$350K/Year Boston Catholic Schools Superintendent Leaving

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.

16 Responses to $350K/Year Boston Catholic Schools Superintendent Leaving

  1. Plain Patti says:

    As a teacher in a Catholic school, I was delighted by the news of Dr. Grasso O’Neil’s resignation. There was no leadership coming from Braintree over these last 5 years. Rather, it was the place where cronyism flourished. From various academic programs (owned by friends of the superintendent) foisted on schools, with high price tags and no measurable effect on student performance; to the attempted gutting of parish-based curriculum with proven outcomes, to the proposal to adopt the inferior and dumb-down, Common Core Curriculum ; to the clear destruction of the Catholic Faith focus with adherence to teachings of the Church to reflect the Secular Progressive Agenda so prevalent in the Public School systems.; to the staffing of leadership positions both at the assistant superintendent and school principal levels with individuals whose curriculum vita left much to be desired. Dr. Grasso O’Neil came from the public sector, had no appreciation for what a Catholic School System stood for, and seemingly has set the path to assure its annihilation (enrollment has decreased 4.6% under her watch). In addition, it is interesting that this event was announced on a Friday afternoon to the news media with no email announcement to the employees of the schools (even though there is access to a centralized email system). Hopefully, the sentiments expressed by the Cardinal in the announcement reflects an attempt to allow Dr. O’Neil to exit gracefully. With any luck, the recruitment of her successor will include the mandate that the individual understands the importance of a vibrant, growing Catholic School System to the life of the Church and demonstrates that he/she has clear plans to help parish schools make this happen and believes that the abandonment of the Academy approach to centrally control the education process is essential to restore health and growth to Catholic education.

    • catholicteacherman says:

      I could have written these exact words. Bye bye MGON. Hope your replacement is even 1/3 of the ‘leader’ you were! We all need to pray for a real Catholic to take the job and that he/she (dare we hope for a qualified religious?) actually understand CATHOLIC schools so that they can grow.

  2. Michael says:

    If I took $1,625,000.00 FROM the church, I would be nervous. Even if I did an outstanding job … I would be nervous. Christian charity would dictate that anyone who understands why I would be nervous should pray that Mary Grassa O’Neill’s conscience become enlightened and that she correct her massive unconscionable behavior.

    You know … fear of God. I would be very nervous. She is in my prayers. Glad she is gone. Can’t wait to see what “replacement” they find.

    • David S. says:

      Well said Michael. Yes, imagine someone taking over a million and a half dollars out of the Sunday collections plates and putting that into their pocket. The thought that person’s accountability before God during their particular judgement is frightening.

      And despite all that money most of the children who attend parochial schools today do not even know the fundamentals about Catholic faith and morals.

  3. Boston Principal says:

    I appreciated your posting on MGON’s leaving and her tenure at the Catholic Schools office. As a parochial school principal in the RCAB, it has been increasingly evident to me and many principals that the Cardinal does not understand the implications of handing over his authority, as it were, to MGON. The adoption of the Common Core standards is a perfect example of what happens when you put a person with little parochial school admin experience in such a critical position. Pastors and principals are definitely feeling that a takeover of the schools is in the works. More and more authority was given to MGON and the CSO by the Cardinal. It amazes me that he has no idea of the damage caused by the blanket acceptance of the Common Core. Our schools are being made into glorified charter schools. A perfect example of this is found in the academies set up by the “Catholic” Schools Foundation. Please continue to post on this critical topic.

  4. Time for a change says:

    Can’t we just take one of her 200k assistants and move them up to the 350k job!! The department is doing so well an outsider might loose momentum??


    • Just Wondering says:

      What we need is a “new face” – not a promotion for somebody already in the loop. AND….we definitely DO NOT need a person making $350,000 a year. Take a qualified CATHOLIC from the ranks and appoint him/her to do the job of making our schools CATHOLIC again. As I say: “JUST WONDERING.”

  5. Chris Whittle says:

    One down, hundreds more to go!

  6. One of many concerned parents says:

    While this is great news, we can rest easier when others in the CSO, who share MGON’s views and condescending attitudes toward parents who dare to express concern about Common Core, also decide to “move on”. We can all rest easier when the CSO is filled with individuals who will say NO to Common Core and embrace the tried and true Catholic education and curriculum.

    Common Core serves no one but the educrats who came up with it. If it is going to be so great for our kids, why the clandestine adoption process? Why do so few parents in our Catholic schools know about it — still?? If it is going to be so great for our kids, why won’t the CSO share and publish their research that demonstrates its “rigor”? Common Core lowers the bar! Keeping the bar high is what propels student achievement — urban or suburban. Hang a “No Common Core Here” sign at every Catholic school and watch enrollment soar!

    Until the RCAB cancels its implementation of Common Core, this family will not contribute a dime to the Catholic church. We do not want our money going to support the implementation of this unproven, anti-Catholic, and unconstitutional monstrosity.

