NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - “We hope our students and their families will have a meaningful experience at the school and realized that education is not just As and Bs—that it also is about making them part of our family and community.”

That is how Principal Tom Berrios views the role of Our Lady of Peace Academy in New Providence.

The academy offers a varied curriculum to its current enrollment of 230 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

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Now in his fourth year at the academy, Berrios previously spent eight years at Queen of Peace School in North Arlington, holding positions as head of the religion department and vice principal of the summer program. He holds a master’s degree in education administration from Caldwell College and has his administrator’s and supervisor’s certificates.

Our Lady of Peace, founded as a school in 1959, became an academy during the 2008-2009 school year.

Berrios said the Archdiocese of Newark advances schools to the rank of academy in recognition of their academic offerings and high test scores.

“It also demonstrates that we are pushing harder to take our Catholic school to the next level,” he added.

According to the principal, some of the “next steps” taken by Our Lady of Peace include institution of a robotics program, development of track and softball and formation of instrumental music and choir offerings.

Partnership with other community organizations also is key, he noted, pointing to an alliance with the Judith G. Wharton music school in Berkeley Heights to enhance the instrumental music program.

Technological innovation also is a prime focus for the academy, where interactive white boards, known as Smart Boards, and computers are present in every classroom.

Berrios added the “green” movement is a big target for the academy, where solar panels are installed on the roof.

In addition to the above, he said one of the reasons Our Lady of Peace is succeeding while many parochial schools are failing, is the commitment of the parents and the support given by the close-knit community of New Providence and surrounding areas.

The academy currently draws students from Berkeley Heights, Summit and North Plainfield in addition to New Providence, the principal noted.

To keep the academy in the forefront, he added, the staff has plans to make the outside of its building more inviting with construction of a courtyard, further development of its track and field facilities and such academic innovations as the offering of Algebra II to eighth graders who have shown they are comfortable with Algebra I.

Maintaining educational leadership, according to Berrios, also has meant keeping materials in sync with changing times, such as the updating of five series of textbooks.

They say location is everything in real estate, and the academy’s New Providence location certainly helps, but the dedication of its parents and staff helps set it apart in the education universe.

Those parents interested in the academy should telephone 908-464-8657 or visit http://www.theacademyolp.org/ .