Dawn Thurnau | Fr. Augustus Tolton Service Award Winner


Dawn Thurnau’s favorite Bible verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, which says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.” Dawn puts these words into action each day through her service to the Tolton community. Her willingness to put in so much work to recognize others, without recognition for herself, make her all the more worthy of this year’s Fr. Augustus Tolton Service Award.

Thurnau and her husband Jason live in Hartsburg with their daughter Claire, a sophomore at Tolton. After hearing of Tolton’s higher ACT scores and scholarship dollars, the Thurnau’s attended an open house, curious more than anything. “We were quickly impressed by the faith-based community of high achievers that was focused on preparing students for the college of their choice,” Dawn said. “During [Claire’s] shadow visit, she came home talking about how many people made a point to welcome her and she was impressed that the faculty in the classes she shadowed used hands-on and activity-based learning.”

As a freshman, Claire joined the cheerleading team and Dawn became involved as a team mom, helping with team meals before away games, graphic design for social media, party decorations, and making the girls feel special and appreciated during competitions. 

“Dawn has been a HUGE help to our team!” Coach Laura Sasser said. “She is so creative and always willing to help when needed.”  Each year Dawn also comes up with door decorations for the team’s hotel rooms prior to competitions and creates a fun team gift. When the cheer team started a new Homecoming Mums fundraiser, Dawn did most of the research and product finding so coaches could focus on getting the team ready.

Dawn refers to her involvement with the cheer team as a hobby, more than a service opportunity. “Some people knit, some people fish, I find joy in planning events and making spirit gifts to help people realize they’re important,” Dawn said.

Not knowing many families coming into Tolton, Dawn quickly signed up for a lunch room shift when she heard there was a need. It soon became her favorite community service work. “Being part of the lunch routine allows me to see the students in their natural habitat and get to know what makes them tick,” Dawn said. “I am fortunate to have gotten to know other parents who are fun, interesting, and live out their faith.” 

Another important way that Thurnau gives back to the Tolton community is by running the Booster Club’s relatively new Facebook page (facebook.com/TCHSBoosters). Dawn wanted to be more involved with the Boosters, but it was difficult for her to make the monthly meetings. She runs social media accounts for businesses through her job at MOREnet, so she volunteered to take on the Booster Club page.  She said the goal of the Facebook page is to boost participation and pride.

“One of the things that sets Tolton apart is the variety of activities- from Aquarium Club to Pro-Life Club to Christian Diversity Club,” Dawn said. “We want to provide easy access to find information on all our sports teams and recognize the efforts and accomplishments of all students when they represent our school with their talents.”

One of the highlights of the year for Dawn was tracking the progress of our new girls swimming team this year. She was also amazed by the amount of engagement online with posts about the wrestling team. 

“As a volunteer, Dawn has maintained the Booster Club Facebook page a million times better than most businesses with a paid staff person. She uses her professional talents and creativity to give back in a unique way and the whole Tolton community really benefits from her dedication,” said Joe Bradley, Tolton’s Communications Coordinator.

Dawn asks that any parent that has photos and updates of our students representing Tolton to feel free to send it via messenger to the Tolton Booster Facebook page.

In addition to her involvement at Tolton, Thurnau will wrap up a 5-year term on the Southern Boone Economic Development Council Board this summer and serves the President of the Southern Boone Nacho Club, a group of old and new friends who get together to eat Mexican food and talk about community betterment. 

The Tolton Catholic community has benefited greatly from Dawn’s selflessness and we feel fortunate to call her family Trailblazers.

“I really am humbled and touched by the award,” Dawn said. “I really haven’t done anything extraordinary in my volunteer work. The Bible tells us to use our gifts to serve others as faithful stewards. I see so many people every day working behind the scenes to better our Fr. Tolton Catholic Community. It’s what makes this school so special.”

Coleman Sapp | Blazer Alumni Achievement Award Winner


After graduating from Tolton Catholic in 2015, Coleman Sapp probably never anticipated spending so much time back in the building five years later. But after finishing his undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Notre Dame, Coleman moved back home to take a gap year while he applied to graduate school.

