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BC Hosts New Archdiocese Schools Head

10/02/14
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Roche Center for Catholic Education Executive Director Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, left, talks with Kathleen Power Mears, new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, and her husband Brian, at a reception Tuesday night in the Cadigan Alumni Center. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Ed Hayward | Chronicle Staff

Published: Oct. 2, 2014

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, Boston College faculty, and local Catholic educators and supporters were on hand Tuesday night at a reception for the Archdiocese of Boston’s new superintendent of schools, Kathleen Power Mears.

The Cadigan Alumni Center gathering – hosted by the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education and the Lynch School of Education – welcomed Mears to her new post as the leader of the archdiocese’s 119 schools, which will educate more than 40,000 students this year. Mears comes to Boston after serving as executive director for elementary schools for the National Catholic Educational Association.

“There is a tremendous level of excitement surrounding Kathy’s arrival and the Roche Center and the Lynch School are thrilled we will be working closely with Kathy and her team to strengthen Catholic education in Boston,” said Roche Center Executive Director Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, who served on the archdiocese’s search committee.

“The ties between Boston College and the Catholic schools of the archdiocese are long-standing and in many cases serve as national models of university-school partnerships,” Weitzel-O’Neill said prior to the event. “The Roche Center is excited to introduce Kathy to BC and to the faculty and staff at the Lynch School.”

Roche Center partnerships with Boston-area Catholic schools include the Emmaus Series, the Leadership Team Initiative and the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps educator preparation program. Weitzel-O’Neill said she hopes to add local schools to the center’s nationwide Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools (TWIN-CS), which supports dual-language immersion programs in 12 schools in 11 states.

In addition, the Lynch Leadership Academy, a joint effort of the Carroll School of Management and the Lynch School, offers a yearlong executive development program to Catholic school principals and their counterparts in public and charter schools. The Lynch School-founded Boston Catholic Connects initiative helps Catholic schools deliver a new model of student support services.

Catholic schools in the Boston area and beyond are engaged in standards-based education reform efforts, implementing inclusive governance models, launching new professional development programs for educators, and embracing marketing initiatives focused on enrollment and fundraising.

Weitzel-O’Neill and Roche Center Associate Director Kristin Melley said Mears has launched innovative initiatives focused on professional development, teacher evaluation, special education, educational technology and using the internet and social media to improve communication and collaboration between Catholic educators.

“Kathy is all about the kids,” Weitzel-O’Neill said. “She really cares about students and makes that a driving force in her work to help Catholic schools achieve academic excellence and fully develop their Catholic identity.”

The archdiocese’s 2014 annual education report identified crucial challenges as expanding early education programs, retaining more students between kindergarten and first grade, helping teachers earn advanced degrees, reducing principal turnover and reducing the numbers of high school students who leave Catholic secondary schools.

Weitzel-O’Neill said Catholic school systems across the country face the same issues. Mears’ leadership style is uniquely suited to help Boston-area schools overcome these challenges.

“Kathy brings positive energy and a creative sense of the future that is one-of-a-kind,” said Weitzel-O’Neill. “I think the archdiocesan schools are poised to take the lead nationally. I don’t see the challenges, so much as opportunities for Kathy.”