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Holy Cross High School names president, eyes Fall 2025 opening

Holy Cross Church and Schools in Dover.
Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
Holy Cross Church and Schools in Dover.

A new Catholic High School set to open in Dover next year names its inaugural president.

Holy Cross High School’s Board of Directors taps current St. Mark’s President Tom Fertal to lead the school.

Holy Cross is making a third attempt at establishing a Catholic high school to serve Kent and Sussex Counties. The original Holy Cross High School, a parish school, closed in 1987. Saint Thomas More Academy operated as a Diocesan school from 1998 to 2020 before shutting down.

Now there are currently no Catholic high schools in operation in Delaware’s two southernmost counties.

But this new high school will be different, says board member Jennifer Pinkerton.

“Previously, some of those other schools reported through the parish or diocese, and this school will be independent," Pinkerton says. "So Tom and then the staff will report up through the board to help with oversight, fundraising, mission, all of those sorts of things. So the structure is different, and they have found that particular model is proving very successful throughout the country.”

Pinkerton adds a survey of Holy Cross parents with children in the K-8 school showed 98 percent of respondents would send their kids to the high school. And a broader feasibility survey of Catholic families in lower Delaware, in partnership with Meitler, showed 82.1 percent of parents with children ages five years old to 8th grade said they would definitely or likely enroll.

Pinkerton says the school will rely financially on donors and an endowment fund– noting they do not expect support from the Diocese of Wilmington, which sold the St. Thomas More property to the Caesar Rodney School District for $12 million in 2023. They do not yet have a location for the new Holy Cross High School.

Diocese Communications Director Robert Krebs confirms the Diocese does not plan to contribute financially, but supports the effort to bring a Catholic High School back to lower Delaware.

“So one of the major initiatives being done right now is endowment so that the financial stability is there," Fertal says. "Very few schools in the country, if any, operate only on tuition. The healthiest Catholic, and even private schools in general across the country, have a significant endowment.”

Fertal adds many Catholic schools are just now catching up with the “business” side of running a school, such as admissions, advancement, and financials.

As president at St. Mark’s High School, Fertal oversaw a 65 percent jump in enrollment over the last five years, the launch of an $8 million capital campaign, and the creation of several state-of-the-art learning environments including a robotics and engineering lab, low-ropes challenge course, and creative media and broadcast studio.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.