Back in Columbia, Coleman wanted to save money for graduate school, while also looking for ways to boost his resume. It was his mom that suggested he reach out to Tolton about substitute teaching.

“I was hesitant at first about jumping in front of a high school classroom, but my long term goal is to teach college students and I loved my experiences at Notre Dame designing curriculum and tutoring so I ended up sending an email to Gwenn Roche and meeting with her later that week,” Coleman said.

Coleman assumed he would probably receive a call once a week, but he said after his first day subbing for Mrs. Tramel, he started receiving calls almost daily. That’s likely because the students enjoyed having him in class and learned a lot from him.

“From my experience of having Mr. Sapp as a substitute teacher, I quickly realized that regardless of the subject, I always ended up learning a lot of information,” said Junior Kate Sasser. He teaches in a relatable, easy to understand way where I can always feel confident to ask as many questions as I need.”

Coleman initially planned to teach mostly math and science classes, but he ended up spending several weeks as a long-term English sub.  He said that was daunting at first, but he ended up enjoying the process of lesson planning, executing the lesson, and seeing results in the students’ essays. “OK, grading 70+ essays wasn’t the most fun I’d ever had in a weekend,” Coleman quips. “But when it was all said and done, it was great to see results!”

In addition to teaching, Coleman also started tutoring students, after school for ACT preparation at first, and then during study halls when students would come to him for extra help with math and science.

“I’m especially grateful for this opportunity now because, while substitute teachers were not exactly needed for online school, I’ve still made myself available to students who need math help while they’re learning online,” Coleman said.

Kate Sasser said that not only did Mr. Sapp help her with questions about AP Chemistry and Pre-calculous, but he also helped her immensely with both the math and science portions of the ACT.

“With the weekly ACT tutoring and helpful tips, my scores have shown a lot of improvement already,” Kate said.

Coleman looks back on his days at Tolton fondly, particularly his involvement with the Mock Trial team and Scholar Bowl team. 

“Spending so much time at Tolton after graduating five years ago was strange at first but it was great to see so many familiar faces.” Coleman said.

“While subbing one day, I was also able to watch a Scholar Bowl match after school,” Coleman said. “I had been on the first Scholar Bowl team at Tolton and it was fun to see the match as an audience member rather than a participant.”

Coleman’s work at Tolton has certainly made him deserving of the Blazer Alumni Achievement Award, but he has accomplished far more than substitute teaching. At Notre Dame, Coleman was involved in student government, and helped his advisor create a neuroscience “Brain Health” curriculum for Kindergarten-12th graders. He was member of the Senior Leadership Committee for the neuroscience major, helping design curriculum for the relatively new major. He also spent a semester abroad in London. He continues his involvement with Notre Dame, reading applications for their precollege program, and helping them develop an online program for this summer.

Coleman has also spent time volunteering a few times a week with Ukatsu in Columbia, a youth development organization that specializes in kids who are interested in gaming. He helped run their biweekly fitness program.

With his gap year nearly finished, Coleman plans to attend graduate school at Kent State University in the fall to study the intersection of neuroendocrinology and social behavior under Dr. Heather Caldwell.

We wish you all the best, Coleman! Congratulations on your award, and thank you for giving of your time and talents to the Tolton community!

Q&A with Dr. Everett

Dr-EverettThe following interview with our new President/Principal Dr. Everett appeared in our 2020 Magazine. 

Tolton Catholic: Let’s start with the most burning question on everyone’s mind. You will be moving from Orange County, CA to Missouri. Are you crazy!? What are you looking forward to about the change in scenery? 

Dr. Everett: Haha, I might actually be a little crazy, but we have lived all over the US and found beauty everywhere we go. I am looking forward to having four seasons and seeing my kids play in the snow.

TC: Can you tell us a little about your family?  Do you have any pets? 

