The History of Holy Cross School

In 1952, Father Andrew Tosick, Pastor of Holy Cross R.C. Church, Dover, Delaware, opened the first Catholic school in lower Delaware. This was due to a growing number of parishioners with school age children who were searching for a Catholic education for their families. The school was opened in the parish hall located at New and William streets. Father Tosick engaged the Felician Order from Lodi, New Jersey, to staff the school, grades kindergarten through second grade. Sister Angelina was principal. The enrollment totaled forty-two students.  

Father Paul Taggart became the administrator of Holy Cross upon the death of Father Tosick in 1953. With a need for more room for the church and school, Father Taggart secured the Wolcott Estate on South State Street for a new parish complex. The school was moved to this site in August 1953 and opened with grades first through third.  Kindergarten was not continued. 

Father John Donohoe was appointed Pastor in January 1954. He began the process of providing the parish with a new church and school. A building campaign was launched in May of 1954. Pledges of $145,000.00 were received. June 1954 had the architectural firm of Gleason and Mulrooney commissioned to design the building and John H. Wood Construction Company to construct the building.

Ground was broken in September 1954. The project cost was $270,000.00. While the construction was taking place, classes were held in the convent that was the former main house of the estate. Enrollment had grown to 190 students.

The new school building opened in September 1955. Sister Mary Laura was principal. The school year began with 310 students, grades 1-5. In October a fully equipped cafeteria opened. April 1956 brought the formal dedication of the church and school. Sister Mary Laura added a 6th grade, which she taught. This addition increased enrollment to 394 students.

When school opened in September 1957, enrollment had increased to 429 students in grades 1-7. Some classes were as large as 75 students. In 1958 the school had grown to include grades 1-8 with an enrollment of 506 students. Due to the lack of space, the 7th and 8th grades temporarily moved to the new high school building that had been built on the campus. The faculty at this time included eight sisters and two lay teachers. The first 8th grade graduation took place in June 1959. The graduating class numbered 32.

1962 brought many changes to Holy Cross. The gymnasium was completed in June. During September of 1962, Sister Stella arrived as the new principal. Construction of the second floor of the elementary school began in July 1963. While construction was under way in 1963-1964, grades 4-6 were also held in the high school building.

Sister Maristella became principal of Holy Cross School in September 1964. The elementary school second floor construction was completed before the opening of school in 1965. All grades, 1 through 8, were housed together for the first time. Enrollment peaked to 740 students during the 1965-1966 school year.

In September 1969 Holy Cross welcomed its fifth principal, Sister Alberthilia. Her tenure continued until 1972 when Sister Roberta became principal. Under the direction of Sister Roberta, each grade level was split into two sections. Class size ranged between 30-40. Father John Kavanaugh was pastor of Holy Cross at this time. The staff consisted of four religious and 12 lay teachers, a physical education teacher, a librarian, a part time nurse, and a full time school secretary.

Father Eugene Clarahan became pastor in September 1978. Sister Marie Barbara became principal, remaining in the position for three years. At her departure in June 1981, enrollment was 574 in grades 1-8.

Sister Eugene Marie assumed the leadership of the school in September 1981. She continued in that role for three years. Upon her departure in June 1984, enrollment declined to 456 students. Many factors played into this decline: rise in tuition, faculty problems, and departure of the religious order in June 1984 after 32 years of service. Father Thomas Peterman was the pastor at this time.

In September 1984 Mr. Thomas Marrotti became the first lay principal of Holy Cross, with a completely lay faculty. Kindergarten was added this year with 24 children attending AM and PM sessions. In February 1985 Mr. Marrotti was asked to resign from his position by the Diocesan Central School Office. Upon his departure enrollment dipped to 431 students.

Sister Mary Kelly, Superintendent of Schools at Mr. Marrotti’s departure, appointed Mrs. Margaret Whiting, then the 8th grade teacher, interim principal. Mrs. Whiting continued in this position for the 1985-86 school year.

During that school year, a before and after care program was established. Twenty-five children took advantage of this program during this inaugural year.

Mrs. Kathleen Mullaney took over the principalship in September 1986. Enrollment at the beginning of the school year totaled 318 students in grades K-8. The kindergarten program expanded to include two morning classes and one afternoon class. The program accommodated 45 students. The childcare program expanded to 50 children.

In the summer of 1987, Father Carmen Vignola became pastor. Miss Mullaney married and returned in September as Mrs. Peter Feliceangeli and continued her tenure as principal to June 1988. At her departure in 1988 enrollment dropped to 260 students.

Ms. Marcia Bertino became principal in September 1988. Due to the illness of Father Vignola in 1988, Father Thomas Hanley was appointed as administrator of the parish in October 1988. Father Vignola died in March 1989. Father Hanley was appointed pastor in June 1989. Enrollment grew to 340 that June.

In September 1989 several new developments in the school were in place. A Pre-School program was established. Twelve children were part of this program. The Kindergarten continued to grow and went to three sections of full day curriculum. Three sections of the first grade were necessary with 20 students in each section. The before/aftercare program expanded to care for 80 children.

With the start of the school year in September 1990, the 6th, 7th and 8th grades moved to the high school building (now named the Donohoe Center) to allow expansion of the lower grade sections. Furthermore, the music program expanded to service Pre-K – 8th grade. An outgrowth of the music program was a full band program. Art, Music, Library, and Physical Education programs required that the school contract full time teachers for these areas.

In 1992 the library was computerized and the Pre-K doubled from 12 to 24 students.

