Chandler - St. Mary-Basha Catholic School
For three summers prior to the opening of Saint Mary–Basha School, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in Tucson traveled to Chandler to staff the Summer Religion Vacation School begun by Father Joseph Patterson. Father Patterson became Pastor of Saint Mary’s Church in Chandler in 1938 with responsibility for the spiritual needs of Gilbert, Queen Creek, and Goodyear (now called Ocotillo) as well.
Father Patterson and Joe Martinez, a parishioner, built the first four classrooms next to the Church on the Williams Field Road site. Father Patterson’ primary concern was to serve the needs of Hispanic children neglected by the segregated public schools. Sister Mary Felix Clarey, Principal, and four additional Sisters of Charity staffed the school from the beginning. Rooms added in the late 1940’s brought St. Mary’s to a full eight-grade school.
In 1963, Ed Basha, recognizing the need for extensive repairs on the school building, built a new school on property that he obtained on West Galveston Street. The new school opened in 1964 with the name Basha added to the title. Mr. Adolph Weinberg financed the construction of a well-equipped convent on the grounds adjacent to the school.
From the beginning of their association with the parishioners of Saint Mary’s Parish, the Sisters of Charity became a vital part of the community of Chandler. Throughout the history of the school Saint Mary – Basha has experienced the ebb and flow of increasing growth, declining growth, population decline, and population growth. However, the support of the parents and the determination of school leaders helped to steady the course of the school to this day.
Sister Mary Norbert Long, the last Sister of Charity to serve the school as principal, left her position as Superintendent of the Tucson Catholic Schools in 1984, and served as principal until 2012 when she was elected to serve as First Councilor of the Sisters of Charity Leadership team. As Sister Mary Norbert returned to Greensburg, Pennsylvania to assume her new position, she left behind a stable and viable school dedicated to Catholic Education. In 1994, Saint Mary-Basha School received the prestigious “Blue Ribbon School” Award by the U.S. Department of Education, the highest honor presented to elementary schools. While Saint Mary-Basha continues to the present, the association of the Sisters of Charity with the school ended with the departure of Sister Mary Norbert Long in 2012.