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St. James' Episcopal School History

The Reverend Dr. Samuel D'Amico founded St. James’ Episcopal School as a mission of St. James’ Episcopal Church in 1968 to provide a high-quality elementary education, grounded in the Christian faith, for families in the parish neighborhood. Joseph DeBell, a St. James’ parishioner and an advocate of youth causes including schools and scouting, donated the original school building, a humble apartment on Gramercy Place, which was large enough for the four Kindergarten students and one teacher.

Each year from 1968 until 1974, a grade level was added until the school welcomed students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. From the beginning, the school offered a challenging academic program within a caring environment. Kindergarten candidates were screened for admission and evaluated annually for academic progress. Students worshipped together and received regular religious instruction. 

In 1981, St. James’ Episcopal School moved to its current location on St. Andrews Place. The DeBell Hall building – funded by Joseph DeBell, the St. James’ Parish, and the Ahmanson Foundation – was designed for fourteen classrooms (two sections at each grade level). The school reached its full capacity of 308 students in 1984 and was known in the community primarily for its strong academic program, unpretentious atmosphere, diverse student body reflecting the vast diversity of Los Angeles, and outstanding choir and music program.  

In 1997, the commercial property known as Belden's was razed to create a playing field for the school. The following year, St. James' established a preschool. In 2001, an additional building was added, including a multipurpose hall, library, technology room, science laboratory, and larger classrooms. The square footage of the school doubled while the number of students remained the same. 

In 2009, The Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation and parents contributed to the creation of a state-of-the-art science lab with cutting-edge equipment that led to the implementation of a robust S.T.E.A.M. program uniting science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics in an engaging and rigorous course of study.

In 2011, an art room renovation made possible by the Ahmanson Foundation and generous parent support set the stage for a dynamic and expanded art program including digital arts, ceramics, and two- and three-dimensional pieces of unique vision and individuality displayed throughout the school. In the fall of 2012, a sleek new preschool building opened its doors on Gramercy Place.

St. James’ technology program boasts modern equipment including laptops, digital cameras, tablets, 3-D printers, desktop computers, interactive projectors, and Walltalkers™, all of which are vehicles by which students can comfortably travel through cyberspace researching and collaborating in higher-level thinking and problem-solving. The technologically sophisticated, interactive Spanish curriculum builds new levels of oral proficiency in the upper levels, while the performing arts program established in 2013 opens the frontiers of band, acting, musical theater, Shakespeare, and dance to students at every grade level.

The school has met the needs of a changing population and responded to market signals and current educational research to adjust its program over time, but the bedrock foundations of the school remain unchanged. Committed to maintaining its socioeconomic diversity, an endowment established in the new millennium swelled to nearly $2,000,000 with the arrival of foundational gifts to support tuition assistance from the Wells and March families, which in turn inspired significant contributions from many other members of our community.

In 2016 St. James' launched the most ambitious capital campaign in the school's history, The Believe Campaign raising over $6,000,000. This historic initiative secured funding for a complete makeover of every room on the K-6 campus, a new Spanish classroom, and increased administrative space. Additionally the Believe Campaign assigned new funds for professional development in the form of the Teaching and Learning Institute. 

In the 2018-19 school year we celebrated our 50th anniversary, with a special highlight on our traditions of joyfulness, diversity, and academic excellence and welcomed our current Head of School, Peter Reinke after bidding farewell to Debbi David (2011-2018).  

St. James’ children are regarded as upstanding citizens and fine scholars; they are eagerly sought by the city’s best middle schools. St. James’ Episcopal School continues to thrive and develop students capable of facing future challenges with courage and conviction. Its graduates are prepared spiritually, physically, mentally, and morally to lead the world into a better, brighter tomorrow.