisement, San Jose News, October 22, 1935.

External links[edit]