DE: I have been happily married for almost 19 years to my best friend, and we have five children. My wife and I were college sweethearts. Unfortunately, I am allergic to pretty much everything with fur or feathers, but we do have some fish.

TC: Where did you grow up and attend school? 

DE: I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and went to Catholic schools, including Loyola Blakefield which is an all-boys Catholic high school. My dad was in the military and my mom owned a business. My whole family still lives in Maryland.

TC: Students would like you to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to call a snow day in Missouri at the first sign of flurries. Have you ever had a snow day before? 

DE: Because we have lived in California for 17 years, I am looking forward to a good snow day probably just as much as the students! I plan to make it my snow day mission to find a place to snowboard in Missouri. I will have to trust the students at Tolton that flurries are enough to call a snow day. Fun fact, here, in California, we are more likely to have schools shut down due to fires and excessive smoke than snow. When I was a new teacher, we had off over a week of school because of wildfires.

TC: What was the biggest factor in your decision to take this position? 

DE: For me, Catholic education is a vocation. It is my life’s work, and I love it. I started a nationwide search this year for a new position in a high school, so I got to learn a lot about different schools and parts of the country. Bishop McKnight’s vision for Tolton is exactly what I have been looking for, and the more I learn the more this decision feels absolutely right.

TC: The students recently made a video to welcome you to the Tolton community. What are you most looking forward to in working with the student body?

DE: My family and I loved the video! Thank you so much for welcoming us; we were honestly very touched that the students took the time to introduce themselves and their Houses. Moving my family halfway across the country is difficult, but I am really looking forward to getting to know the students and the Tolton families. For me, community is the best part of working in a school, so I am also looking forward to being an authentic part of Tolton instead of just the new guy.

TC: You have spent most of your professional career in Catholic schools. Why have you felt called to teach and serve in faith-based education? 

DE: I am an ardent Catholic. I was not serious about my faith when I was in high school, but I did develop a love for philosophy and a desire to learn more about Catholicism. Not long after high school, I began to get involved in my Parish and strove to build a relationship with Jesus. I now know that he was seeking me even as I thought that I was seeking him! After college, I visited the classroom of my best friend who was a teacher, and I instantly fell in love with the idea of teaching. I decided to go into education and was offered several teaching jobs across the country and even one in England! I chose a school in Southern California because my wife and I had several good friends there. Within the first two weeks of teaching, I was hooked! As an educator, Catholic education provides the most freedom for me. I am able to help create an environment where the truths of our faith can be taught and, at the same time, allow the students to experience a rigorous academic education. Most importantly, though, I am able to work in a school that teaches that we are made with immense love by a God who knows us intimately.

TC: Tell us something interesting about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume.

DE: I enjoy photography, cooking, writing computer programs, and just being with my family.

Rapid-fire questions… 

Favorite food?  Loaded nachos

Favorite sports team? Baltimore Ravens

Who do you most admire?  Plato

Favorite activity on a warm day? 

Riding my skateboard

Favorite saint? St. Padre Pio

Favorite musician/band?  Nirvana

Favorite book?  Tough call… Being in Time by Martin Heidegger or The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Morning person or night owl? 

Morning person


Tolton Catholic’s Response to Racism

 AugustineTolton“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Conversations about race can be uncomfortable, especially when those conversations are being had mostly online as people around the world distance themselves to fight a global pandemic. It is uncomfortable to step off the well-worn path. But for far too long, the conversation has been put off and then put off again. We at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School are as guilty of that as anybody. Even this statement is overdue. 

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke the truth well when he wrote on May 31, “We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.”

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the country has turned its attention once again to the issue of racism – an issue we should all agree on – and yet it seems to divide us. And while the voices may be louder recently, the issue is not new. As a school founded in the name of Augustus Tolton, the first African American priest in the United States, we cannot sit on the sidelines as our country debates the way forward. We are called to action. 

