It is official. Praise God–our prayers at BCI have been answered! Mary Grassa O’Neill, Secretary for Education in the Boston Archdiocese, is stepping down. Earning $343,000 a year, she has been the “poster child” for excessive six-figure salaries paid to lay executives in the Boston Archdiocese in recent years. BCI and others have been complaining about her and her salary for three years now. Here is what the Boston Globe reported about her departure:
O’Neill said that she decided to leave her job after her five-year contract expired in June and that she will be looking for a position outside the district. Her annual salary package is $343,705, according to archdiocesan records.
She described her tenure as exhilarating and challenging, and said she was proud of her work in helping students prepare for college and career.
“I loved every single moment of my time in the archdiocese,” she said.
Her work apparently had so impressed Cardinal Sean O’Malley that he had tried in vain to persuade her to stay, according to archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon.
‘The Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston are in a much better place today because of Dr. O’Neill’s dedication and commitment.’
“I came here to work for five years for the cardinal,’’ said O’Neill. “And the time has flown by. I had to decide if I should stay or make a change.”
O’Neill said she is leaving the school system in a stronger place than when she took over in 2008.
She took charge after decades of sweeping demographic change, as schools were closing and consolidating to deal with a steady tide of urban parishioners moving out to the suburbs. In the 1960s, the archdiocesan schools taught more than 150,000 students. Now the enrollment is 41,000, said Donilon.
Archdiocesan officials said that central to her tenure was reorganization of the Catholic Schools Office, which focused on increasing early education enrollment, supplying tools and data to help the district thrive, and reducing isolation by expanding partnerships between the central office and schools.
Under her watch, early education enrollment increased by 17 percent, and Catholic school enrollment rose 2 percent in Boston.
O’Neill’s department teamed with local colleges and assisted in the formation of Catholic academies in Lawrence, Quincy, South Boston, Dorchester, and Mattapan. The Catholic Schools Office also implemented the cardinal’s strategic plan for Catholic education.
“Our schools have realized significant improvements in academics while continuing to strengthen their Catholic identity and faith formation,’’ O’Malley said in a statement. “The Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston are in a much better place today because of Dr. O’Neill’s dedication and commitment.”
We are delighted that Mary Grassa O’Neill has decided to move on. Still, we are disappointed to hear that the Cardinal tried to keep her. We would very much to see the Cardinal’s strategic plan for Catholic education, as we have yet to see that publicly anywhere. We would also be remiss to not point out the problems during her rein and things not stated in the announcement of her departure:
- How overall Catholic schools enrollment and the number of parish-based Catholic schools DROPPED during her tenure. Enrollment was about 43,000 students when she started in 2008 and is at 41,000 now.
- The number of parish-based Catholic schools that closed during the past five years
- The flat out lie to everyone in the archdiocese and country underlying the Catholic School policy to admit the children of homosexual parents. (See Diocesan Deception in Catholic Schools Admission Policy).
- How she has all but eliminated local control over selection of would-be principals. On at least two occasions, local committees have forwarded one and only one candidate for a principal, and she rejected the choices.
- How she has violated Canon law and principles of subsidiarity by overruling sitting pastors in the selection process for school leadership
- How she exercised favoritism and cronyism to exclude qualified candidates for Catholic school roles, while putting forward people she wanted for roles who were less qualified.
- How she hired a friend of hers as principal for a parish-based school, despite concerns at that principal’s two past jobs–financial mismanagement allegations at a Boston Catholic Academy where she departed suddenly, and a guilty finding in a lawsuit and 5-figure settlement paid as a result of her having forged a teacher’s letter of resignation while n the Boston Public Schools
- How she has pushed the unproven Common Core curriculum into Boston Catholic schools and refused to meet with concerned parents who opposed the move.
- How she has failed to implement policies or guidelines for school principals
- How there is no evidence whatsoever that she strengthened the “Catholic identity and faith formation” in Catholic schools. In fact, it appears that Catholic identity in Catholic schools is steadily declining.
- How she ignored problems with advancement of the homosexual agenda at Sacred Heart School in Kingston
- How she ignored issues with harassment of a teacher at St. Catherine School in Norwood by other teachers at the school, including one who is a convicted felon
Vicar General Bishop Deeley said the following in his announcement about her departure on Friday:
Among her achievements are the reorganization of the Catholic Schools Office and the priority of support for pastors, principals, faculty and staff at the schools. Her contributions have brought great benefit to the more than 41,000 students who are enrolled in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. She has put us on the path of revitalizing and reinvigorating Catholic education throughout the Archdiocese by developing and implementing the Cardinal’s Strategic Plan for Catholic Education.
Blah blah blah. If we are on the path to revitalizing and reinvigorating Catholic education, where is the actual evidence of that? Regarding a replacement for Grassa O’Neill, Bishop Deeley said:
A process will be implemented for the selection of a new Secretary for Education/Superintendent and further announcements will be made regarding an interim appointment for this position.
We hope and pray that people like Fr. Bryan Hehir and Sr. Janet Eisner are kept far away from the search committee for her successor. We also hope that Cardinal O’Malley insists on a devout Catholic for the role–and that both the search committee and all candidates for the role affirm their acceptance of all teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.