Fertal named first president of Catholic high school in Dover

By Mike Finney
Posted 3/29/24

DOVER — Tom Fertal knows a lot about Catholic education in Delaware, having led a dramatic turnaround of Saint Mark’s School in Pike Creek.

The board of directors for the soon-to-be …

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Fertal named first president of Catholic high school in Dover


DOVER — Tom Fertal knows a lot about Catholic education in Delaware, having led a dramatic turnaround of Saint Mark’s School in Pike Creek.

The board of directors for the soon-to-be Holy Cross High School in Dover saw Mr. Fertal’s credentials and decided he would be the perfect candidate to become the inaugural president of their school, which hopes to open in the fall 2025.

It was that sense of a new challenge that brings Mr. Fertal to Holy Cross.

“First, from a strictly professional standpoint, it is a ‘once in a career’ type of opportunity that fits with my talents and abilities,” Mr. Fertal said. “Over my career I have sort of specialized in turnaround situations and in waking up schools that may have been treading water. I love to create and innovate. So, a ‘start-up,’ of course, is the pinnacle opportunity for someone like me. Thus, I am the perfect fit for Holy Cross as it is the perfect fit for me.

“Secondly, from a spiritual and ministry perspective, I do see this as a sacred mission — that of making a Catholic education available to a currently unserved population. This is truly a beautiful opportunity for someone who has dedicated his entire career to Catholic education.”

Mr. Fertal has served as a Catholic school educator for 28 years, striving to “cultivate a sense of reverence, respect, and responsibility in students, grounding them in the timeless teachings of the Catholic faith.”

He has served as principal of Lancaster Catholic High School, president of Cardinal O’Hara High School in Pennsylvania, and most recently, was president of Saint Mark’s.

His leadership at Saint Mark’s was marked by a dramatic resurgence in enrollment — a 65% increase — the launch of an $8 million dollar 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.

“We are pleased that Mr. Fertal has agreed to bring his expertise and love of Catholic education to our community to lead the effort to create Holy Cross High School,” the school’s board of directors said in a press release. “In addition to his service to the education of our youth, he has served in the United States Army and as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

Mr. Fertal says he is ready to take on another challenge head on.

“The challenges of Holy Cross really won’t be much different from the challenges at any Catholic school,” he said. “Keeping the school affordable is always a key challenge — which is why we are already focusing on an endowment fund. I have found that there is always an interest in Catholic education, there is just not always the ability, unfortunately, for all who want it to be able to afford it.

“Catholic education from its very beginning was never meant to be only for the wealthy. While staffing has become a challenge for all schools across the country, I do not fear that as I know that this unique opportunity will be very attractive to teachers who want to be a part of something this special. We will attract passionate educators who are ready to roll up their sleeves and help make this school flourish.”

Mr. Fertal holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State and a Master’s in Education degree from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. He has also completed studies in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in strategic leadership from Marywood University.

Mr. Fertal is a distinguished speaker, having presented at diocesan, regional, and national conferences on a variety of topics in education, ministry, and leadership.

His educational philosophy is about “fostering an environment where academic excellence is seamlessly integrated with a vibrant, Catholic culture” and “the conviction that education is not merely about imparting knowledge but also about shaping character.”

Mr. Fertal is confident that before anyone realizes it, Holy Cross High School will be a unique institution for students and teachers alike.

“In practical terms, we will have the challenge of not having ‘everything’ that a fully running, 9-12 school has,” he said. “The curriculum will certainly be in place — and as we will be offering a classical curriculum, we will actually be offering a program that no one else does. So that is very exciting.

“In terms of clubs and sports, we will grow as we are able, based on student interest and feasibility to add programs. As such, we will be relying on the initial students and families to truly be pioneers in helping to shape the student life and athletic programs during the early years.”

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