In 1854, Augustus Tolton, was born into slavery in Brush Creek, Missouri, about a two-hour drive northeast of Columbia. While his family was able to flee to Quincy, Illinois in 1862, Tolton continued to face barriers because of the color of his skin. With no Catholic seminary in the United States accepting African American students, Tolton studied and was ordained in Rome. Upon his return to Quincy to serve as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Fr. Tolton continued to face racial hostility and ultimately was reassigned to Chicago where he helped build St. Monica’s Catholic Church.  

Our country has come a long way since 1854, but racism is deep in our culture. While we pride ourselves on being the Trailblazers, it is important to follow the lead of those who blazed the trail for us. We look to the example of Fr. Tolton, a man who persevered against all odds to show us how to live a life of inclusiveness. More than a century since his passing, his words continue to guide us. It is important now that we listen, practice empathy, and then create a plan for action until the equality that we all seek is realized. We can not undo 400 years of the sin of racism overnight, but we can take steps on the path of righteousness.

As Americans we have a precious freedom to protest against injustice – and we are hearing the justified frustration of millions who have waited far too long for justice and equality. However, the violence and looting in cities around the country runs counterproductive to those demanding real change. As Christians we are called to be peacemakers and advocates for change through non-violent means. We pray those means become clearer in the days and weeks ahead. 

The Bible teaches us that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). We join others around our country and community in praying for an end to racism, but we also know that prayer itself will not solve these deep-rooted issues. We have an obligation to be proactive. As Angela Davis said, “It’s not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” We recognize that it’s not enough to issue a statement. It’s not enough to use hashtags. We must look ourselves in the mirror and ask how each of us can be better – as individuals, as a school, and as a community of faith. We expect to be judged not by our words, but by our actions in the months ahead. It’s time to get to work. 

Orange County, California Catholic educator tapped to lead Fr. Tolton Catholic High School

Dr-EverettDr. Daniel Everett, who holds wide breadth of experience in Catholic education, appointed president/principal

COLUMBIA – Bishop W. Shawn McKnight announced today the appointment of Dr. Daniel Everett as president/principal of Fr. Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School, effective July 1.

Dr. Everett holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree in philosophy from Loyola Marymount University. He has served in a wide variety of roles in Catholic schools, most recently as interim head of school for St. Anne School in Laguna Niguel, California. He has also been the vice principal of curriculum and innovation and the director of service at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, California; and he has taught English, math, philosophy and theology in Catholic schools in southern California.  He and his family currently live in Orange County, California, which comprises the Diocese of Orange.

“Dr. Everett’s wide-ranging experience will enable him to assist Tolton High School continue its trajectory of growth and improved excellence,” Bishop McKnight said. “Among other expertise, he has experience in curriculum development, moving a school into a digital-centric mode, strengthening Catholic identity and overseeing a Catholic school serving a diverse and rapidly evolving community. I am delighted we are able to place an individual of his caliber as president/principal of Fr. Tolton Catholic High School.”

“I am inspired by Bishop McKnight’s vision for Catholic education,” said Dr. Everett. “I am looking forward to this coming school year and to serving the students, families, faculty, and staff of Tolton Catholic. Everyone that I have met so far has been very welcoming, and I am happy to have a community like Tolton to soon call home.”

Partners in Mission, a search firm, worked with a committee comprised of Father Chris Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes; Kenya Fuemmeler, interim Superintendent of Catholic Schools; Jill McIntosh, interim president of Tolton; Chuck Register, faculty representative, and Jay Burchfield, advisory board president in the selection process.

The Fr. Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School, known as Fr. Tolton Catholic High School, develops students in spirit, heart, mind, and body, providing a rigorous academic program and expansive extracurricular offering in a Christ-centered environment. The school, which opened its doors in 2011, currently has 252 students in grades nine through 12. The school is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, which includes 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri and is led by Bishop McKnight.

CONTACT: Helen Osman
Diocese of Jefferson City Communication Office
hosman@diojeffcity.org | 573.635.9127 or 512.785.3006


COVID-19 Update

Good morning,

Bishop McKnight has just signed a formal decree closing all Catholic schools through April 30. He cites the critical need to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

It is the duty and calling of Catholic schools to ensure the healthy formation – body, mind, and soul – of all students entrusted to our care. At times of national and international crisis, it is our call to serve our local counties, the State of Missouri and the United States by assisting authorities and contributing to the common good.

