The Auburndale School: 1966-1988
The Auburndale School was founded in 1966 by Mr. Stanley Smith and Dr. Mary Alice Smith. The Smiths realized there was a need for a non-graded program specializing in the instruction of children with learning disabilities; thus the conception of a school was formed. As the school became known for its excellence in education, a demand grew for a comparable program to accommodate those students who no longer required special academic attention and the regular program evolved in 1970. The school was originally planned to be housed in a church in Midtown on Auburndale Street from which it took its name. Due to a fire at that church, the first classes with a total enrollment of 12 students were held at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church. In 1972, plans began to build the Auburndale School in Cordova on a 21 acre site near the Countrywood subdivision. While waiting for the completion of construction, the school moved to the old Siena College. With the construction of the first building completed, four grades moved to Cordova for the 1973-1974 school year while four grades remained at Siena College. Dr. John Rutland became Superintendent of the Auburndale School where he would remain for 10 years. By the 1974-1975 school year, the second building was completed and all 480 students were house in Cordova. Plans began immediately in the fall of 1974 for two major undertakings; the construction of the Upper School and applications of accreditation by the State Department of Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Both goals became a reality in 1975 and the Auburndale School was recognized by the Memphis Association of Independent Schools as one of the fastest growing school systems in the area. The first Auburndale Senior Class graduated in 1976. A five year old Kindergarten was designed in 1976. In 1978 the Gifted program was established to serve the needs of the academically talented and in 1986 the first four year old kindergarten class enrolled at Auburndale.
St. Benedict at Auburndale: 1988-2004
By the fall of 1987, Mr. and Dr. Smith were both in poor health and, being devout Catholics, discussed with Bishop Daniel Buechlein the possibility of selling the school to the Catholic Diocese. On January 14, 1988, Bishop Buechlein announced the Catholic Diocese of Memphis purchased the Auburndale School. Plans, terms, and even a name, St. Benedict at Auburndale, named after the patron saint of Bishop Buechlein’s order, were agreed upon. The Diocese reached out to The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecila in Nashville to come to SBA and enlighten it with a strong spiritual and religious presence. To head this new school, Bishop Buechlein, along with Mother Assumpta, O.P., appointed Memphis-born Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker, O.P., as the school’s first principal. She served as principal until 1992. Then Bishop Beuchlein appointed Father Richard Mickey as principal. In 1996, Dr. Mary McDonald became the school’s first lay principal since SBA’s inception. She left SBA in 1998 to become the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese. Frank Linxwiler served as principal for the 1998-1999 school year. George Valadie became principal of SBA in 1999 and led the school in growth and change through 2013. From 1988-2004, SBA encompassed four year old kindergarten through twelfth grade with programs serving the traditional child, those with learning disabilities, and those with exceptional academic talent.
St. Benedict at Auburndale High School: 2004-Present
As the demand for a quality Catholic high school education grew, SBA was receiving more applications than we could admit. In July, 2004, after several years, of discussion, fund-raising, and construction, SBA moved next door into our new campus and underwent a transition into a high school-only setting serving grades 9 through 12. Simultaneously, Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D. declared the elementary portion of the school to have a new governing structure. It became an official part of the neighboring St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, allowing one of the largest parishes in the Diocese to have a parish school. We are now neighbors with no official ties. Our new facility was designed with a serious eye toward technology and growth. We packed up the old campus with 465 students and arrived at the new with 650 students. Today, we have close to 1,000 students. Our expansion has also allowed us to add more athletic teams, advanced placement classes, a theatre for our fine arts department, technology implemented classrooms, and many other advancements. St. Benedict at Auburndale High School offers educational experiences for students with college preparatory classes that follow traditional, Honors, and Advanced Placement tracks. SBA still honors the legacy of The Auburndale School and the Smith Family by offering structured classes through the PLUS Program (Positive Learning Utilizing Strategies) for students with learning disabilities. After George Valadie's transfer in 2013 to his hometown of Chattanooga, TN to become the President of his alma mater, Notre Dame High School, Mrs. Sondra Morris was named interim principal and eventually principal. She continues to lead with great vision for the future of SBA.