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September 16, 2021

Holy Angels Opens Middle School as New Academic Year Begins

The Academy of the Holy Angels ushered in the 2021-22 academic year by welcoming the new AHA Middle School’s first students, 133 incoming freshmen, and returning high school students.


As AHA opened on September 10, AHA Middle School Dean Traci Koval personally greeted each student in Grades 6-8 at the door to Kelleher Hall. Miss Koval quickly put students at ease, calling all the girls by their first names. AHA Middle School Office Manager and Grade 6-12 Transportation Coordinator Carolyn Miller assisted the new Angels with the check in process.
Parents took commemorative photos at the door, and faculty and staff members helped the new Angels get situated in their homerooms.

The opening of the middle school renews the Academy’s commitment to educate young girls. The School Sisters of Notre Dame founded the Academy in 1879 to provide education to young women. In 1890, the Academy was incorporated as “Institute of Holy Angels: Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies and Preparatory School for Little Girls.” The preparatory school was still in operation when AHA moved from Fort Lee to Demarest in 1965, although the lower school was being phased out so the school’s leaders could focus on expanding the upper school. The curriculum at the new middle school is designed to help young girls gain a solid foundation for success in high school and a moral compass in the SSND tradition.
The AHA community is also welcoming new staff and faculty members this year.
Patricia Brussel joined AHA as the director of advancement and alumnae relations. Before coming to AHA, Brussel was director of development at Alpine Learning Group. She previously served as regional director of the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation’s northern regional office. Brussel succeeds Dorrie Voulgaris.
Voulgaris, who enjoyed a 29-year career at Holy Angels, began as a mathematics teacher. She later served as registrar, director of admissions, and director of alumnae relations. Voulgaris became director of advancement and alumnae relations in 2015.

Pauline Poulos is now a member of the high school’s main office staff. She and her daughters are AHA alumnae.

New high school faculty members include Ava Bertone, Carmín Torres-Fontanez, and Christine Paladino.
Bertone, an AHA alumna, is teaching history and a psychology elective while Brianne Wolman is on maternity leave. Bertone holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Lehigh University. Her master’s thesis focused how literature can be used as a tool to process grief.
Torres-Fontanez is teaching Spanish. This is the first time Torres-Fontanez has lived outside of Puerto Rico. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and drama, a master’s degree in curriculum and teaching, and completed some doctoral courses from the University of Cadiz in Spain.
Paladino, who has been an AHA substitute teacher since 2016, is teaching biology. She holds a B.S. and is a registered nurse. She has lived in Paramus for her entire life. She and her husband have three sons.


Members of the AHA Middle School faculty and staff include: Shabina GIllani, sixth grade homeroom and English; Mary Driscoll, seventh grade homeroom and math; Linda Payonzeck, eighth grade homeroom, science, and religion; Sarah Chalmers, social studies, theater, and technology; Frank Hunter, Latin; Alexia Stabile, Italian; Paula Schweitzer, French; Erin McGee, physical education and health; Kathryn Biskup, art; Mariann Annecchino, music; and Nancy Kelly, school nurse.
Academic counselor Michael Statile is sharing his time between the middle school and the high school.
Vanesa Formoso is also teaching at the high school and middle school. A graduate of Seton Hall University, Formoso earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in Spanish. She has been teaching for the past 14 years. Her current responsibilities include teaching biology at the high school and Spanish at the middle school.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.