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William Gartside took over leadership of the St. Columbkille Partnership School in July. "Boston College has made a tremendous commitment to get the asset side up to speed at St. Columbkille." (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

New St. Columbkille Head Lauds Partnership with Boston College

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By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff
Published: Sept. 23, 2010
William Gartside, the new head of Brighton’s St. Columbkille Partnership School, says he is sitting atop an educational treasure in the city, and the life-long Catholic educator credits Boston College with helping to make the school’s growing — and glowing — success possible.

On July 1, Gartside took over the leadership position at St. Columbkille, a K-8 parish school that nearly closed its doors in the face of financial difficulties prior to the establishment of an innovative educational partnership with BC and the Archdiocese of Boston in 2006.

“Without BC, St. Columbkille would never be where it is now,” he says. “My experience has taught me that there is an injustice with regard to assets that are available to city children in comparison to what’s available to suburban children.”

“Boston College has made a tremendous commitment to get the asset side up to speed at St. Columbkille,” he says. “Now we can infuse that with our Catholic values. For me, that’s a beacon of hope, a lighthouse, especially for immigrant children and children of color.”

Garside notes that the enrollment of St. Columbkille – the only parochial elementary school in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood – has grown to 308 pupils, the highest number since 1982.

“BC has been extremely important in this growth,” he says. “It’s the old ‘If you build it they will come’ sort of thing. If you can demonstrate growth, people will have faith that there is something viable here. Children are peoples’ greatest asset and they are not going to put that asset in a place where they are not sure if it is going to be viable.

“The fact that BC has put in so many assets in terms of infrastructures and expertise has enabled [the school] to get back on its feet,” Gartside says. “In fact, they are more than ‘on their feet’ right now. My initial assessment here is that in many ways, this school is the best kept secret in the Boston area when it comes to education.”

Gartside also praised the partnership benefit that enables St. Columbkille teachers to work toward masters’ degrees at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. “There is an incredibly talented faculty here,” he says, “a great combination of the enthusiasm and vitality of young teachers and the seasoned teachers who have lots of experience. You love to see those young teachers who are getting their master’s degrees over at BC, because you know they are going to be on the cutting edge of education, and at the same time, you have them working with other people here who have dedicated their lives to children, who can guide the young teachers and help them appreciate that teaching in a Catholic school is truly a vocation.

“Boston College has had a big part in this,” Gartside maintains. “We would not have been able to attract those talented teachers if it were not for BC.”

Gartside previously had been academic vice principal at Boston College High School, where he helped develop and implement that school’s new middle school program. He also served as principal of Monsignor Haddad Middle School in Needham, and has taught at Fontbonne Academy, Arlington Catholic High School and St. Rose School, all in the Boston area.

“If we can continue this growth, the St. Columbkille Partnership School can be a model – not just for this diocese, but for others as well – on how to reinvent Catholic education as a foundational, formational, transformational experience for students, particularly those from immigrant families,” Gartside says.