Grassa O’Neill named secretary of education

BRIGHTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley announced the appointment of Mary Grassa O’Neill as secretary of education and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston Jan. 11. Grassa O’Neill’s appointment is effective this spring.

Sister Kathleen Fitz Simons, CND, has served as interim superintendent of schools since the resignation of Sister Kathleen Carr, CSJ in April 2006.

Cardinal O’Malley said, “Dr. Grassa O’Neill brings extraordinary skills and experience to the Archdiocese of Boston. A gifted leader who understands the challenges and opportunities ahead, we welcome her to this important position.”

He continued, “We are grateful for Dr. Grassa O’Neill’s commitment to our students and their families and her desire to strengthen, enhance, and reinvigorate Catholic education in the archdiocese.”

Grassa O’Neill currently serves as director of The Principals’ Center and managing director for Programs in Professional Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The programs she oversees reach 2,500 educators from all over the world from pre-kindergarten through higher education.

She is also a member of the board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority and a Milton Hospital corporator.

Previously, Grassa O’Neill served as senior administrator in the Boston Public Schools for 25 years and superintendent of Milton Public Schools from 1993 to 2003. In Milton, she improved academic achievement, quadrupled the number of high school students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses and initiated foreign language programs for all grades so that 90 percent of Milton students now study a freeing language for 12 years.

In addition, she raised $100 million to renovate school buildings and worked with community members to establish the Milton Foundation for Education, which raised more than $1 million to enhance and enrich curriculum offerings.

Grassa O’Neill said she looks forward to her new responsibilities serving the Archdiocese of Boston.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve the archdiocese,” she said, “I look forward to working with Cardinal O’Malley and our Catholic School leaders, faculties, staffs, parents, community members and clergy to ensure exceptional educational opportunities for all students and to make an already good school system even better.”

Search Committee Chair Sister Janet Eisner, SND, president of Emmanuel College, said Cardinal O’Malley gave the committee the task of recruiting “a vigorous and visionary educational leader with the stature and the drive to transform the schools of the Archdiocese of Boston.”

“In Dr. Mary Grassa O’Neill we have found such a person,” she added. “Mary has the leadership experience, the inspiring presence, and the deep personal commitment -- both to her faith and to children, families, and communities -- to be a successful leader, builder, and champion for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston.”

Cardinal O’Malley added, “I want to extend my sincere thanks to Interim Secretary of Education Sister Clare Bertero, OSF and Interim Superintendent Sister Kathleen FitzSimons, CND, who have provided exemplary leadership during a time of transition.”

A graduate of St. Ann’s Grammar School in Dorchester and the former Cardinal Cushing Central High School in South Boston, Grassa O’Neill earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston State College and received her Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She also earned two certificates from Harvard Business School.

Grassa O’Neill lives in Milton with her husband, Tom, and their sons, Thomas and Joseph. They are parishioners at St. Elizabeth Parish.