In the fall of 1993, the computer lab expanded and moved into the Donohoe Center and new equipment was installed. Enrollment was increasing and was accommodated by adding a 3rd section to the grades where it was necessary. Parent involvement increased with volunteerism manning a variety of positions to enhance and enrich school programs. During this time the Parent/Teacher Organization became more active.

By September 1994 the enrollment was just below 500 students. As a result the computer teacher went to four days a week. The faculty and staff numbered 32.

During the years 1995-1997, many positive trends continued. Enrollment continued to increase to over 500 students. Staff increased to 35 and the nurse’s hours were lengthened to cover the majority of the school day, and a part time assistant was hired for Ms. Bertino. Technology integration into various subject areas became part of the curriculum. The school participated in Net Day ‘96, which provided materials to wire both the elementary building and the Donohoe Center for the Internet. All offices and classrooms were fitted, making the school technology friendly.

During 1996-1997 the Holy Cross complex was in the midst of the building of the new church. Since this structure connected to the elementary building, several changes took place to the school space. An auditorium was created in the area that was the former worship space, to be used as a multi-purpose room by the school and the parish. The first floor bathrooms were completely renovated to accompany the needs of the church population. The lobby area was renovated, both walls and floor. This area is connected to the gathering space of the church. New lighting was also installed in the upstairs and downstairs hallways of the Donohoe Center (Junior High Facility). Classrooms in the upstairs of the elementary building also saw new lighting improvements. During the summer of 1997, the school parking lot was redesigned and new walkways created. Work continued through the fall, with trees, curbs, and landscaping being added. Additional electrical circuits were installed to the computer lab to accommodate much- needed air conditioning.

With the increase in the student population in Pre-K and Kindergarten, there was a need for a state-of-the-art complex. Through a capital campaign the parish built a multipurpose building. The downstairs area was dedicated to an early childhood center with eight classrooms for Pre-K, and K and the upstairs area was designated for parish offices and meeting rooms. The Early Learning Center opened in the fall of 2000. Enrollment increased to over 600 students.

Father Hanley’s illness in April 2002 precipitated the end of his role as pastor at Holy Cross. Father Daniel McGlynn became pastor in June 2002. Ms. Bertino left her leadership position in July 2002 and Mr. William Farley took over as principal with Mrs. Haydee Rosario as assistant principal.

As the school year began in September 2002 with an enrollment of 695, the new administration tackled a number of challenges brought on by the expanse of the complex that now included three buildings and increased enrollment. There were four Pre-K classes, four Kindergarten classes, and three classes each for grades 1-8. The ability to communicate in this large organization was improved by handheld radios for each staff member, permitting communications throughout the campus. In 2003 the school implemented the Diocesan child safety program, For The Sake Of God’s Children, and quickly came to compliance. An updated emergency action plan and first aid training for the faculty and staff created a readiness atmosphere that enhanced the sense of safety and security on the campus. French was added as an enrichment program for 7th and 8th grades, increasing the number of enrichment already available to students.

In the fall of 2003, a Spanish program was initiated for K-8 through the generosity of a volunteer teacher. So successful was this endeavor that in the fall of 2004 a part time Spanish teacher was hired.

Realizing the need for the inclusion of a world language in the curriculum, Spanish and French initially were taught on a part-time basis by volunteer teachers. French was offered to eighth grade only and taught by the art teacher. Spanish was taught K-8 by a volunteer parent. The Spanish program has evolved into a K-8 program taught by a full-time faculty member. French was offered to eighth grade during the tenure of the art teacher, which ended in June of 2007.

In response to the increased enrollment, there arose a need for enhancing the technology department. The computer lab was upgraded through the efforts of a parent-driven technology committee. The cost was defrayed through the contributions of parents and local business operations. In the fall of 2005, the school implemented Power School.

Under Father McGlynn’s pastoral leadership, many improvements have made to the facilities due to funds realized by the parish’s participation in the Diocesan Capital Campaign. There was a new roof installed on the elementary school and auditorium. Renovations to the cafeteria kitchen and serving area were completed. Electric wiring was upgraded to accommodate the installation of air conditioning and ceiling fans in the elementary building. Air conditioning and ceiling fans were installed in the Junior High building during the 2007-2008 school year.

During 2004 the school developed a strategic plan spearheaded by a committee selected by the pastor and principal. This committee collaborated with administration, parents, students, and parishioners. The information gained helped to lay the groundwork for the current Middle States process.

Mrs. Denise Jacono was named as principal in July 2007, assisted by Mrs. Haydee Rosario in the position of assistant principal. Under the current administration, attention was given to the goals of the strategic plan and two classrooms, one in the Elementary Building and the other in the Jr. High Building, were renovated and converted into science labs. Reconstruction took place during summer 2010. Prior to the classroom renovations, Holy Cross School adopted the LabLearner science curriculum. The LabLearner Company was instrumental in providing the science teachers with the training necessary to execute the LabLearner curriculum during the 2010-2011 school year.

Mrs. Haydee Rosario, then-assistant principal, was appointed interim principal for the academic year 2011-2012 and an assistant principal was not appointed for the school year. Under current administration, the school year included continued attention to the goals of the strategic plan, marketing the school, upgrading the infrastructure, and use of technology in the classrooms.

In April 2012, Mrs. Rosario was named principal and Mrs. Linda Pollitt was named assistant principal for the academic year 2012-2013. In the 2013-2014 school year Reverend James Lentini was named Pastor of Holy Cross Church following the retirement of Reverend Monsignor Daniel McGlynn.   Mrs. Rosario finished her term as principal at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  At the present, Mrs. Linda Pollitt is the school's principal.