By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Starting in September, students at Saint Mary Mother of Jesus – Saint Frances Cabrini Academy in Bensonhurst will be attending Saint Peter Catholic Academy, but they won’t have to take a bus or a train to their new school. They won’t have to walk very far to get from the old school to the new. In fact, they won’t have to change their travel routines at all. That’s because they’ll be going to school in the same building where classes are held now.
The name of the school is being changed to Saint Peter Catholic Academy. The new name becomes official on Sept. 1, according to Patricia Carlucci, chairman of the school’s board of directors.
“The main reason we wanted to change the name was to reflect the fact that this is a regional academy,” Carlucci told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The school, located at 8401 23rd Ave., was created in 2005 out of a merger of two neighborhood Catholic schools – St. Mary, Mother of Jesus and St. Frances Cabrini. Both of those schools had been operating for decades separately. They were merged into one school. “At the time, only two churches were served by the school,” Carlucci said.
Times have changed in the educational landscape in the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. In recent years, the diocese has encouraged the creation of Catholic academies. Unlike Catholic schools of yore, with a parish priest and a principal in charge of a school financially supported by the church’s parishioners, the academies operate more independently, with a board of members (usually a small group of parish pastors) and a board of directors calling the shots.
The school’s mission was expanded a couple of years ago to include educating children from other neighboring parishes: St. Dominic, St. Finbar, and Most Precious Blood. The principal, Mary Lou Reitz, is in charge of a school that educates youngsters from junior pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
“It does now serve five parishes. We wanted a name that would reflect the regional nature of the academy,” Carlucci said. In a letter to parents, Carlucci wrote that the name change was intended “to eliminate the association of the academy with an individual parish, maintaining our goal as a regional school.”
The idea to change the name of the school came from the board of members, a panel composed of the five pastors of the churches the school serves. The board members - Rev. Vincent Chirachella (St. Dominic), Rev. Michael Gelfant (St. Finbar), Rev. John Maduri (Most Precious Blood), Rev. Guy Sbordone (St. Frances Cabrini), and Msgr. Andrew Vaccari (St. Mary Mother of Jesus) - asked the board of directors several months ago to come up with a list of three possible names for the school.
Carlucci and her fellow board members – Maria Bromme, Edward Chu, Zach Graumann, Sister Thomasine Stagnitta, and Dr. Teresa Trimarco – came up with Padre Pio Academy, Holy Family Academy, and Christ the Teacher Academy. The board also solicited suggestions from parishioners in the five churches. “Padre Pio was a popular choice. But Saint Peter kept coming up as a suggestion,” Carlucci said.
The board liked the idea. Saint Peter was referred to by Jesus as the “rock’ upon whom Jesus would build his church.
The board of directors presented the name to the board of members, which approved the idea and submitted it to Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio for approval. Stefanie Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the diocese, confirmed that the bishop approved the new name of the school.
The board of directors is planning to hold a meeting with parents to discuss the implications of the new name, such as whether school uniforms will have to be changed and changes in corporate documents and in the school’s letterhead.
“Changing the name was a big hurdle for us. Now that we have accomplished it, we want to use this as a kickoff to start doing more programs at the school,” Carlucci said. The board plans to ask parents what types of programs they would like to see.
The school has a strong academic record. The results of statewide English language arts exams showed that 70 percent of fourth graders achieved levels 3 and 4, the highest levels in the field. Eighty-two percent of sixth graders and 71 percent of eighth graders got to levels 3 and 4. In standardized math tests, the results were similarly impressive, with 80 percent of fourth graders, 88 percent of sixth graders, and 81 percent of eighth graders doing well.