St. Paul School to mark 110 years

SALEM – For the first time in seven years, enrollment is up at St. Paul School and Principal Dave Pancurak is crediting word of mouth from the families of the students as the reason.

The 110-year-old pre-K through sixth grade Catholic education institution will celebrate its anniversary and continued existence during a dinner Aug. 23 at the school at 925 E. State St. for alumni, supporters and staff members and teachers both past and present.

“We’re going to be reminiscing,” St. Paul School Foundation board member and dinner chairman Gina Dermotta said.

Calling the event a reunion for all classes, she said they’ll show a power point of the school’s history and share memories over scrapbooks and old yearbooks. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., with gluten-free and vegan meals available.

The cost is $30 and anyone interested in attending should mail their payment and make their reservation by Saturday.

Checks should be made payable to the St. Paul School Foundation and sent to Dermotta at 1324 N. Union Ave., Salem, Ohio 44460. Dermotta can be reached at 330-337-0738.

Since taking over as principal last year and even before as a teacher, Pancurak has been working to promote St. Paul School, with help from the St. Paul School Foundation and the parents involved in the St. Paul Home and School Association. He explained that families are sharing what they know about the school with other families in Salem and the communities around Salem.

“They’re seeing the product we’re delivering,” he said.

The school website at has been improved, along with a constantly-updated Facebook page. He’s also been reaching out to area daycares for preschool and kindergarten level students. He listed the school foundation’s support for tuition assistance as another reason for the school’s success.

St. Paul School Foundation President Frank Zamarelli said the non-profit group’s mission since it’s founding in 1990 has been to ensure the school’s longevity in any way possible, whether that’s through tuition assistance, helping with improvements to technology and infrastructure or promoting the school to others.

“We need to keep Catholic education strong and alive in our county,” Zamarelli said.

St. Paul School is one of two Catholic elementary schools in Columbiana County, along with St. Aloysius, which was established in 1885 in East Liverpool. St. Paul’s school history dates back to 1904 when the first structure was built for $12,000 while Father Thomas Conlon was pastor of the parish.

According to a history of the parish written for the church’s centennial in 1981, Father Richard Gaffney started the project for a new school building in May 1954. The first section was ready for classes after Easter in 1955 when the demolition of the old school began. The four rooms in the second section were ready for class by the end of January 1956. Since that time, the school has undergone other changes to keep up with the times.

When asked why the special celebration for 110 years, Zamarelli said “every year over 100 is a gift.”

With populations shifting and Catholic schools slowly disappearing, he said they have to get the word out about the great things happening at St. Paul School. While Pancurak credited the families, Zamarelli credited Pancurak as a great principal committed to the school’s success.

This year the foundation is partnering with the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation to improve security at the doors and provide a safer environment for the children. The foundation also sent speakers to the Masses at other churches in the area to promote Catholic education. The school also accepts non-Catholic students and Pancurak is more than willing to talk with families about what the school can offer. Anyone who wants a tour or who’s interested in enrolling their children can call the school at 330-337-3451. The school is accredited through the Ohio Catholic School Accrediting Association. The first day of class is Aug. 20.

Anyone interested in supporting the foundation can call the school regarding tax-deductible donations.