Who We Are

A few words from
father michael doyle

Some years ago, Sacred Heart School did a survey of its students, asking this question: “What do you like best about your school?” Eighty-five percent declared: “I feel safe here.” On the one hand, that was good to hear; on the other, it was very sad, because it indicated that our dear children did not feel safe in their own neighborhoods.

Children have only one chance to grow up and Camden is not an easy place to do it.

I grew up in a very safe place in Ireland, but I was burdened with a school experience that was mostly miserable because of the severity of physical punishment. I loved learning and hated school. Consequently, it is a great joy to me to see the happy faces of children in Sacred Heart School where they are treated with care and support in an atmosphere of warmth and appreciation.

Sacred Heart School is not only a center of education and development, but a place of prayer, where God is honored, where people are respected and God’s gifts of creation are not taken for granted.

Because all the students in our school are children of God, one can never do enough to educate them to their fullest potential now, and set them on the road to further development. The task this year of raising over 1 million dollars, beyond the tuition the parents pay, is daunting. It is one huge task in a little place in South Camden, NJ, where we, the people of Sacred Heart Church, with many friends and the help of God, struggle to achieve an “impossible task.” But the sweet faces of the children at our red door, trusting in us to keep the school open for them, is a great incentive.

We pray every day for the children that they will be safe, that Sacred Heart School will educate them in spite of the lure and the violence of gangs and drugs in this city.

This is surely one worthy cause in this world. Thanks be to God for our Camden children, for their parents, their teachers, their principal and the entire staff that serves them. God forever bless each one.

Sincerely,
Michael Doyle
Pastor of Sacred Heart Church and School

A Message from our principal,
Ms. Janet Williams

Sacred Heart School stands proudly in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden, New Jersey. The school is part of Sacred Heart Church’s mission to help save Camden by bringing beauty, education and peace to the children and families of this once thriving neighborhood. Our school’s goal is to offer a quality education in a safe, caring Christian environment.

Sacred Heart School houses grades Pre-K through 8th, a computer lab, music room and library. In 2015 we opened a brand new Montessori Preschool in what was once the secretarial course room in the convent, just across the driveway from the school. Each of our classrooms has inter-active SMART boards and computers with Internet access. Grades K-4 have instructional aides. For our students who need extra help we have teachers provided to us through the Camden County Educational Commission. Each week students have Art, Physical Education, Music and Computer class.

Our school has an After-Care program for grades Preschool – 7 from Monday- Friday until 5:30 p.m. During the program students receive homework help and academic instruction, as well as snack, computer time, and indoor/outdoor games and activities.

In addition to the After-Care program, we offer the following extra-curricular activities: Boy’s Basketball, grades 5-8; Girl’s Basketball, grades 5-8; Cross Country; Softball; Choir; Cello; Robotics; Aviation; Cooking; Boat Building; Gardening.

One of the most important aspects of our school is the emphasis on Christian values that the teachers and staff share with our students. Religion is taught daily in every grade. Students pray together every day and school-wide prayer services are held throughout the year. We pride ourselves on providing a Christian, family atmosphere that welcomes and cares for each child.

As you browse through our website you will see the uniqueness of Sacred Heart School. Sacred Heart is a partnership that includes our sponsors, our families, our parish and our school. Each year our doors open thanks to the tireless efforts of our pastor, Father Michael Doyle, who initiated our Sponsorship Program thirty years ago.

Many volunteers from our parish spend hundreds of hours helping to keep the program going. This wonderful program allows us to keep our tuition at an affordable price for our families. The talents of our teachers and their dedication to each child have enabled our students to grow into responsible adults. Many of these students now send their children to Sacred Heart. The efforts of so many and the grace of God have made Sacred Heart a strong, productive school.

Should you have any questions about our school, please contact us. The red doors of Sacred Heart are open and welcome you!

God bless,
Janet Williams,
Principal of Sacred Heart School

Interested in learning more about our Sponsors Program and how to support Sacred Heart School?

Interested in joining the school, or learning more about what we have to offer your student? 

Faculty and Staff

Pastor: Father Michael Doyle
Development Director: Mr. Adam Bacher
Montessori Director and Teacher: Ms. Cheryl Heatwole Shenk
First Grade Teacher: Ms. Julia Whitman
Third Grade Teacher: Ms. Trisha Roland
Sixth Grade Teacher: Ms. Amy Banner
Physical Education: Mr. Timothy Heatwole Shenk
Principal: Ms. Janet Williams
Lunch Program: Ms. Francisca Couloote
Montessori Pre-k and Kindergarten Teacher: Ms. Yolina Owens
First Grade Aide: Ms. Judy Maldonado
Third Grade Aide: Ms. Destine Webb
Seventh Grade Teacher: Ms. Emily Forchione
Art: Ms. Nicole Cucinotta
Administrative Assistant: Ms. Ellen Pavlacka
Lunch Program: Ms. Kelly Cintron
Montessori Pre-k and Kindergarten Classroom Aide: Ms. Patrice Mathes
Second Grade Teacher: Ms. Denise Andrews
Fourth Grade Teacher: Ms. Amy Weaks
Eighth Grade Teacher: Ms. Karen Greene
Music: Ms. Dawn Bembery
Counselor: Ms. Keli Robinson
Lunch Program: Ms. Lorna Davis
Montessori Pre-k and Kindergarten Classroom Aide: Ms. Kristin Schrum
Second Grade Aide: Ms. Leimaris Rivera
Fifth Grade Teacher: Ms. LaKisha Walker
Middle School Math: Ms. Nancy Donnelly
Specials Aide: Ms. Erin Riley

The History of Sacred Heart School

THE BEGINNINGS

The joyous sounds of children’s voices and footsteps have echoed in the halls of Sacred Heart School at 4th and Jasper Streets in Camden since January 19, 1920 – that happy day when the front doors first opened to welcome 580 students. In those days it was not unusual for there to be seventy students in each classroom. For Father John B. McCloskey, then pastor of Sacred Heart Church, the building of a brand new elementary school for the children was a central part of his dream for his parish.


