The History of Saint Thomas More Academy

A Catholic High School for Kent County

In 1952 Holy Cross Parish opened Holy Cross Elementary School, the first Catholic School in Kent County, Delaware. In 1957, Holy Cross High School (HCHS) was opened. Both schools resided on the same campus on State Street in downtown Dover. HCHS prospered for many years, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. It was operated as a parish school by the Felician Sisters. In the 1980s, HCHS experienced some problems with enrollment and finance. In this same time frame, the Felician Sisters left the parish. In 1987, HCHS was closed, amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the parents of current and future students. 

Looking for a New Catholic High School
Almost as soon as HCHS doors closed, a dedicated group of lay men and women began  to formulate plans for a new, independent Catholic high school in Kent County. Their effort saw to the establishment of "Thomas More Academy, Incorporated," and to the projection of a school program and budget. When, after some years, a gift of land south of Dover provided the field for the dream, they commissioned a feasibility study, and embarked upon a fundraising campaign.

Getting Support
Fundraising efforts for the "private, independent" Catholic high school were rewarded with the generous response of individuals and foundations. More than $1.6 million was raised for the first of Thomas More Academy's buildings. It was not an easy task, and it required heroic gifts of time and energy on the part of wonderfully dedicated men and women. It also required powerful faith, especially when setbacks seemed to threaten the dream.

The Diocese Steps In
By the spring of 1997 it became clear to most that the enormous project of opening a high school of quality would require resources beyond those available to the Thomas More Academy founders. A delegation met with the then Bishop of Wilmington, Most. Rev. Michael Saltarelli, and presented a report on the "state of the school," in the hope that the Bishop might find a way to be of help. The response was immediate, enthusiastic, and generous. The Diocese absorbed the school, making it one of its own – a Diocesan high school. In 1998 the school opened its doors. In 2001, Saint Thomas More Academy graduated its first class. A major building project, with the great support and generosity of the Diocese, saw the expansion of STMA in 2003; the Chapel, lobby, office suite, cafeteria, media center, and fine arts wing were added. 

And so, begun by the laity and adopted by a grateful bishop, STMA provides a remarkable, perhaps even unprecedented, example of collaboration between a bishop and his flock. Acknowledging the work done by the followers of the Academy, Bishop Saltarelli has said: "I am grateful for the great gift they have made to the Church, making it possible for us to continue our holy mission to teach the Good News in such an important way."

Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Wilmington

Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Wilmington

Lineage of Principals

Dr. Ralph Leitner
(1996-1998; oversaw initial development)

Principals since
Saint Thomas More Academy opened in 1998:

Dr. Mary-Lou Soltys    (1998-2001)

Dr. John Grant          (2001-2006)

Mr. David McKenzie   (2006-2011)

Fr. James Lentini      (Interim, 2011-2013)

Mrs. Julie Shively     (2013-2015)

Ms. Rachael Casey         (2013 to present)