St. Gabriel School opened its doors in 1948, bolstered by a small but passionate parish that was founded seven years earlier by Monsignor George Bedford. From the first mass in a hardware store on Taraval Street in 1941 to the beginning of school construction in 1947, the parish neighborhood in the Outer Sunset underwent a stunning transformation from a sparsely populated landscape of continually shifting sand dunes to a burgeoning neighborhood filled with block after block of houses, and many young children.
In its first year, St. Gabriel School offered classes in kindergarten through fourth grade and was staffed by the dedicated Sisters of Mercy. Sr. Dolores Carroll, R.S.M. (Sr. Mary Hilary) was the first principal and guided the school during the early years, when the campus expanded by two classrooms each year. During the ongoing construction, staff had to be creative with the use of space; the upper floor of the school was used for both classrooms and a makeshift auditorium for plays and performances.
Early on, the school had very strong support and participation from its parents. The Mothers Guild and Fathers Club were established in the school’s first two years; decades later, the groups would merge to become the Parents Organization.
St. Gabriel held its first eighth grade graduation in 1952. The following year, the auditorium was built, and in 1954, construction was officially complete, bringing the school’s total classrooms to 24.
During the 1950s, St. Gabriel experienced a peak enrollment of 1,200 students, making it the largest Catholic elementary school west of the Mississippi.
Throughout these years of growth, Monsignor Bedford continued to have an active role in the running of the school. Many alumni fondly remember him walking around the schoolyard, stopping to talk with children. He could be both lighthearted, making the kids laugh, and serious when it came to academic expectations.
On report card day, Monsignor Bedford would visit each classroom and take a seat at the teacher’s desk. In his slow, deliberate voice he would call up each student to receive his or her report card. Depending on the grades, he’d give a subtle nod of approval or a frown accompanied by words of wisdom: “You need to try a little harder in math,” or “Try and listen more closely and not talk so much.” Regardless, the students walked away smiling.
After a long legacy shepherding the parish for nearly 30 years, Monsignor Bedford died in 1970.
Monsignor Francis Quinn, who would later be ordained a bishop, was appointed pastor in 1970, the beginning of another era of change for the school. In 1971, St. Gabriel began phasing out one classroom per year, ultimately becoming a double grade school.
In 1981, Sister M. Pauline Borghello became the school’s ninth principal. For the next 34 years, Sr. Pauline implemented countless initiatives to improve the school, including programs for students with learning differences, creating a science lab and computer center, building a much-needed schoolyard fence, establishing the Extended Care program that serves more than 100 students each day, and transforming the former cafeteria into a multi-purpose room. Under Sr. Pauline’s leadership, St. Gabriel established its Alumni Association, the Annual Fund and Scrip program.
In 2008, Father Tom Hamilton became pastor. Today, Father Tom and his dog Lizzie May are frequent visitors to the school and are beloved by students, parents and staff.
Upon Sr. Pauline’s retirement in 2015, Mrs. Gina Beal joined the school as principal. Mrs. Beal continues to transform the school with innovative plans, including converting the library into a preschool that currently serves 33 students and already has a wait list. A new library was built in the multi-purpose room as well as a designated fine arts room. Additionally, Mrs. Beal continues to bring technology to the schools, most recently with 1:1 Chromebooks for grades 4-8.
St. Gabriel School has been blessed with a glorious 70 years since its inception and has laid the foundation for thousands of students working in many different vocations.
Today, we have 53 alumni families, 80 children of alumni, and 10 alumni faculty members.
The school is always preparing to meet the challenges ahead with an unwavering commitment to gospel values and the same energy and enthusiasm for education that has endured throughout for over 70 years.