St. Anthony of Padua School, a parochial school under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was established in 1940. The Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, had administered and staffed the school since its early beginnings. The sixty-seven years since the foundation of the school have been times of significant and interesting changes.
The 1940’s and 1950’s were years of intense growth for the school and it reached its peak enrollment of 1,036 students in eighteen classrooms in 1963. By 1971, the enrollment had dropped to 600 students and space became available for use as music and art rooms, a library and a faculty room. Enrollment remained stable at about 500 students from 1984 until 1989.
Since the fall of 1989, St. Anthony of Padua School scaled down the number of classrooms by opening only one classroom per grade and filling the classrooms to greater capacity. Increased operational expenses and tuition increases affected the enrollment, and by 2001, there was an enrollment of 254 students in eight classrooms. Additional space made it possible to add quality programs including the Writing to Read computer lab in 1989, a counseling program in 1991 and an after school daycare program in 1992. The library was relocated and the office work area expanded. A music room was set up to accommodate music, band, and parish/school choirs. In 1999, a $10,000 grant from Target was used to convert a room into a science lab that allows for more hands on activities and particicaption in the G.L.O.B.E. weather reporting project.
The years from 2001 to 2006 saw a leveling in enrollment at about 225 students. The school continues to offer sports programs and student government activities to involve the students and parents. The school continues to participate in the academic decathlon, numerous civic contests and writing and spelling competitions as well as track and other sports playoffs. In 2006, with the help of the PTO and graduating classes, the school was able to erect a new marquis on 163rd Street, to share upcoming activities with the local community.
At present, the school reflects the changing demographics typical of Southern California. The parish and school population is increasingly Hispanic with a good representation of Filipino, Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and a few Caucasians and African Americans. The student body is 98% Catholic and the school staff is stable and well represented by parishioners and former students. In 2001, a new pastor was appointed to succeed Fr. Peter McGee, who was here for twenty-five years. Fr. Ed Dover was moved in the spring of 2006, and Fr. George Aguilera was appointed as new pastor.
St. Anthony retains a strong family spirit and together with an active parent-teacher organization and active student government continues to foster a warm and unique community of faith. Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence was canonized on October 15, 2006, in Rome. What a celebration!
In 2015, the school celebrated its 75th Diamond Anniversary on June 13, the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. That July, the school was voted Best Private School in the South Bay 2015, by the readers of the Daily Breeze newspaper. Sr. Ann Stephen-Stouffer was the last member of the Sisters of Providence to serve as principal at the school. She was succeed by Ms. Maria Cunanan, and then by Mr. Micah Sumner, who later moved to Philadelphia to become a mission family with his wife and 5 children. When he left, Angela Grey was appointed as the 3rd lay person to serve as principal.
St. Anthony of Padua School looks forward to many more years of service to Gardena’s students, and is committed to providing the highest level of Catholic education to all who step on its campus. Its focus is on Faith, Stewardship, and Excellence. Indeed, the school is founded on Holy Ground. The faculty, staff, alum, and students will never forget the memory of our Foundresses, the Sisters of Providence, for their leadership and guidance through the years. It is on the shoulders of giants that we stand, and we continue to carry on the torch of their legacy into the next 75 years and beyond.
St. Anthony of Padua, Pray for Us.