Unfortunately, with a formal decree suspending the public celebration of the liturgy and devotions, our school must remain closed through April 30, with all extracurricular activities canceled/postponed as well through that date.

Tolton Catholic will still observe Easter Break from Holy Thursday through Easter Monday. Students should take a break from learning during this time and return to their online school work on April 14th.

Bishop McKnight encourages families and individual to pray at home especially the Liturgy of the Hours, the Scriptures, the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which can all be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Website; and to participate spiritually in sacred celebrations live-streamed from the Holy See (the Vatican), our Cathedral, or their local parish churches. The Jefferson City Diocese website has links and information on masses and celebrations, or visit parish Facebook pages for up to date information.

Bishop McKnight is also actively working with diocesan staff to prepare for the consequences of a decline in donations to our parishes and schools.  On average, parishes receive 86% of their revenue from tithing by parishioners, which ultimately helps support our school; the inability to gather for Masses can have significant economic implications.  Please continue to give financially to the best of your ability to your parish, as teachers and administrators are working diligently with online learning.

All faculty and staff remain committed to returning emails within 24 hours Monday-Friday.  Please continue to reach out to us with whatever needs and questions arise.  We are here to help.

As the situation changes, we will continue to keep you updated.

God bless you,

Jill McIntosh                     Gwenn Roche

Interim President             Principal

Winter Sports and Activities Roundup

We understand this is an unprecedented time in our history. We are so proud of our students, teachers, coaches, and staff for adjusting during this pandemic and being smart and safe. We will all get through this together. Let’s celebrate some of the highlights of our Winter Sports and Activities:

Boys Basketball:  Head Coach Jeremy Osborne did another outstanding job with our Boys Basketball Program, finishing 20-5 on the season. They won the very prestigious Machens Great 8 Holiday Classic in Jefferson City. Nate Schwartze earned First Team All AAA Conference honors. Coban Porter and Chase Martin earned Second Team All AAA conference honors, and Jevon Porter was Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the AAA conference.

Girls Basketball:  Head Coach Kevin Kiley played one of the most competitive schedules of any of our teams with one of the youngest Girls Basketball programs in Mid-Missouri. Assisted by Thaddues Hamilton and Joe Henke, this team with no seniors improved their individual basketball skills, had fun, learned to play as a team, and represented us with class both on and off the court. Sophia Elfrink earned Second Team All AAA Conference honors.

Cheer: Head Coach Laura Sasser’s Cheer Team is amazing. These young ladies attend more games and practice more hours than most of our other student-athletes. They bring energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to every event. They help lead our fans in a very respectful way, and are a very important part of the success of all of our programs. Our Cheer Team won the 2019 State Championship Title in Division 2 Large this year, making them back-to-back State Champions. Claire Thurnau was named to the All-State team.

Dance: Renee Hulshof, the Head Coach of our dance team, the Blazer Girls, coaches seven of the most talented student-athletes at Tolton.  Many of our dancers have been dancing since they were 3-4 years old, still take private lessons, and also find the time to practice and dance together and represent us with poise and class throughout the state in their many competitions. These young ladies finished second at State this season and have their sights set just a little bit higher for next year.

Scholar Bowl: Scott Henderson is the Head Coach of our Scholar Bowl Team. At the AAA Conference Championships at Lutheran High School, our team narrowly missed winning first place when it came down to the very last question of the night.  Our team was a very strong second. The team members were Silas Glaude, Isabella Ngo, Ella Redford, and Dylan Seidt. Dylan was a First Team All AAA Conference selection.

