Mission and History
Preparing Children for Academic Success and Lives of Purpose
Animated by the values of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston, the mission of Jackson Walnut Park is to inspire children to love learning, love God, and love one another. An inclusive Catholic school community committed to the flourishing of the whole child, we pursue academic excellence, promote service to others, and foster peace.
- Intellectual growth
- Love and service of neighbor
- Peaceful resolution of conflict
- Care for all God’s creation
Jackson Walnut Park traces its roots to two schools established more than 50 years ago by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.
The Story of the Sisters of St. Joseph began in 1650 in LePuy, France at a time when the people of France were struggling after the Thirty Years War. A group of six women came together to serve the “dear neighbor” and the Sisters of St. Joseph were founded. At this same time, Edward Jackson purchased 500 acres of Massachusetts Bay Colony property in “Newtown” and became its first permanent settler.
For more than 100 years the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph grew and served the people of France. At the outset of the French Revolution in 1789, religious communities were outlawed, and the Sisters returned to their family homes. Many continued to serve their neighbors secretly. Some were imprisoned and others guillotined. In 1807 Mother St. John Fontbonne reconvened the Sisters and guided the congregation in service to God and the “dear neighbor.”
On January 4, 1836, six valiant Sisters accepted an invitation to come to America. After a courageous 49-day voyage across the Atlantic, they arrived in New Orleans. Continuing up the Mississippi to St. Louis, they established a house in Carondelet. Over the next 37 years, groups of sisters responded to calls to serve the needs of the “dear neighbor” in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and then Boston in 1873.
In the meantime, in the Boston suburb of Newton, John Potter in 1862 purchased a portion of the Jackson estate and built an American Victorian mansion with the then-popular characteristics of the French Second Empire, or mansard roof. The Potter family lived here for 31 years until Joseph and Kate Flanagan bought the estate including its expansive carriage house.
Arriving in Boston, the Sisters found a city climate of social injustices that reflected seventeenth-century LePuy, France. In their work ministering to Boston’s needy, they sought, particularly, to respond to the individual needs of each child and to educate all children in an environment that encourages them to love learning, love God, and love one another.
Four days after the Sisters settled in Jamaica Plain, they opened St. Thomas Elementary School for girls. On the first day, there were 200 students. Four years later, their school became the first Catholic co-educational school in New England. In 1921, they acquired the Potter/Flanagan Estate in Newton. One year later, the Sisters opened Walnut Park Country Day School of Boys, an educational endeavor that started in the spacious Victorian mansion before moving to the estate’s renovated Carriage House. The school for boys was closed in 1961 to make room for Aquinas Junior College.
In 1963 the Congregation built a school on the Jackson Road side of the property to house the St. Joseph Educational Clinic that had outgrown its Medford site, with additional rooms for Aquinas and Boston School for the Deaf. In 1966, Sr. Josephina Concannon, CSJ, then director of the Montessori School at Boston College, opened a Montessori school for children ages 3-5, establishing it first in the Educational Clinic building.
Alert to changes in the educational field, particularly where public schools were instituting remedial classes for students, the Sisters opened an ungraded Catholic elementary school where students would find joy in learning and acquire mastery of skill sets that would make them life-long learners. In 1967, thirteen first graders became the foundation of a strong and viable Jackson School. Under the aegis of the first principal, Sr. Francis Marilyn DeCoste, the school grew, accepting one new class of students each year. As the enrollment increased, Boston School for the Deaf moved out, Aquinas constructed its own building, the Montessori school moved into the Walnut Park carriage house, and the clinic in 1974 closed.
From its inception, Jackson Walnut Park welcomed children of all faiths and of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The school strove to provide a rigorous academic environment where students develop their unique potential and talents, joy in learning, independence, and curiosity, and grow into dynamic and value-formed leaders.
Today, Jackson School and Walnut Park Montessori are a collaborative, operating as a single institution under the governance of one Board of Trustees and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The two schools share a commitment to Gospel values, to meeting each child where s/he is, and to calling all students to reach their highest potential, while caring for one another, serving communities in need, and treating those around them as “dear neighbors.” The Potter/Flanagan Victorian, listed on the National Register of History Places, houses the JWP administrative offices. In 2018, the School blessed and opened a Student Center on its campus.
Multiply accredited–Walnut Park by the American Montessori Society (AMS) and Jackson by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)–Jackson Walnut Park is a member of the American Independent Schools Association of New England (AISNE) and the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).
For the past three consecutive years, Jackson is ranked the top school in the Archdiocese of Boston for achievement and growth. In 2018 Jackson was voted the Family Favorite Winner for Faith-Based Elementary Schools by the Boston Parents’ Paper and Walnut Park was recognized as the best Montessori preschool for a second consecutive year. Jackson graduates are accepted to the most highly-regarded pre-secondary and secondary schools in the Boston area.