2010-05-21 / Front Page

Moving Day Slated For Peninsula Prep

Charter School Rents Stella Maris Building
By Howard Schwach

The Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter school founded by State Senator Malcolm Smith, will soon be moving from its present home in a group of squalid trailers to the former Stella Maris High School when that school finally closes its doors this summer.


The Peninsula Preparatory Academy will move during the summer from its trailers at Arverne By The Sea to the former Stella Maris building.  The Peninsula Preparatory Academy will move during the summer from its trailers at Arverne By The Sea to the former Stella Maris building. The charter school, which has been operating rent free at an undeveloped site at Arverne By The Sea, will move during the summer to the former girls’ parochial high school after the charter school’s board of directors worked out a rental deal with the Sisters of St. Joseph, the order that owns the building, which is approximately two and one-half miles west of the present trailer site.

The Daily News recently did a series on the politically-connected charter school, stating that PPA had no gymnasium, no science labs and no playground.

The new building will provide the school’s 299 students in grades kindergarten through five with all of those and more.

“We are very excited to be provided with the opportunity to move to the new building,” PPA Principal Ericka Wala told The Wave on Monday. “We have all of the things we need for our students at that building.”

PPA will rent the entire building from the religious order, although Wala declined to discuss the terms of the rental.

In a letter sent to PPA parents last week, parents were promised a new building, to be built jointly by the city and Arverne By The Sea, within five years.

The developer of the massive housing project is mandated to build an elementary school as part of its development deal with the city.

An earlier Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and Arverne By The Sea details the fact that PPA will be operating that school.

Earlier in the year, the Daily News reported that Senator Smith had received large campaign donations from the developers and their individual officers.

In addition, officials at Victory Schools, the educational partner for the charter school, donated heavily to Smith’s campaigns.

Smith claims, however, to have cut all ties to the school after being appointed Senate President pro tempore.

The announcement marks the end for the 67-year-old high school, which announced last year that it was closing its doors due to declining enrollment.

Wala said that the PPA move satisfies the desire of the Sisters of St. Joseph that the building remain a school.

“We plan to continue Stella Maris’ legacy of educational greatness,” Wala said.

According to state and city statistics, however, PPA has not yet reached educational greatness.

The school received a grade of C on its latest city progress report, with 51 points out of 100. Ninety-eight percent of the elementary and middle schools in the city received either an A or B. Only 1.4 percent of the city’s schools received a C.

In addition, 12 percent of the school’s 18 teachers are not certified and a full one-third have been teaching fewer than three years.

The teacher turnover rate at the school, according to the latest state statistics, is 39 percent, meaning more than a third of the teachers leave the school each year, to be replaced by new staff.

Teresa McCann, a 1978 Stella Maris graduate who had been leading the campaign to keep the school open or to turn it into a coed high school, told the Daily News that she is glad that the building will remain a school, but saddened at the high school’s closing.

“It’s a tragedy that my high school won’t exist any longer,” she said.

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