Students will be able to earn up to 60 college course credits, including 25 from the University of Maryland.
“We feel that we’re pioneering something on the cutting edge,” Ortiz-Brewster said.
The school will have 300 sixth- and seventh-grade students, adding one class each year until it serves grades six through 12. Its campus is temporarily on Adelphi Road in Hyattsville and will move to a larger campus in College Park in two years. The school is in negotiations with several properties, Ortiz-Brewster said.
Ortiz-Brewster, who has helped launch two college-preparatory schools, began July 15 as principal of the academy, a partnership between Prince George’s County, the city of College Park and the University of Maryland at College Park.
She co-founded American Renaissance Academy, a college-preparatory school in Kapolei, Hawaii, working there from 2007 to 2009. Before that, she was the founding director of technology at Island Pacific Academy, a college-preparatory school launched in 2004 in Kapolei.
“Being familiar with what it means to start up a new venture like this, that’s the added plus,” Cathey said.
Ortiz-Brewster, 43, spent most of her career in Hawaii. She moved there with her husband — a Naval officer stationed in Pearl Harbor — after graduating from Siena College in New York. What was supposed to be a three-year stop turned into a 20-year adventure, she said.
“Things just kept happening to me in a very positive way,” she said.
Her career took off in the 1990s at Punahou School, a college-preparatory school in Honolulu that Barack Obama had attended. There, she said, she stood out as a tech-savvy Spanish teacher, assisting faculty and students with computer issues.
Regarding online documents, “I remember teaching them the difference between ‘Save’ and ‘Save as,’ ” Ortiz-Brewster said.
She also developed a program students could use to upload audio files to their computers so they could take home the classroom experience.
“She has always been very interested in how technology can be used to leverage student learning and student achievement,” Cathey said.
Most recently, Ortiz-Brewster was the middle school principal of Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, where she worked alongside Cathey.
“We both are very solution-oriented,” said Cathey, who encouraged Ortiz-Brewster to apply for the College Park position. “We’re always thinking of ways to not only improve our educational program, but to improve our processes around that.”
Ortiz-Brewster was appointed by Prince George’s County Interim Superintendent Alvin L. Crawley, county spokeswoman ShaVon McConnell said.
“To me, at this point at CPA, this is the epitome of my dream come true,” Ortiz-Brewster said.