THE FIRST TEACHERS

On that first day of school in January, seven Newburgh Dominican Sisters greeted the children and led them to their classrooms. Sacred Heart students have been greeted by their new teachers every September since – that yearly rite of passage that marks the end of summer and the turning to fall as well as the step from one stone to the next in the little stream of life in elementary school. Two more Sisters came a few weeks later and until 1979, when the needs of their community caused the three remaining Sisters to move to Saint Mary’s in Gloucester, the Newburgh Dominican Sisters educated and nurtured the minds and spirits of the students of Sacred Heart School. Sixty years of dedicated service! Sister Patricia Margaret (Sister Nora Foley today) was the last Dominican principal at Sacred Heart. Since 1979 the teachers and principals who have come to Sacred Heart have continued the tradition of excellence in education rooted in Christian values that the Sisters first established during the school’s earliest beginnings. Ms. Janet Williams, the current principal, has embraced this tradition for thirty-one years. For four years she taught second and fourth grades and is now in her twenty-seventh year as principal. Her hard work and dedication are an ongoing source of inspiration to her teachers and staff.

CHANGES IN CAMDEN

Camden has changed dramatically since those early days when the school opened in a city that was alive and thriving; where thousands of children were educated in Catholic schools. As suburbs began to develop in areas just outside the city on what was once farmland, Camden residents left the city in large numbers. The closing of the New York Shipyard in 1967, which employed thousands of workers, was a crushing blow from which the city has never fully recovered.

HOPEFUL SIGNS

Yet everywhere there are signs of hope. The Heart of Camden, a non-profit housing organization founded in 1984 by Sacred Heart’s pastor of forty years, Father Michael Doyle, has restored almost 200 houses in the Waterfront South neighborhood around Sacred Heart. Across the street from the school, a brand new theatre, The Waterfront South Theatre, has been built thanks to the enormous generosity of Mr. Pepe Piperno and the hard work of The Heart of Camden. There hasn’t been a public theatre for live performances in Camden for many years.

In 2012 the Heart of Camden completed renovations on the old Star Theatre on Broadway. It now houses a brand new gymnasium, the Michael J. Doyle Fieldhouse, where Sacred Heart students now have their Physical Education classes.

In September of 2015 we opened a brand new Montessori Preschool in what was once the large secretarial course room in the convent – just a short walk across the school driveway. Sacred Heart School is so excited to welcome these very young students to our family.

And still standing at the corner of 4th and Jasper Streets is the red brick school with the bright red, front doors. While Camden and the Waterfront South neighborhood have undergone many changes over the years, Sacred Heart School stands strong and firm in its commitment to nurture and educate its students in a loving, Christian environment, inspired by the teachings of Jesus. In 1920, the vast majority of the students were Catholic. Today most of our students are not. The doors of Sacred Heart are open to children of every race and religion.

For all these years Father Doyle has held fast to his dreams of renewed life in the neighborhood and opportunities for the children. He works tirelessly to achieve these dreams and has inspired countless others to join him. For thirty years he has written monthly letters that go to over 3600 people – some as far away as Europe and Australia! From these a huge number of people come forth each year to sponsor a child in our school. It is this unique Sponsorship Program, initiated by Father Doyle and fostered by him for thirty years, that has kept our school doors open in welcome to the children. Sponsor a child and keep the dream alive.

ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR

On September 4, 2019, our red doors opened for our 100th year to almost 200 students! Gone are the days of seventy to a classroom. In education we have come to know that smaller classes are more conducive to learning. The walls are freshly painted and every surface is scrubbed to a bright shine. A few summers ago a beautiful wrought-iron fence was erected in front of the school and a sidewalk of warm, autumn-blend bricks was laid there as well. It is a wonderful sight to see the children walk this new path to and from school every morning and afternoon. The school is well-cared for and welcoming; a place that our principal, Janet Williams, is proud of. Proud, too, are the teachers, parents and students of Sacred Heart School.

The first day of school is always an exciting day as the students come in full of enthusiasm and anticipation for the new school year. No first day of school would be complete, however, without the sad tears of the few kindergartners who are not quite ready to leave the comfort of family and home. Yet in a very short time, usually just a few days, they enter the red doors dry-eyed and smiling, ready to spend the day with their Sacred Heart School family in their home away from home.

 

Fr. John B. McClosky (with shovel) and Monsignor Bernard J. Mulligan from Immaculate Conception Cathedral lead an enthusiastic throng of parishioners, dignitaries and well-wishers in breaking ground for Sacred Heart School, May 11, 1919
Three former principals (left to right) Sr. Patricia Margaret, O.P. (1967-1979) Kathleen Mauger (1982-1986) and Brother Hugh Maguire, F.S.C. (1979-1982.)
Ms. Cheryl teaching geography in the Sacred Heart School Montessori program, which opened in 2015
Sacred Heart School's iconic red doors will be opening for the 100th school year in September of 2019