A BRIEF HISTORY OF CATHEDRAL HIGH SCHOOL, 1925-2012, AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Today Cathedral High School serves over 700 young men, who are primarily from low income families living in the oldest neighborhoods and parishes of Los Angeles. The mission of St. John Baptist de La Salle, Patron Saint of Teachers, and Founder of the Christian Brothers, to educate the working class and the poor is being achieved at a time when such a Catholic, quality college preparatory education is needed more than ever by young people from families of modest means.
Cathedral High School was founded by Archbishop John J. Cantwell as the first Los Angeles Archdiocesan high school for boys in the fall of 1925. The Christian Brothers have operated Cathedral High School since its opening. Cathedral is located on the site of Old Calvary Cemetery just northeast of the Civic Center and in view of the new Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.
In 1923 the Christian Brothers arrived in Los Angeles and taught 7th and 8th grade boys at Sacred Heart Parish, Lincoln Heights. In 1924 a 9th grade was added. The Brothers and 9th and 10th grade students moved to the new high school on Bishops Rd at the beginning of the 1925-1926 school year.
From 1925 until just after World War II, Cathedral served students from all over Southern California. The majority came from the parishes of Lincoln Heights, East Los Angeles, South Central, and Echo Park, but others traveled to Cathedral from Pasadena, Glendale, and the San Fernando Valley. In order to serve the great increase in the population of Southern California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles began a campaign to build many new high schools in suburban areas. By the early 1950's most Cathedral students came from the oldest parishes in the central areas of the city and the student population became heavily Latino.
In the late 1960's it became very clear that all Cathedral High School students needed to continue their education on the college level. A great emphasis was placed on students applying to four year colleges and universities. The curriculum was revised so that all graduates met the subject entrance requirements of the University of California. Cathedral graduates have been routinely accepted at Harvard, Yale, Notre Dame, as well as St. Mary's College Moraga, Willamette University, Loyola Marymount, USC, UCLA, etc. for these past 35 years. Many Cathedral graduates have assumed leadership rolls in state and local government, the business community, and the Church.
In 1980 the Christian Brothers entered into an arrangement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to operate Cathedral High School as a private Catholic School. This was a lease agreement that was renewed on a yearly basis. The Christian Brothers provided additional funding for increased faculty and staff salaries and benefits, expanded academic programs, increased student financial aid, etc.
In July 1984 the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced that the Cathedral High School property had been sold and that the school would close at the end of June 1985. This news was met with great dismay by the students, parents, alumni, and friends of Cathedral High School. An effort was made by the leadership of the school, the Christian Brothers, student, parents, alumni, and friends to respectfully ask the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to change its decision. The appeal was based on the fact that Cathedral High School was fully enrolled, that the students came from a highly Catholic neighborhoods in the oldest and poorest parishes and areas of the City, that the Brothers had committed personnel and financial resources to insure the success of the school, and the alumni now had the potential to be a major source of support for current and future students. In December, 1984 the Archdiocese announced a moratorium and that the school would continue to operate until June, 1987.
In the summer of 1985 Bishop Roger Mahony of Stockton was named Archbishop of Los Angeles. In December, 1985 Archbishop Mahony announced that the sale of the Cathedral property was null and void and that Cathedral High School would continue to serve the young men of Los Angeles for many years to come.
Because of the Christian Brothers' difficult financial situation, Cathedral High School again became an Archdiocesan school in 1987. The Brothers felt that they did not have the resources at that time to guarantee the future of the school.
By the mid-nineties a number of factors had begun to change. The enrollment of Cathedral High School dropped into the 300's. Faculty turn over was high.
The Christian Brothers aware of these difficulties, and being in a better position to support the students because of funds available from the Benilde Charitable Trust, came to an agreement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to establish Cathedral High School as a private Catholic school governed by a Board of Trustees.
Positive changes began to occur rapidly with the renovation of the campus facilities, introduction of a 7 period a day academic program, the expansion and improvements in Cathedral’s extra curricular and athletic programs. Enrollment began to grow from the 400’s to the 500’s to the 600’s and now to the mid 700’s today.
Of today's 700 plus students 70% require financial aid and/or academic scholarships to meet the cost of tuition and fees. The school provides over $2 million dollars for academic scholarships and need based aid.
All students no matter how they test at entrance are given a college preparatory education. Today many Advanced Placement and honors courses are offered to our students. Each student takes seven classes a day—most Catholic schools offer only six. This additional class each semester is necessary to meet demanding college entrance requirements, allows students to take additional elective courses in areas of interest, helps at risk students better develop their basic skills, etc. Theater arts, studio art, media graphics, music, and television production are now in the curriculum. A full sports program is available to Cathedral students—including swimming, water polo, golf, tennis, and volleyball—most of which are not available in urban schools.
In recent years up to 80% of Cathedral graduates are admitted to four year colleges and universities.99-100% of the graduating seniors will continue their education after high school. Because of the expanded curriculum, Cathedral students receive acceptance to numerous colleges and universities throughout the United States. The enhanced curriculum provides students the opportunity to challenge themselves, while fulfilling all the UC and CSU requirements.
In 2005 Cathedral High School began the construction of the new 48,000 square feet gymnasium-science complex. This building which was dedicated by Cardinal Roger Mahony in November, 2007 consists of a new gymnasium, science labs, media graphics computer lab,, classrooms, locker rooms and weight room. Although our beloved gymnasium had to be demolished, many elements of the old gymnasium are incorporated and preserved in the new building. The construction and additions to the campus were needed to meet the needs of our current and future Phantoms.
In 2008, inspired by the opening of the new gym-science facility, an Alumnus of the Class of 1970 surprised the administration, faculty, staff and Cathedral community by making a gift of over $4 million to construct The Vic Balzano Family Field and Parlapiano & Farfan Track. This gift is the largest ever made by an alumnus to a Lasallian School in the history of the Christian Brothers District of San Francisco.
Cathedral High School in its partnership with the Archdiocese, alumni, and the business and civic communities of Los Angeles is more successful than at any time in its history in providing its students with a quality Catholic college preparatory education. There is a great spirit of unity and belonging at Cathedral High School— something that is needed more than ever by young people. There is a great spirit of devotion to God and the Church amongst the students and they are doing more to serve the poor in the community than at any time in the school's history.
Through its academic programs, campus facilities, technology offerings, sports programs, visual & performing arts productions and Christian service programs Cathedral has made itself a school of choice for many young students. Cathedral High School has been educating young men from throughout the greater Los Angeles area since 1925. Through the dedicated work of the Christian Brothers and their colleagues, Cathedral provides a human, religious, and academic education for young men, within a Catholic community directed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the educational vision of Saint John Baptist de la Salle.