On September 22, 1953, Rev. Joseph Emrich was appointed founding pastor of Saint Leonard Parish. Mass was celebrated in the chapel of Saint Joseph Orphanage on Frankfort Avenue while the church was being built. Construction on the new Saint Leonard parish and school was completed in December 1956, and an opening date for school was set for September, 1957. The Ursuline Sisters of Mt. Saint Joseph, Owensboro, KY, were contacted and agreed to send four teaching sisters. With the addition of a lay music teacher, the nuns divided the first through seventh grades for the 1957-1958 school year. The school’s first graduating class was celebrated in June, 1959. By September of 1961, two classrooms had been added to the south end of the building to accommodate the growing school population. During the mid-1960’s, the school was “bursting at the seams,” and a trailer was added for the kindergarten class.
St. Frances of Rome & Improvements at the Turn of the Century
St. Leonard Community School is now the parish school of the clustered parishes of St. Leonard and St. Frances of Rome. The parishes were clustered in 1995 under the pastorship of Rev. R. Dale Cieslik. The current pastor is Reverend Louis J. Meiman.
Saint Leonard Parish School is small by design; however, the year 2001 marked the beginning of renovations to the school facilities. A Family Life Center housing a gymnasium and music rooms, a science lab, library, two preschool rooms, a computer lab, new school office space, playground, and soccer fields were added. In 2005, an outdoor classroom was constructed by school staff and families in collaboration with Dr. Art Parola of the University of Louisville Stream Institute and Tom Biebighauser of the US Forest Service. In 2009 student bathroom facilities in the original school building were completely renovated, and in 2010 central air was installed in the original building.
Today’s St. Leoanrd
School facilities for grades K–8 are able to accommodate one of each grade level and two preschool classrooms for three- and four-year-old students. We have a very diverse student population, as we enroll students from 29 zip codes in the greater Louisville/Southern Indiana area. The majority of our students live in the Crescent Hill/Saint Matthews area; however, because of our convenient location to I-71, we have several families that commute from neighboring counties due to employment in downtown Louisville. We have a partnership with the Community Catholic Center so that students from the Portland neighborhood of Louisville have access to a Catholic education not found in the west end of Louisville. The majority of our students are Catholic (most belong to Saint Leonard parish and clustered parish, Saint Frances of Rome), but we do have non-Catholic families whose children are enrolled.
We have state of the art technology within the building, as all of our middle school students have individualized Chromebooks; the 4-5 grade classes share a set of Chromebooks, while the primary grade have classroom iPads and desktop computers. We have a dedicated computer lab and library/media center. All classrooms are equipped with SMART Boards and document cameras. In the fall of 2017, the school’s 20% Time middle school classes began a renovation of the school library, converting it to a Library/Media/Makerspace equipped with robotics tables, green screen, and 3-D printers.
A Legacy of Educational Excellence
St. Leonard has an outstanding, committed, and award-winning staff. Recently the school was honored to receive the Today’s Catholic Teacher “2018 Innovations in Catholic Education Award for Curriculum and Instruction” during the National Catholic Education Association Convention in Cincinnati, OH. Our middle school teachers, Caitlin Ousley, Joe Reed, Aaron Dauenhauer, and Maddie Schepers created a 20% Time class for students in grades 6-8, and these students have taken on the library renovation project.
In August of 2017, Mr. Joe Reed, Technology Coordinator, received the “Catholic Education Foundation Innovation Award” established by the Dan Ulmer Family to honor excellent and dedicated Catholic school teachers whose innovative and creative approach to learning inspires outstanding student achievement.
In 2016, Mr. Joe Reed and Mrs. Caitlin Ousley were awarded a Mini Grant to form the St. Leonard Wolverettes Maker Club through the National Girls Collaborative Project. This first Girls STEM Club has grown into two Makers Clubs for boys and girls in grades 3-5 and 6-8 as well as Robotics teams that compete in the Lego FIRST Robotics Tournament.
In 2016, St. Leonard was selected as one of 500 schools nationwide to participate in Kinsa’s FLUency School Health Program through a grant written by science teacher, Mrs. Caitlin Ousley.
In August 2016, Ms. Christine Wettig received a grant from a local business to purchase iPads and Osmos for the 3rd grade classroom.
In October 2015, Mrs. Caitlin Ousley was awarded a $500 grant to purchase a gel electrophoresis machine and micro pipets through the “Make Activities Count” McDonald’s Restaurants of Kentuckiana MAC Grant program.
In 2015, Mrs. Kathleen Willenbrink received the “Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator” in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
In 2016, Mrs. Teresa Riggs, St Leonard volunteer, was selected as the “Outstanding School Volunteer for 2016-17” in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Mrs. Mary Parola was the recipient of a 2007 Aegon Grant to video conference with NASA astronauts and engineers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of SPUTNIK along with other space-related science activities.
Mrs. Kathleen Willenbrink was the recipient of a 2007 Aegon Grant to purchase a new Quick Recall System.
In 2005, Mrs. Mary Parola was the first Archdiocesan recipient of Operation Brightside’s Fred Wiche Award for the planning and construction of a “wetland” outdoor classroom using plants and animals native to Kentucky.
Through the years, the following teachers have received Ulmer Awards for Outstanding Catholic Education:
Mrs. Kathleen Willenbrink
Mrs. Mary Parola
Ms. Christine Wettig