Story by Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent
In the five-plus weeks since the announcement was made that Holy Cross Academy in Delran will close as a diocesan school in June, plans to convert the institution to a private entity moved forward in earnest and are already showing results.
Guided by a three-year financial plan, and the outline of a leadership model that will promote ongoing development, the group of interested alumni who stepped forward to save the school have high hopes for the success of Holy Cross as an independent Catholic high school.
After putting some impressive early numbers on the board, they appear to be headed in that direction.
According to 1968 Holy Cross graduate Dennis Murawski, president of the founding board, they raised more than $400,000 and continue to solicit other potential donors. The leadership group is also compiling an extensive list of alumni to whom they will reach out through an annual campaign, followed by a capital campaign in the near future.
“So we’re pretty confident that we will have the dollars needed to support the school in the coming year, although our goal is to have money to support the school for three years into the future. We have a five-year financial outlook,” said Murawski.
In building the model for what the group now calls Holy Cross 2.0, they have “started two new non-profit corporations: one to operate the school and a second to collect money in support of the school. The Lancer Fund is where we will hold financial reserves, endowments and alumni money that we raise from various alumni events and will, in one form or another, be placed to help support the operations of Holy Cross.”
The board, composed of five Holy Cross alums from four different decades (1968 to 1990), some with students in the school, others who are graduates or have children who graduated, includes Murawski, Steve Paolini, Rich Suter, Kathleen Jillions and Peter Sciortino. It also has created a transition team of 15.
Expected to open in its new configuration on July 1, the current staff will need to re-apply for a position under the Holy Cross 2.0 structure. “Because this is a totally new corporation,” Murawski said, “we must begin with an application process for current staff. But we will also be posting on other jobsites, and there will be an interviewing process by which people will be hired.”
Murawski recently told a meeting of parents that the board hopes to build Holy Cross into a premier institute of secondary education. He explained that they will not change the curriculum for the 2018/19 year, but will pursue consultation with “an academic team that would include university presidents, Catholic school principals, private prep school headmasters and school superintendents.”
The operational side of the school will be overseen by an executive board that will include captains of industry, the arts, and education, who will bring their best business practices to the table, Murawski noted.
The board is also reaching out to the principals of all area Catholic feeder schools to see what Holy Cross can do to help them be more successful going forward.
Murawski, who served on the board of directors for what is now referred to as Holy Cross 1.0 for 17 months after his retirement in 2012 as vice president from a South Jersey engineering firm, says Holy Cross played an integral part of his life, so he wanted to give something back. Knowing the school was struggling, he joined forces with Tim Durkin, director of community and alumni relations, and baseball coach Steve Paolini in a plan to keep the school alive. The group quickly expanded to the current board of five.
“We are one Catholic family when it comes to education, and we all need to help each other for all of us to survive,” Murawski said. “And everyone we talk to agrees. So we’re trying to get that message out because it’s something the world sorely needs today.”
Registration is set to begin in February, but already 100 applications for the freshman class have been received thus far, which, he described as “an increase over last year’s numbers.”
Murawski is passionate about the need to secure the future of Catholic schools: “We are now the stewards of Catholic education and it’s time for people to support it, because if it goes away, it’s never coming back. That’s a message we talk about when we’re looking for financing. At least for my generation, Catholic education gave us the best of everything. Now it’s our turn to give back and support those institutions that gave us so much and help them stay alive for our kids and our grandkids.”