Good Shepherd School (GSS) was founded in 1925 by the Paulist Fathers as Inwood was being quickly transformed from a bucolic village of old Dutch farms and English estates into a bustling and modern American city within a city. The Pastor observed that with the continued construction of apartment houses and opening up of better means of transportation to the business districts of Manhattan, the neighborhood was experiencing a population boom. The overwhelming majority of the new residents were of Irish descent. A decision was made to address the educational needs of the parish’s children. To this effect, the Pastor called the Sisters of Mercy to Good Shepherd to start a parish school. A two story building of yellow brick was erected on a plot of land on Isham St. between Cooper St. and Seaman Ave. and ready for use in September 1926.
The school continued to experience growth and prosperity even during the worst days of the Great Depression causing the Pastor to invite the De La Salle Christian Brothers to come to GSS in 1940 to address the educational needs of the Boys Division in grades five through eight, while the girls in those grades were taught by the Sisters of Mercy. The arrival of the Christian Brothers coincided with the addition of a third floor to the school building. The Brothers served at GSS for over half a century and their arrival in 1940 began a long and deep association of the school with Manhattan Prep and Manhattan College in the Bronx. As the clouds of war hung low over the world, many GSS alumni served in the Armed Forces and assisted the war effort however they could; several of them made the ultimate sacrifice.
With the restoration of peace, the Baby Boom commenced and by the early 1950s, GSS was bursting at the seams with over 2,200 students enrolled. A convent was built in 1951 to house the additional Sisters needed to meet the school’s burgeoning population. In short order, a fund-raising campaign began to construct an additional annex of classrooms on a parcel of land on Cooper St. on which had previously stood the old Good Shepherd Chapel. The opening of the Annex in 1963 marked the zenith of GSS’s fortunes.
The next few decades would not be easy ones for American cities but Inwood and GSS endured as they always had, guided by deep faith, in times of adversity and distress. As parish and school demographics shifted, the parish and school found itself welcoming Latino immigrants, the latest set of newcomers to call Good Shepherd their spiritual home. The school and parish undertook impressive campaigns to welcome the newcomers into the family fold.
With declining enrollment and mounting expenses, GSS was listed for closure in 2010, but was rescued by the leadership of Fr. Robert Abbatiello, Pastor, and the extraordinary generosity of a deeply dedicated group of alumni called the Friends of Good Shepherd School – Inwood, New York, Inc. Together, they helped save GSS and today it is a growing and vibrant school carrying on the work which began in 1925: to provide the children of Inwood and surrounding areas with a quality Catholic education.