The Joseph J. Catena Elementary School, located on Burlington Road, was first built in 1961 as the Burlington Road School. Joseph J. Catena was Burlington’s first principal and remained so until his retirement in January of 1999. Upon his retirement, a significant group of parents and staff requested the school be renamed Joseph J. Catena Elementary School in honor of Mr. Catena’s 38 years of commitment to the district.
Joseph Catena’s successor was Janet Creech, who continued her tenure at Catena through the next five years. In February 2004, Mrs. Creech was named principal of West Freehold School, Neal Dickstein took over as Catena School’s principal. Currently, Ms. Traci Shaw is the principal of the Joseph J. Catena School.
The Burlington Road School opened in September 1961 with 13 classrooms and an all-purpose room used for lunch, physical education and school assemblies. Only seven classrooms were occupied that first year, but the building reached its capacity the very next year.
As the rural community of Freehold Township began to grow, the school population increased rapidly, and the West Freehold and Burlington Road schools could no longer serve the growing enrollment. A referendum for an addition was placed on the ballot and approved by the voters, and in 1964 twelve more classrooms and a lunchroom were added to the Burlington Road School. In the late70's, another construction project provided Burlington with its first library by enlarging a classroom in the rear of the building. Until that time, the lunchroom had served as a part-time library.
Five new district schools were built from the mid 60’s through mid 70’s to accommodate ever-increasing student enrollment. The Clifton T. Barkalow Middle School opened its doors in 1964, followed by the Laura Donovan Elementary School in 1968, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in 1971, Marshall Errickson Elementary School in 1972, and C. Richard Applegate Elementary School in 1975.
In 1998-1999 additions to all district schools began. Construction at Burlington Road School started in January 1999, the same year the school was renamed Joseph J. Catena Elementary School, with the addition of six classrooms and a vocal and instrumental room. The project also included a new gymnasium and cafetorium, and renovation of the original building. The all-purpose room was converted to a new media center and the former lunchroom was transformed into an art room. A computer lab was set up next to the media center and space in the original building was converted to small group instructional areas for speech, reading and math. Conference rooms and a child study room were also added. This beautiful new facility opened its doors for the first time on the last September of the past century.
Through the years, the Catena School has evolved to meet the growing needs of the community, and continues to do so. In September 2004 a new kindergarten wing opened, heralding in the district’s full day kindergarten program. The new wing also includes an additional all-purpose room.
During the Spring of 2016, our media center and computer lab was transformed to become the JJC STEAM Center. The transformation of this space was initiated through the efforts of the principal at that time, Dr. Jeff Huguenin. Dr. Huguenin worked with the FTS Education Foundation and the Guglieri family to create an innovative space filled with twenty-first century resources that help prepare students of the Freehold Township community to become valuable members of our ever changing world. Currently, STEAM Center continues to evolve to meet the need of the JJC students. If you like to contribute to the STEAM center you may contact our principal. Donations will be inscribed on our legacy tree.
In 2019, Traci Shaw took over as the principal of JJC. She along with our current supervisor, Laura Cecilione, work together to lead our school. The teachers, parents, and school community collaborate and strive to inspire our students to harness their uniqueness and become their best selves! We are Catena Strong!