MILLTOWN — The new principal at Saint Mark’s High School really needs no introduction to members of the Spartans’ community. Diane Casey is entering her third year at the school, the first two of which were spent as assistant principal. When former principal Tom Fertal became the school’s first president, Casey assumed his old position.
Casey was brought to Saint Mark’s in August 2019 by Fertal, who had started as the principal two months prior. The two had known each other at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Pa., where Casey was a teacher and assistant principal and Fertal was president. She was ready to make a change and had applied for the Saint Mark’s principal’s position that went to Fertal, but he reached out soon after. She is thrilled that he did.
“It was the happiest day of my life,’” Casey said recently in her office. “I’m not kidding you. I came up that driveway, and it said, ‘This is home,’ and it just melted my heart.”
Since that day, Casey has enjoyed becoming a part of the community at Saint Mark’s. The students, families, alumni and supporters are always ready to lend a hand.
“They’re very giving and service-oriented. The kids are just all about it. That’s my main priority, the kids. They love what they’re doing every single day. I love being a part of what they do every single day,” she said.
At Saint Mark’s, Casey has continued a long career in Catholic education. She was a health and physical education teacher at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia for 23 years until it closed. From there, she moved to Bonner-Prendergast High School for a year before taking a sabbatical to earn a certificate in spiritual direction from Neumann University.
Her next stop was O’Hara, where she taught theology for five years before becoming an assistant principal for two.
At Saint Mark’s, she helped start Spartathon, the school’s biggest fundraiser. She was a student council moderator, and she worked on the launch of Students in Action. Casey is a big sports fan and is a familiar face at many of the school’s athletic events, as well as other extracurricular activities.
She said she has an idea of where she would like Saint Mark’s to go as far as academics are concerned. An increasing enrollment — this year’s freshman class exceeds 220 — has enabled the school to expand its curriculum.
“My focus is definitely on a business technology program. We’re going to have partnerships with the colleges. We already have that with UD, and it’s been very successful, but we need to branch out a little bit more,” she said. “The culinary arts. We did a survey with the students, and they’re all about the culinary arts.”
Saint Mark’s already has a food lab. A new cafeteria program is being introduced this year, so the school plans to partner with that company to build a program.
Casey, 56, is a native of Delaware County, Pa., one of 10 brothers and sisters. All of them went to Cardinal O’Hara. She has lived in South Jersey for many years and has four children of her own, including a son who graduated from Salesianum School.
She attended West Chester University with the intention of becoming an athletic trainer, but she wanted to be around children in classrooms instead of one-on-one. She’ll still tape an ankle now and then, but most of her involvement in high school sports is limited to cheering.
She is ready to make an even bigger mark on Saint Mark’s than she has already.
“I’m ready to roll. I’m passionate about what I’m doing, and I’m passionate about the opportunities these kids have to get involved. It’s going to be awesome. I’m excited,” she said.
She knows being the principal means more administrative work, but she doesn’t plan on spending all of her time behind her desk. She also wants to make sure the teachers at the school have what they need to succeed and to be happy. Professional development is one of her passions.
“If you have good teachers, your school’s going to run with no problems,” she said.
When she’s home in New Jersey, Casey spends time watching her seventh-grade son and a college-age son play soccer. She also has a Honda Rebel motorcycle that she rides around South Jersey. After a ride on a Saturday or Sunday morning, she likes to take a book and read while floating on a raft in her pool.
“It’s just beautiful. It’s like a little paradise in itself back there.”