St. John the Baptist Catholic School-Celebrating 100 Years

St. John the Baptist Catholic School

Celebrating 100 Years of Faith-Filled Education in the Napa Valley

By Nancy Jordan and Tara Blum


It’s a crisp winter morning in downtown Napa.   A landscape of red plaid, khaki and grey covers the playground of St. John the Baptist Catholic School.   Over 200 focused students recite the Pledge of Allegiance, offer prayer intentions, sing a joyful song and share important announcements.   It is January, 2012 but this scene has been repeated each school day since January, 1912.
This year, St. John the Baptist Catholic School is honored to celebrate 100 years of faith-filled education in the
Napa Valley.

In the fall of 1911, Father Joseph Byrne, Pastor of St. John the Baptist Church, invited the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael to staff the first Catholic school in the Napa Valley.  On January 15, 1912, the Sisters opened the doors of St. John the Baptist Catholic School to 120 students in first through sixth grades. The Franklin Street building, now occupied by the Community Projects Thrift Shop, served students until December, 1926, when Pastor, Father William Quirke, moved the school to the present building on Main and Napa Streets. The new school building opened in January, 1927, with 171 pupils.  After the Dominican Sisters left in 1971, the Irish Sisters of Mercy taught until 1983, when the first lay Principal
was appointed.

In a century, St. John the Baptist Catholic School has produced nearly 2,000 graduates, many whose family names continue to be recognizable in the community of Napa. The school thrives with a complementary blend of traditional, values-based education and contemporary, instructional equipment and strategies.  Interactive whiteboards, wireless Internet access and California standards-based curriculum grace the classically designed classrooms, many of which display the original wooden trim and cloak rooms.  St. Johns is dually accredited by the Western Catholic Education Association and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.   Pastor, Fr. Gordon Kalil, and Principal, Nancy Jordan attribute the school’s success to a solid Mission and identification of the school as an educational ministry of St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish, which recently celebrated 153 years in Napa.

Anthony, an eighth grader who began his St. Johns career at the age of 4 describes how the school’s faith formation shapes his development. “We live our faith in the classroom, on the playground and in our daily life. “  Allison, a fifth grader, cites “amazing teachers and fun trips” as the attributes of her school.   6th grader Robert and 4th grader Emily are 4th generation St. Johns students.  Their mother, Katie (Bettencourt) Batt, both maternal grandparents, Mary and Nelson Bettencourt and both maternal great-grandparents all graduated from this historical institution.

As the school moves into the next century, the Napa Valley can expect continued commitment to the formation of youth in our valley.  Strategic plans are currently being implemented for the construction of a 17,000 sq. ft. gym, youth center and grass playing field. The stable and dedicated administration and staff will also ensure adherence to, and advancement of, a rigorous and effective academic program that is accessible to all who desire it.

“Celebration of the Century” activities include formal events during National Catholic Schools Week which begins on Sunday, 1/29, with Mass at 10:00am and an Open House for parishioners, alum, current and prospective families from 11:00am-12:30pm.  Proclamations by local dignitaries, a time capsule and recognition of the legacy of staff and families will occur on Wednesday, 2/1.  The “Party of the Century” Gala will take place at the Westin Verasa on Saturday, 4/21. Additional Open Houses for prospective families will be held on Thursday, 2/2 from 9:30am-11:00am (Kindergarten) and from 5:30pm-7:30pm for Kindergarten through 8th grade prospective families seeking a high-quality, faith-based educational program for their children.

If you are a St. John the Baptist Catholic School alum, alum family, or former staff member, we invite you to connect with your educational home by contacting Tara Blum at 224-8388×101 or

For ongoing information about St. Johns, visit our website:  or follow us on Facebook:  St John the Baptist Catholic School Napa

The St. John the Baptist Catholic School community is thankful to the Napa Valley for ten decades of support and looks forward to another century of outstanding spiritual and academic education.

Happy Birthday, St. John the Baptist Catholic School!



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