A Brief History of Cardinal Newman High School
Cardinal Newman High School began as an idea to match a need, the need to provide a Catholic high school for boys in Santa Rosa, the growing center of Sonoma County. Long time established Ursuline High School for girls had moved from the downtown to alongside Mark West Springs Road in the mid 50’s and was expanding; parents began to lobby for a school for their sons too. Bishop Leo Maher, head of the recently established Diocese of Santa Rosa, February 1962, supported the idea and began the school by setting up a lay Board to plan the site and by recruiting a teaching order. In the school shield, the three parts of this beginning can be seen: John Henry, Cardinal Newman, the 19th century English academic and social justice promoter, founder of the Oxford Movement, a convert to Catholicism, writer and teacher, minister and priest, known as one of the great minds of his time, sits in the bottom trident; the left side bears the symbol of the Diocese, a Cross of Roses, with a crescent moon, for the Valley of the Moon; the right side has the spilling Chalice with Grapes for the Society of the Precious Blood, the founding teaching order from Ohio. From this beginning, the school opened on September 8th, 1964 for the new 9th graders, the class of ’68, in the recently completed quad classrooms of Ursuline, while work began on the Hofer property, 32 acres next door. The following year, sophomores and freshmen came to attend the newly built school, designed and built by local Catholics. As a time of great change in the Church, with Vatican II having opened a refreshing of the faith, the new Cardinal Newman High School stood out as part of the ecumenical outreach of the Church and a place for students to grow in faith, academics, service, and community. The enthusiasm for the new school led to a solid enrollment from the beginning and a reputation of excellence soon developed. Catholics from throughout Sonoma County came, even some from beyond; students of other Christian denominations and Faiths also were attracted by a school that could teach theology, discuss beliefs, and share faith experiences. Over Fifty years later, that remains core to the school’s mission.
Over time, as the 60’s advanced and society changed, the school kept itself centered and its moral compass accurate; the 70’s brought a more co-educational sharing with Ursuline, a common graduation, and sadly by the end of the decade the end of the Precious Blood’s ability to staff the school so the Diocese took over and the lay teaching numbers expanded; the 80’s saw rapid growth, partly due to the difficult labor relations and strike within the Santa Rosa City Schools, and then a waning number as those troubles settled and less high school aged students were in the county; the 90’s saw the new lay leadership emerge and the school grew well, but in 1999 a moral and fiscal scandal hit the Diocese and caused enrollment to fall; the 2000’s saw stability and improvement, the establishment of the President-Principal model, the first new construction since the school was built, with lights for the athletic field and an expansion of technology; the 20 teens started with new goals of growth only to be quickly changed by the announcement on November 9th, 2010 by Ursuline that they would close at the end of the school year and open a charter school after a year off. With that CN announced it would accept girls for all grades for the 2011-12 year; a new round of building and expansion was needed quickly, in three years the goals were achieved and the golden anniversary of the school was celebrated as a strong co-ed high school continuing to improve, constructing a new science building with the help of the Finley Foundation, which will open at the end of 2015.
Further plans for the school include improved technology, building renovations, and a new Academic Support Center to increase the care students receive. With a new President, the first female leader, in place, our next fifty years promise to be as exciting and changing as the ones that brought us this far. Over time, we have had six Bishops, nine principals, two Presidents, and many quality teachers working for the benefit of students. Our community has grown to include an active Alumni Association, and we now have past students whose grandchildren are students, and graduates living around the world yet we remain Sonoma County’s Catholic High School.