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History of Guardian Angels School

  • In the fall of 1990, the Diocese of St. Petersburg answered the need for a Catholic elementary school to serve the growing Catholic population of north Pinellas County.

    After meeting with Bishop Favalora, the pastors of All Saints, St. Michael’s, St. Luke’s, and St. Ignatius, agreed that Guardian Angels Primary School, an inter-parochial ministry, would be established in the existing CCD classrooms at St. Michael’s parish until a permanent site could be located and a school building constructed. It was with great joy that Reverend James Russo was named the first school pastor.

    In 1991, after much anticipation, Guardian Angel Primary School opened its doors to 35 kindergarten and first grade students. At the request of Father Russo, the Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio sent Sister Jean Marie Dick to serve as Guardian Angels’ first principal. Two lay teachers, two teacher assistants, and a school secretary joined Sister Jean Marie that first year. No one could have imagined then that from such humble beginnings a prosperous, well-equipped school and campus would emerge.

    Due to a dramatic increase in applications for enrollment in 1992, the Diocese decided that Guardian Angels would be expanded from a primary school to an elementary school, and the name changed to Guardian Angels Catholic School.

    In each successive year, two classes would be added to reach the goal of having two classes of each grade K-8 by the 2003-2004 school year. A capital campaign throughout the four feeder parishes was initiated to finance this project that was to consist of three buildings to be built in three separate phases.

    In 1993 and 1994, two additions were made to the GACS family with Sr. Mary Elizabeth Sakach who succeeded Sister. Sr. Jean Marie as principal and a Spanish teacher that was hired to begin our foreign language program. GACS welcomed almost 200 students into its Phase 1 building at 2270 Evans Road in Clearwater for the 1995 - 96 school year and no one was happier than the new school pastor, Father Joseph Pellegrino and new principal, Mrs. Cindy Mann. The St. Gabriel building, as it is now known, provided 12 classrooms with 6 teacher offices between them, administrative and staff offices, a media center, and a teacher’s lounge. The extended day program was instituted as well as alternative lunch services. An outdoor pavilion was built for the students as a lunch facility.

    As important to students as academics is athletics, and our athletic program was initiated in a probationary status with the Pinellas Youth Conference. After a year of successful participation, in 1998 Guardian Angels School was accepted as a permanent member of the league. This year also welcomed its fourth principal, Mr. Robert Yarnell.

    Phase II of construction was completed in 1998 with the addition of a middle school building. The St. Raphael building includes six middle school classrooms, two offices, and a multi-purpose room now used for student lunch services as well as meetings and various student activities. In 1999, Guardian Angels celebrated its first eighth grade graduation and in 2004 graduated 2 eighth grade classrooms finally attaining the original goal of having 2 classes at each level.

    In 2000, the walls of the existing media center were pushed back to accommodate a new computer lab and the ever-increasing book collection of the library. With all of the wonderful happenings taking place, it was not a wonder that Guardian Angels received its first accreditation through the Florida Catholic Conference in 2001.

    Mrs. Cindy Malinski, assistant principal, was appointed principal in 2003.  She remained in that position until her retirement in 2016.  Mary Stalzer is the current principal appointed in 2016.  Over the years, Guardian Angels has grown from a student population of 35 to one of 300; from a faculty of 2 to a staff of 43. Additionally, aside from the basic academic subjects, instruction and enrichment is offered in music, art, guidance, Spanish, technology, and media. Algebra I and a composition class are part of the middle school curriculum as well. Internet access, wireless capability, and cable TV are all part of our technological offerings. The original playground has been replaced and PE facilities expanded with outdoor basketball courts, volleyball courts and the newly dedicated Jim Fregosi soccer field.

    A modular building with 4 additional teacher offices was added to our campus in 2006 to house the Fine Arts program, and security fencing was added to enclose the entire property. Also, in addition to the existing grotto, our campus spiritual life was enhanced with the dedication of the Kevin LaPlante Chapel by Bishop Robert Lynch in October of 2006. This beautiful, 100-seat chapel is the center of campus life at GACS. The chapel is used for class masses, First Friday rosary, and student, faculty, staff, and parent prayer.

    With the construction and dedication of the chapel,  the vision of GACS was spiritually enriched. With Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament at the center of the campus, the ministry of faith and education will continue to grow under the spiritual leadership of Monsignor Joseph Pellegrino, school pastor.