St. Thomas School first opened its doors as a parish school for the St. Thomas Episcopal Church on September 11, 1951. At that time, the school was known as St. Thomas Day School. The Reverend Arthur Vall-Spinosa, then Rector of St. Thomas Church, conceived of the school as a way to serve the needs of a rapidly growing eastside community. The school would provide an alternative to the public school system, which was then becoming overburdened with an influx of baby-boomer children. The very first class of STS students combined seventeen first and second graders. They were taught in a portable, wooden frame building across the street from the current campus.
In 1954, it became apparent that the portable building housing the school could no longer meet the needs of students. At that time, construction began on the school’s present site. The school continued to grow under Father Vall-Spinosa’s guidance, until he left the parish in 1967. At that time, the church made the decision that the school should be a separate entity from the church. On August 13, 1968, a school Board of Trustees was formed and STS became incorporated. The new Trustees felt strongly that the reorganized school should maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with St. Thomas Church. Although fully independent, the school leases its current property from St. Thomas Church and both institutions continue to work together in a spirit of cooperation.
Genevieve McCracken, who had been a teacher at STS since 1953, became Headmistress of the newly incorporated school. Then, in August 1970, Ronald L. Smallman became Headmaster. That same year, the school adopted a policy of having all students wear uniforms. Over the years, the curriculum of the school expanded to include new subject areas and the facilities to house them. The school began its foreign language program – originally French and now Spanish and Latin. A physical education program and gym were added. A new library was built and library resources acquired. New facilities were added to accommodate an expanding preschool program.
STS Campus 1990-2007 taken from Medina Park
In 1990, the school embarked on a major building program that not only doubled the size of the school’s physical plant but also refurbished and upgraded the existing facility. The new building included expanded administrative offices, a health room, an art/science room, a technology center, two new beginning school classrooms, a library/media resource center, and teacher staff rooms. The music house was also created. STS established the Extended Day program to provide supervision and activities for students before and after school.
Ronald L. Smallman retired as Headmaster in 1992 after twenty-one years of service to STS. At that time, Joan Beauregard, who had previously been the 6th Grade teacher and the Associate Head of School, succeeded him as Head of School.
The 1990s also brought the foundation of the school’s endowment funds. In 1992, the school’s first endowment, The Ronald L. Smallman Endowment for Financial Aid was begun; its revenues support the school’s financial aid program. In 1994, The Faculty Enrichment Endowment was founded, and its rapid growth, supporting professional development for teachers and administrators, speaks to the support that the community willingly gives to its professional staff. Subsequent years have seen the establishment of The John Fluke, Sr. Endowment for Science and Reading (1995), The Humanities Endowment (1996), The Library/Media Resources Endowment (1997), and The Knoblauch Endowment for Theatre Arts (1999). Finally, through a matching gift to the Annual Dinner Auction, The Faculty Compensation Endowment was established in 2003, with the stated goal “to achieve and sustain levels of compensation…that are competitive with the best schools in the nation for the faculty, administration, and staff of St. Thomas School.”
In July of 2005, Dr. Kirk Wheeler succeeded Joan Beauregard as Head of School. Under his leadership, the school established a strategic vision and continued to place an emphasis on excellence in education. Having passed the half-century mark, St. Thomas School embraced its tradition of growth and development by preparing itself for a dynamic future. Plans were laid for a new campus, and the community bid farewell to the old buildings in June 2007. In May 2007, the School’s first major capital campaign was launched to provide funding for the new campus and to establish funding for other critical initiatives including financial aid grants, professional development, and academic programs.
In August 2008, after being temporarily located at the Linbrook Office park for one year, STS relocated back to its home in Medina to occupy a brand new, state-of-the-art 55,000 sq. ft. building designed by Bassetti Architects. The building, certified LEED® Gold for Schools, provides an amazing learning environment for a growing enrollment and enables the School’s programs to evolve.
In 2009-10 the Board of Trustees voted to add Seventh and Eighth Grades and planning began in earnest. Interior modifications will allow for new classrooms, a new Middle School library/media center, a student-run store, and unique gathering spaces. Exciting courses are being added, and Seventh Grade will officially open in September of 2012 and Eighth Grade in September 2013.