By Cary Shuman
A new all-girls independent high school, The Academy at Penguin Hall, will open in September on a 50 acre-campus in Wenham that was most recently the home of Mullen Advertising.
“The school will be in the Catholic tradition of education and we will have students in grades 9-12 from over 40 communities,” said Molly Martins, founder and president of The Academy at Penguin Hall.
“We’ve been receiving applications from communities ranging from Boxford, Marblehead, and Topsfield as well as Melrose, Winthrop, and Cambridge,” said Dean Tsouvalas, Director of Advancement and Communication.
The school will hold an Open House this Sunday, Feb. 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the school, whose address is 36 Essex St. Wenham, MA.
A 1987 graduate of Boston College, Martins brings her extensive experience as a higher-education business professional to the position of school president. Martins was Vice President of Finance and Administration at both Emmanuel College in Boston and Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. She and her husband, Al Martins, own a commercial construction and real estate development company.
What inspired Molly Martins to launch the all-girls college preparatory secondary school?
“The idea of an all-girls high school has been around for some time,” said Martins. She felt the options available in single-sex education were minimal in the area. The Mullen Advertising property became available “and it really became a question of wouldn’t that be a wonderful place for an all-girls high school?”
Tsouvalas said that Martins’ enthusiasm for the new school and for “building something that has never been done before” has brought other people in to the fold.
“Because of Molly’s passion for this all-girls school, she has attracted other people who are passionate about this and believe in the mission,” said Tsouvalas.
Martins believes her professional background in higher education, the family’s experience in real estate development, design, and construction “have brought us to this place.”
“Having worked in different areas, we feel we could bring that experience and knowledge base to the success of this project, along with many other people who are helping and bringing different expertise in education, advancement, and admissions,” said Martins.
Students at Nazareth Academy in Wakefield, will be joining The Academy at Penguin Hall for the Fall, meaning there will be classes in grades 9-12.
“We are accepting applications for all four grades,” said Martins. “We are aware and recognize the compressed time frame in the admissions cycle. I know that many students applying to the Catholic and independent schools have begun receiving their acceptances and we are committed to making sure that in our rolling admissions process we respond to applications very expeditiously.”
The school will have sports teams in its first year and plans to be a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA). The school will await the arrival of students in the fall before selecting a nickname for its teams and a school mascot.
Some leaders in education say the new school is drawing early comparisons to St. John’s Prep, an all-boys college preparatory in Danvers. Tsouvalas, a graduate of St. John’s Prep, welcomes the comparisons to the elite academic institution.
“I recognize and greatly benefited from the opportunities that came from being part of a single-sex educational environment,” said Tsouvalas. “But as a father of daughters I often wondered, what about the girls? Now there is a place for them.”