    We pray the Cardinal takes the time to research Common Core for himself, to understand why this is so concerning to parents of Catholic school children and to understand what is at stake for the future of Catholic and all education. We pray he makes the right decision because I desperately want my children to have the Catholic education I was blessed to receive. We pray that the Cardinal will have the courage to stop Common Core.

    Parents: please do the research. Look up articles by Jane Robbins from the American Principles Project, (specifically her article titled, “Saving the Uncommon Core of Catholic Education”) and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute. Read the testimony on the deficiencies of Common Core by experts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Professor James Milgram.

    Use your voice and numbers from this group to call the Cardinal’s office to express your concern and encourage the Cardinal to make the most of this moment and this opportunity to hire an individual who believes in true Catholic Education, not a common education.

    ps. very happy to hear from a principal and teachers. Please encourage more principals and teachers to come forward and express their concerns about Common Core.

    • Concerned Parent says:


      “…the State should respect the inherent rights of the Church and of the family concerning Christian education and moreover have regard for distributive justice. Accordingly, unjust and unlawful is any monopoly, educational or scholastic, which, physically or morally, forces families to make use of government schools, contrary to the dictates of their Christian conscience, or contrary even to their legitimate preferences. ”

      Isn’t the adoption of a set of cookie-cutter standards endorsed by a secular government which directly opposes Church teachings on many issues the equivalent of transporting the government school to the Catholic building? Why would any bishop be willing to yoke the schools for which he is responsible to a government monopoly – in direct violation of the principal of subsidiarity? The standards themselves may appear innocuous, but the delivery system (e.g. texts and materials developed in support of the standards, which can be viewed online) are not. The data mining aspect of Common Core is an unprecedented violation of student and familial privacy which has no real relevance to the education process, unless the actual objective is “The Cloning of the American Mind”. As experience has shown (e.g. the ACA bait and switch in which bishops were initially led to believe that the Church would be exempted from aspects of the health care bill that violate Church teaching, but found out too late that this was not the case) bishops who assume that they can adopt CC, cherry pick the standards and materials they find acceptable and disregard the rest will likely at some point be faced with accepting the standards and curricula in their entirety in order to be allowed to continue to operate schools. I hope Cardinal O’Malley realizes that the ultimate goal of the CC initiative (a nationalized curriculum) is inherently incompatible with the principle of subsidiarity and also incompatible with the primary purpose of Catholic education. Attempting to inject “Catholic elements” into a flawed approach is like putting lipstick on a pig.

      • Michael says:

        … and when the “Catholic school system” (which ought to be setting the standard – as opposed to being force fed a state standard) agrees to be bound by the standard, what happens when the standard “changes” and they add new aspects to the curriculum which directly conflict and contradict Catholic Church teaching on the particular matters. … well, we are “required to follow the standard … what were we to do???? What a joke. Who is in charge over there. Where are the “good” Catholics like Deputy Superintendant James Walsh? Why is he not stopping this insanity? What is he doing if not trying to promote and defend authentic “Catholic Church” teaching? Maybe he just can’t see that far ahead? Or could it be his 30 pieces of silver have blocked his vision?

  7. Let your freak flag fly says:

    if the RCAB is so inept and befuddled in regards to how to handle a homosexual flag flying at “Catholic” Carney hospital, how can they possibly be expected to understand the subtle moral intricacies with the CC curriculum?

    • Michael says:

      There is nothing inept or befuddling about the rainbow flag flying nor about the intentional implementation of state standards in Catholic Schools.

  8. Anon Catholic says:

    Splendid article, couldn’t agree more to your list of Dr. Mary Grassa-Oneill’s failures.   Please God we will get someone worth of this office to replace her.  We need to keep Jack Connors, Fr. Hehir and Sr. Janet Eisner, away from the selection.  They are just not acceptable

  9. Carolyn says:

    Could BCI please continue its campaign to rid the administration of our archdiocese of overpaid, under-principled “executives?” You perform a great service for all RCAB faithful by sticking to the facts and pounding away — especially as to the excessive compensation paid to people who amount to middle administrators.

    The “statements” of +Deeley, MGON and TDonilon bear the stamp of Ann Carter’s office. Remember when Jim McDonough, Ann’s little pinocchio, was cut loose by Jack Connors with a pat on the head, but it was made to look like Jim’s decision? The statements fit a tight pattern. It’s Carterspeak for, “Don’t let the door hit you…”

    Discontinuing the rest of the CSO people, and the Catholic Media boondoggle, would make terrific follow-ups to MGON’s departure.

  10. Bob says:

    It must be an Catholic education thing…
    We don’t know how much our Superintendent and staff are paid, but we have the same problems with Common Core, the hiring of principals (and where they attended college, too), usurping the pastor’s prerogative in hiring teachers, Catholic identity and faith formation is a joke and closure of schools. Education offices seem to be personal fiefdoms in which the bishops/archbishops would rather not be bothered with.

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