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Our History

Updated on Feb 25, 2021 01:15 PM

Our History: A mission of faith, a tradition of excellence.

In 1876, Mother Pia Backes, traveling with two other Dominican Sisters, boarded a train in New York heading for San Francisco with the goal of teaching German immigrant children of the Mission District. As the school grew, more sisters joined and, by 1883, Immaculate Conception Academy was established. The Sisters’ educational ministry expanded with the opening of St. Thomas School for Boys in 1900 on the corner of 24th and Guerrero Streets. Eight years later, St. James Boys School was built at 23rd and Fair Oaks Streets, replacing St. Thomas School. The new school was staffed by the Brothers of Mary (Marianists) and included Grades 4 through 8.


In 1924Monsignor Patrick Quinn, second pastor of St. James Parish, realized his dream of having a parish school for girls independent from the Academy. Under the direction of Sister Bernarda Hornung, the first principal, girls in Grades 1 through 8 and boys in Grades 1 through 3 were taught at the new St. James Girls School at 24th and Fair Oaks Streets.

In 1950, when the Marianists left to establish Riordan High School, the Dominican Sisters undertook the staffing of St. James and for twenty years maintained the schools as separate units. In 1970, under the direction of Sister Rosalinda Henriques, the Boys School merged with the Girls School.       
Today, while under the direction and supervision of lay administration, we still honor our affiliation with Dominican Sisters and the unshakeable foundation of faith and education they built under Mother Pia's leadership for generations of St. James students.