The History of Saint Thomas More Academy
Once upon a time in the 1952 Holy Cross Parish opened Holy Cross Elementary School – it was 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 – their convent then became the parish rectory. In 1987, the HCHS was closed, amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The former HCHS building was renamed the Donohoe Center (after a previous beloved pastor, Fr. John Donohoe) and became the Junior High School building of Holy Cross Elementary School (which it remains to this day)
After the dust settled following the contentious closing of HCHS in 1987, a dedicated group of lay men and women began almost immediately to formulate plans for a new 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 provided the field for the dream, they commissioned a feasibility study, and embarked upon a fundraising campaign.
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 a few wonderfully dedicated men and women. It also required powerful faith, especially when setbacks seemed to threaten the dream.
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 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 took on the school, making it one of its own – a Diocesan high school. In 1998 the school opened its doors. In 2001, STMA had its first graduating class. A major building project, with the great support and generosity of the Diocese saw the expansion of St. Thomas More Academy in 2003; the Chapel, lobby, office suite, cafeteria, media center, and fine arts wing were added. In 2008 STMA celebrated its 10th anniversary.
From its inception until 2010, the Diocese provided a subsidy to keep STMA operating, that ceased in 2010. By 2012, STMA was operating in the black; the following school year began with 230 tuition-paying students. However, by the end of 2014, the school found itself again in financial woe, and the Diocese again stepped in with financial subsidies.
In January of 2017, it was announced by agreement of Fr. James Lentini, Pastor of Holy Cross Parish and Most. Rev. W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington, that effective July 1, 2017, the Diocese of Wilmington would relinquish control of the STMA (along with its financial commitment) to Holy Cross Parish. Holy Cross Parish in Dover, would administer STMA and make it its parish high school. Beginning with the start of the 2017-18 school year, the high school whose origin began with a parish high school, came full circle. In fall of 2018, STMA will celebrate its 20th anniversary, simultaneously Holy Cross High School would have celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Principals of Saint Thomas More Academy
Dr. Ralph Leitner, Headmaster
served in leadership during planning stages of STMA only, never actually served as principal of the high school in actual operation
Dr. Mary Lou Soltys
former teacher at Holy Cross School
now an assistant principal at St. John the Beloved School in Wilmington
Dr. John Grant
Mr. David McKenzie
briefly renamed the school “St. Thomas More Preparatory School”, this was reversed in 2011
Fr. James Lentini
former teacher at STMA (2007-2011), chaplain at STMA (2007-2013)
also, formerly a teacher at Holy Cross School.
Mrs. Julie Shively
Ms Rachael Casey
former teacher at STMA (2007-2015) and Dean of Students at STMA (2011-2015)