She takes the helm of Saint Stanislaus Kosta School in Maspeth from outgoing Principal Sister Rose Torma, who retired in August after 33 years at St. Stan's and 50 years as an educator.
“There's always added pressure when you're replacing anyone, whether it's someone who's been there five years or 33 years like Sister Rose was,” DeMaio said. “The pressure comes from trying to uphold the traditions and understand them, accept them and embrace them. If you can do that all the other little changes you might make, the parents are much more accepting of.”
DeMaio brings with her a wealth of educational experience, having previously served as principal at Most Precious Blood in Long Island City for the past 11 years. She's spent her entire teaching and school administrative career in Catholic education.
“I believe in Catholic education, that's why I've spent my career in Catholic education,” DeMaio said.
Most Precious Blood suffered the fate that a lot of Catholic schools in New York City and across the country are facing, clsoing due to enrollment struggles.
DeMaio said it's not because parents don't understand that there's an excellent education system in place, but other outside factors, including tuition costs, play a big part in the difficulties recruiting students.
“Queens and Brooklyn have the same issue, no matter which Catholic School it is in the diocese,” she said. “It's something the diocesan office has been working on. They're trying to work on a marketing campaign that really explains to people some of the misconceptions and what we really do offer.”
At St. Stan's, what DeMaio is offering students is an excellent education, she says, but more importantly, an excellent Catholic education. Her personal philosophy puts an emphasis on the religious aspect of the education.
“I believe that we're a Catholic school first,” she said. “And it's the most important thing. We're here to evangelize to the students and we're also here to give them an academically excellent education, and we will strive to do both.”
To accomplish that goal, DeMaio knows she must work with the Maspeth community, which is such a big part of St. Stan's.
“I'm told that this school has been the heart of the Maspeth community,” she said.
Her first week at the school, she walked the neighborhood to get to know the lay of the land. She visited the local businesses and met with the senior community. On Sunday at 9:30 a.m. mass, she was introduced to the parish of St. Stan's.
“Hopefully they'll get to know my face and I'll be able to spend more time in the community,” she said.