The History of Saint Catherine School
What started as a mission of Holy Family Catholic parish to serve the laboring community on the west side of Tulsa has grown into a successful parish of 240 families and a pre-K through 8th grade school serving nearly 140 students. Today, the school boasts building-wide Iowa test scores in the 80th to 90th percentile, and is the only Catholic school in Oklahoma that operates on a Total Learning Calendar (TLC) of year-round education. These successes trace their beginnings to the faith and hard work of early Tulsa Catholics.
The first Church of Saint Catherine was erected on the rowdy, bustling west bank of the Arkansas River in the spring of 1925 to serve Catholics that worked for refineries and the Frisco Railroad. By September of that year, the church attained parish status and was located at 905 West 23rd Street, encompassing the Red Fork, Carbondale, Oakhurst and Garden City areas. Saint Catherine pastor Father Ersing wrote of his early parish, “My people are all laborers who live from one payday to another and do have families.”
With the help of a few benefactors, the hard-working people of Saint Catherine started a school that thrived on the site for 30 years. It housed two classrooms with two teachers who were Benedictine Sisters, one taught Primer through 4th grade, and the other taught Fifth through Eighth grade. Each row in the respective classrooms was a different class. At this time, the only other Catholic schools in Tulsa, aside from boarding schools Cascia Hall and Monte Cassino, were Holy Family and Marquette, both of which offered elementary as well as high school classes.
By 1938, there were approximately 75 families and 75 children enrolled in the school. This growth, along with a 1949 City of Tulsa decision to widen 23rd Street to build a bridge across the Arkansas River, prompted the school and parish to look for a new home. A tract of 10 acres at 2611 West 46th Street in Carbondale was donated to the Diocese for a new location for Saint Catherine Church and School. Construction of school and rectory buildings began on the site in 1955, with plans to construct a new church building as soon as finances allowed. Unfortunately, the parish could not afford a new church construction for over 30 years, so the school and church were housed in the same building. The eight-room school/church building cost $136,000 and was completed to serve its first class in the fall of 1955. It housed four classrooms, a cafeteria/hall and an enrollment of 103 students.
The community continued to grow over the next 25 years, and by the 1980’s Saint Catherine was a prospering parish. In September of 1986, the long-awaited new Church construction was completed, and the school gained the space of the entire building that it had once shared with the church. In the late 1980’s, a decision to add preschool and kindergarten classes at Saint Catherine gave the struggling school a boost.
During the 1990¹s, former Saint Catherine principal Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel began conducting research on the year-round calendar school year. She found that the continuous learning environment was very beneficial to students in that they spent less time relearning previous material at the beginning of the school year, and had a chance to refresh themselves every nine weeks. Suzette Williams was principal when the program called the Total Learning Calendar (TLC) finally came to fruition in July of 1999.
Currently, our facilities house approximately 112 students for pre-school through eighth grade.
Saint Catherine School has proudly served four generations of Tulsans and will continue to provide a quality education to its students for years to come.