Girls Swimming: We were very fortunate to start a Girls Swimming program this year with Jeff Hagan as our Head Coach. Coach Hagan swam at the collegiate level and brought a wealth of experience to our team. These student-athletes were in the pool most mornings at 5:30 a.m. before rushing to school with cold, wet hair to start their academic days. Lindsey Hervey, a freshman, was the State Champion in the 500-yard event and her sister Lauren, a junior, finished second in state at two events as well. This too, is a very young team and the future of our Girls Swimming Program looks very bright

Wrestling:  Head Coach James Williamson quietly, efficiently, and effectively leads a group of student-athletes in one of the toughest disciplines in all sports. Most days, his team goes about their business practicing in one corner of our gym while the Boys or Girls Basketball team is practicing on the main floor. Teague Travis, a junior, was a State Champion for the third straight year.  Brant Whitaker, also a junior, won his second consecutive State Championship.

I certainly want to thank all of these coaches, their assistants, and our remarkable student-athletes for not only competing at the highest level in their individual sport but also showing exceptional sportsmanship and representing Father Tolton Catholic High School in their competitions, in the classroom and in the community. We tell all of our student-athletes, “your uniform never comes off” – you are first and foremost representatives of our school.

Like most of you have heard me say on more than one occasion, the sport always wins! Games are won and lost, but the respect you show for yourself, your teammates, your opponents, your officials, your coaches, your parents, your fans, and your sport is what you will remember from your days and years as a student-athlete.

I also want to thank Head Coach Kevin Kiley, his assistants, Coach Hamilton and Coach Henke, as well as Head Coach Jeff Hagan as they have decided not to coach our programs next year. I respect this decision because I know if they can’t give it 100 percent of their energy, experience, and passion for the betterment of our student-athletes and our programs, it is time to let someone else lead.  We are working to find the right fit for these positions moving forward. Candidates interested in a position with our Girls Basketball Program or our Girls Swimming Program should email their resumes to glink@toltoncatholic.org or mail them to Gary Link at the school address.



Gary Link

Fort Worth Catholic school leader tapped as superintendent

JEFFERSON CITY – A life-long Catholic educator will take the helm of the Diocese of Jefferson City’s Catholic school system on May 1. Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has named Dr. Erin Vader as superintendent of schools for the diocese. Vader, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Texas Wesleyan University, currently serves as Coordinator for Schools Advancement for the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.

“Dr. Vader’s wealth of experience in Catholic education and her mission-based leadership is certain to ensure our students are equipped to be the next generation of Catholic innovators, community builders and holy men and women,” Bishop McKnight said.

“My first priority has always been the students,” Vader explained. “I’m eager to build on the very strong foundation in the diocese of forming young people to be critical thinkers, life-long learners, and servant leaders who want to make the world a better place for everyone.”

Vader has served as president or principal of three Catholic schools and taught at two additional Catholic schools. She has also served as an accreditation chair for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Education Department. During her three-year tenure as president of Fort Worth’s Nolan Catholic High School, she facilitated donations and pledges of more than $30 million, while stabilizing enrollment as the school transitioned from more than 60 years of Marianist leadership to lay leadership.

In addition to her doctoral degree, Vader holds a Master’s degree in Education, Educational Leadership from Texas Wesleyan, a Catholic School Leadership Certificate from the University of Dallas, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has also been an adjunct instructor for Texas Wesleyan University.

“Bishop McKnight’s vision of Catholic stewardship and his work to facilitate our churches and schools as places where pastors and laity work together to create communities of compassion and mercy, speaks to me as a Catholic and as an educator,” Vader said. “In all humility, I want to help Bishop McKnight, the pastors, the religious, the administrators, teachers and families of the diocese, and help steward that vision in any way I can.”

The Diocese of Jefferson City comprises 38 counties in central and northeastern Missouri. Approximately 82,000 Catholics live in the diocese, worshipping and serving in 114 parishes. It includes three high schools and 37 elementary schools, with a total enrollment of approximately 7,000 students.

Fr. Tolton Catholic High School receives multi-million-dollar gifts to eliminate debt


Donations will allow the school to focus on enriching curriculum

COLUMBIA – A $6.2 million dollar debt has been eliminated from the balance sheet of the Fr. Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School. Bishop W. Shawn McKnight made the announcement to the parents, faculty and other school community members today at the high school, located at 3351 E. Gans Road.

