History of Immaculate Heart Academy and Immaculate Heart Central School

Gary F. West Faith-Based Education Scholarship

Through the Northern New York Community Foundation, an anonymous donor has offered a $5,000 matching challenge to create a permanent scholarship in honor of long-time North Country educator and administrator Gary F. West. Mr. West will retire as Immaculate Heart Central elementary school principal at the end of the school year. He has served for 40 years in various capacities in both public and parochial education in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. The Gary F. West Faith-Based Education Scholarship will be a component fund of the Northern New York Community Foundation and will provide financial assistance to elementary students attending Immaculate Heart Central School. Those wishing to honor Mr. West and support the scholarship can make tax-deductible gifts to the Northern New York Community Foundation, 131 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601. Gifts should designate the scholarship on the memo line. All gifts will be matched up to a total of $5,000, which will create a $10,000 endowed fund in his honor. To give : NNY Community Foundation Giving Form

News on Structural Changes

Immaculate Heart Central School Announces Structural Changes Beginning on July 1, 2017 Immaculate Heart Central School will operate with several structural changes. In 2004, the four parish schools of Watertown and Immaculate Heart Central High School were joined together under one Education Council, similar to a public school Board of Education, but with limited jurisdiction. In 2016, in order to emphasize the unity of the system from pre-k to 12, the Education Council voted to change the official name of the system from Immaculate Heart Central Schools to Immaculate Heart Central School. In recent times, the organization provided for a Principal for the elementary school with offices at the primary building (grades pre-k to 3) on Winthrop St., a Vice Principal at the intermediate school (grades 4-6) on South Massey St, and a Vice Principal and Principal at the high school (grades 7-12). In addition, there is a Finance Officer and a Director of Advancement. The two Principals, the Finance Officer and the Director of Advancement have been equally responsible to the Education Council. However, there has not been one person in charge of and responsible for the total day to day operation of the school. Beginning on July 1, 2017, there will be one School Principal for grades pre-k to 12 located at the high school. The School Principal, in addition to being head of school, will serve as the Principal for grades 7 to 12. Each of the elementary buildings will have a Vice Principal, each of whom will be responsible for the day to day operation of the school, including, but not limited to, the academic program, student activities, and communication with parents. These two Vice Principals, the Fiscal Officer, the Director of Advancement, and the high school Vice Principal will report to the School Principal. The Education Council will be charged with hiring the School Principal who, in turn, will hire all other personnel as needed. The Education Council will begin a comprehensive search to fill the position of School Principal. In the meantime, Mr. Joseph Orobona will serve as Interim School Principal beginning on July 1.


On December 28, 1880, three Sisters arrived in Watertown from Buffalo with the purpose of opening a Catholic school. The challenges were daunting. The Catholic community in Watertown was staunchly divided between the Irish immigrant and French-Canadian populations. The North Country weather was bitter. On New Year's Day, the Watertown Daily Times published an article reporting that "The year 1880 breathed its last amid a storm of snow and wind, and its fleeting soul was borne away on the wings of a tempest." Finances were also difficult. Nonetheless, five days after their arrival, the Sisters secured a small wooden house at 114 Main Street, which at first served the parishioners of Our Lady of Sacred Heart Parish. This small house served as the beginning of Catholic education in Watertown. When finances threatened to close the school, the Sisters continued the school as a private academy known as Immaculate Heart Academy. From the beginning, the school was coeducational. The small house was both convent and school until 1883 when a new school building was erected.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph's First Mission in Watertown, 1882
The Sisters of Saint Joseph's First Mission in Watertown, 1882


The new school building was ready for students in 1884. Because of decreasing enrollment and financial problems, the school was forced to close in 1896. However, the Sisters of St. Joseph continued the school as a private academy known as Immaculate Heart Academy at 362 West Main Street, for students in grades 9 through 12. Each of the four parishes in Watertown – St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart, Holy Family, and St. Anthony's – also formed their own traditional parish schools, serving children in grades K to 8. From the beginning, Immaculate Heart Academy admitted both boys and girls. In October 1904, IHA received its first charter as an academic school. In 1908, IHA was fully accredited by the University of the State of New York. An ever-growing student body made it necessary to build again, and in 1923, a new addition was ready for classes. By 1954, because of over-crowded conditions, the need for a new building was evident.

Immaculate Heart Academy on West Main St.


A financial campaign was undertaken throughout the city by the four parishes and groundbreaking ceremonies for the new high school building took place in March 30, 1964. Msgr. Albert Farrell turned the first spadeful of earth. On August 22, 1965, on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the renamed Immaculate Heart Central (IHC) High School was dedicated to Thomas A. Donnellan, then Bishop of the Diocese. The new school opened for classes in September, 1965. The faculty comprised twelve Sisters of St. Joseph, four Religious Teachers Filippini, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Diocesan Priests, and lay teachers.

In 1988, a new athletic field complex was constructed which consists of baseball, softball, and football, soccer, and lacrosse fields. Field lights and a press box and concession stand building were constructed adjacent to the main field area. In 2003, Immaculate Heart Central expanded its educational mission by adding a Junior High School for seventh and eighth graders.

IHC High School today


Due to financial constraints, all of the local Catholic parish K-8 schools merged to form IHC Elementary School, which is located in the IHC Primary School for grades K-3 and the IHC Intermediate School for grades 4-6. IHC Elementary also includes the St. John Bosco Pre-School program for three and four-year olds. The 7th and 8th grade students joined the high school to form IHC Junior/Senior High School. Together, the IHC school system has a single mission; "To provide a quality Catholic and secular education, to cultivate holiness based on the love and imitation of Christ, and to form responsible citizens whose Christian values will transform the world."

IHC Primary School today


The Immaculate Heart Central School Seal

The IHC seal is full of meaning. The Greek letters Chi (X) and Rho (P) represent Jesus Christ, who is at the center of all we do. The symbol M represents Mary, the mother of God and patroness of our school. The book represents the Holy Bible and our status as an educational institution. The date of the school’s founding, originally as Immaculate Heart Academy, is 1881. The shield is a traditional heraldic emblem, which signifies our allegiance to Jesus Christ. The color scheme signifies our school colors of blue and white.

The Immaculate Heart Academy and Immaculate Heart Central High School Alma Mater

IHA-IHC Alma Mater

Just above Black River’s waters with her banks so green;

Proudly stands our Alma Mater glorious to be seen.

Thou has the key, O Alma Mater, to chasten and refine.

O mount of Science and of Art, which elevate the mind.

Tho’ we may roam through foreign lands, thro’ orange groves and bowers.

Where songbirds sing their sweetest notes and fragrance fills the flowers.

We’ll not forget our Alma Mater, nor her maple groves.

That ole sequestered hallowed spot, where we so often roamed.

We hail, we hail thee, Alma Mater! Loyal ever be.

Where e’re we go, what e’er may come, with love we’ll turn to thee.

To you, dear Classmates, now adieu, we’ve labored side by side.

Let honest purpose be our aim; Alma Mater be our guide.

IHC’s 2013 inductees into the National Honor Society

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