North Las Vegas charter school looks forward to fresh start with new principal, playground

A North Las Vegas charter school is in the process of rebuilding with a new principal, new teachers and a new playground.

Nearly 400 volunteers constructed a playground in six hours May 4 at the 100 Academy of Excellence, 2341 Comstock Drive.

The 100 Academy is a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade public charter school.

The playground replaces the older one, which students called "junky" and "small." Principal Peggy Selma agreed with their assessment.

"The playground was deplorable," she said. "I wouldn't send my dog there.

"Children need a safe place to play. Academics is exceptionally important, but kids need to have fun, too."

The state-of-the-art playground is a colorful collection of swings, slides and see saws, as well as monkey bars and a rock-climbing wall. Volunteers also painted the basketball court.

The school teamed with KaBOOM! a nd Surgical Care Associates to make it all happen.

KaBOOM! is a nonprofit group that organizes playground builds across the country, including more than 200 this year. SCA operates 125 hospitals nationwide.

SCA volunteers also visited each classroom to pass out new backpacks and school supplies to every student.

Selma hopes the playground will bring interest to the school, which got a bad reputation since opening in 2006.

"There had been instability," Selma said, referring to the school's seven principals in four years.

At about 350 students, the school is at less than half its capacity. Selma wants to have at least 600 students enrolled by the first day of school in August.

Before coming out of retirement in July to lead the 100 Academy, Selma was a consultant for the Nevada Department of Education and an assistant superintendent in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

She wants to completely change the culture of the school, which will take three to four years to do, and retire again, she said.

"I've been called a clean up woman," Selma said.

Selma replaced 17 of 25 teachers before the school year started in August. She worked with the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas, a mentoring organization for kids and one of the school's founding partners, to raise money to do some cosmetic repairs inside the school and to get the playground replaced.

Students had a say in the process, too.

About 25 kids drew designs that were whittled down to the best three. Those were sent to a New York company that created virtual models of the playgrounds that every student in the school voted on . She said there was a clear favorite among the students.

Rob Jardeleza, Surgical Care Associates s enior v ice p resident of o perations, said the company chose to sponsor this school because they share common values.

"Their history resonated with us," Jardeleza said. "Their turnaround was similar to what we've done. We were really impressed with their dedication to improving the school."

SCA holds an annual weeklong conference each year in a different city and dedicates one day to community service. Last year the company built a playground at a school in Atlanta.

In addition to SCA's 300 volunteers at 100 Academy, parents and other community members volunteered. Lakiko Spaight, Parent Teacher Organization president and the parent of two kids at the school, was among them.

"I believe in second chances like the principal," Spaight said. "We're trying to build a better school starting today. It will boost (the students') morale because they treasure the playground so much."

Spaight also said she likes the principal's open-door policy.

"I can see the principal any time," Spaight said. "I can come sit in my kids' classroom whenever I want."

Selma said it's important for the parents to be involved inside the school, so she has not only opened the door for parents to visit, she has made it a requirement. Every parent must volunteer 20 hours inside the school every year, she said.

Mike Amie, a board member for the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas who also was born and raised in the neighborhood, was one of about 20 volunteers from the group.

"It plays into the vision (Selma) has for the school," Amie said. "In nine months she's accomplished more than we have in four years. It's going to provide a beautiful environment and be uplifting for the kids."

Everyone agreed that the playground will boost performance by providing an incentive to do well in class since badly behaved students may have their recess time revoked.

Sixth-grader Destiny Harris is the student body president and has been at the school since it opened.

"We didn't really like (the old playground)," Destiny said. "It was boring and crowded a lot. We're really happy now. People who haven't been here before will see the outside and want to check out the inside."

As excited as students were about the new playground -- constantly looking out the windows, talking about it and trying to sneak a peek outside the doors -- some were a little peeved, too.

They had to wait until the following Monday for the cement to dry before they could test it out.

For more information on the school, visit

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 224-5524.