Donations from generous anonymous benefactors will allow the school community to focus on the future, Bishop McKnight said. “The donors know Tolton is providing a unique educational opportunity for high school students. Catholic education offers not just academic excellence, but also a formation of young people’s moral framework. By removing the burden of this debt, our benefactors have given us the chance to expand and enrich the educational and formation programs at Tolton.”

Most of the debt was incurred when the high school was built in 2009-2010. It includes a $337,585 loan from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia.

“This is a game-changer for our school,” explained interim President Jill McIntosh. “We can now actively engage in plans to expand. This frees resources to enhance our curriculum, invest in faculty professional development and retention, and maintain and grow our facilities, which will tangibly enrich the lives of our students and our staff. I look forward with confidence to the future, not only for our Trailblazers, but with regard to the role we play in the larger Columbia community.”

The Fr. Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School, known as Fr. Tolton Catholic High School, develops students in spirit, heart, mind, and body, providing a rigorous academic program and expansive extracurricular offering in a Christ-centered environment. The school, which opened its doors in 2011, currently has 252 students in grades nine through 12. The school is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, which includes 38 counties in northeastern and central Missouri and is led by Bishop McKnight.


Mrs. Roche Announces Departure at End of School Year

Dear Tolton Families and Friends: 

Peace be with you!  We pray that you are having a blessed Advent!

We are writing to you this morning to inform you that Mrs. Gwenn Roche, principal of Fr. Tolton Catholic High School, announced her decision to not return for the 2020-2021 Ministry Year this morning.  This decision comes after months of discernment and prayer. Mrs. Roche will continue to serve as Tolton’s principal for the remainder of the 2019-2020 Ministry Year.

The Catholic Schools Office is engaging Partners in Mission to help identify and recruit high-quality candidates for this important leadership position.  While the diocese continues to be open to exploring different leadership structures, the search will focus on a Head of School model wherein the principal and president responsibilities are merged.  We will share updates with you as we search for a dynamic faith-based educational leader. Please join us in praying for the success of the search process.

Tolton will continue to have a Vice President of Advancement and Athletic/Activities Director to support our shared mission to develop students in spirit, heart, mind, and body.  Tolton is also considering the addition of an Associate Principal role to further enhance ministry.

We also want to communicate our excitement about the VISION 2020 strategic planning process.  Mr. Ben Potts, an independent consultant hired by the Diocese, has already received feedback from 223 students, met with 121 parents and community members, and discussed ministry with 26 faculty and staff members.  If you have not yet been able to participate, or if you would like to encourage alumni or other community members to participate, please use this link.

The participation rate has been absolutely tremendous!  These discussion sessions are providing valuable insights into the community’s hopes and dreams for ministry at Tolton.  A preliminary broad summary of some emergent themes was shared with the faculty/staff this morning. Click here to view a broad summary of some of the initial highlights.  While coding and studying all of the responses will take some time, we expect to be able to share a more comprehensive communication early in the second semester.

It is overwhelmingly clear that the community is passionately committed to high-quality Catholic secondary education in Greater Columbia.  Bishop McKnight, Superintendent Fuemmeler, the Board of Directors, the Advisory Council, and Tolton’s faculty/staff share this passion and commitment.  The evangelizing mission, academic excellence, and affordability and accessibility of Catholic schools are diocesan-wide priorities.

As VISION 2020 moves forward, we will develop a Steering Committee to shepherd the process and to engage the community in charting Tolton’s next decade.  Please expect further communications in the near future about the Steering Committee and the VISION 2020 process.

The legacy of Tolton’s founding decade will be a blessing for future generations throughout Greater Columbia.  Thank you to all those who have made the mission possible. With the continued commitment of students, teachers, families, and community members, we know that the sky is not the limit … Heaven is.

Fr. Tolton – Pray for us!  Go Blazers!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Ms. Jill McIntosh and Mrs. Gwenn Roche