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Catholic schools hire new superintendent

(Published April 8, 2002)

By ERIKA WAAK
Staff Writer

The new superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington said the children are what is most important and that she looks forward to continuing her commitment to Catholic education.

Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill will begin her new position on July 1 to supervise schools that serve more than 34,500 students from diverse backgrounds in the District and southern Maryland. Her responsibilities will include the oversight of 83 archdiocesan pre-schools, and elementary and secondary schools in conjunction with the coordination of 23 independent Catholic schools.

"I want to be certain to continue the tradition of excellence in Catholic schools and provide support for staff and teachers to do what's best for the children. The academic excellence and reputation should to be sustained, and we need to move forward into the 21st century. Development is a key area and schools depend on funding to continue to grow and develop," Weitsel-O'Neill said.

Tom Moran is the current acting superintendent and decided to end his one-year term before undergoing his recent heart bypass surgery in. "A search committee was released last fall to fill the position of superintendent," said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Archdio-cese of Washington.

Weitzel-O'Neill said she wants to visit the schools and get acquainted with the teachers, administrators and principals in order to learn about their concerns. She said she wants to develop a planning mechanism that incorporates the voices of different constituencies and creates leadership in an environment where everyone works together as a team.

"Leadership can provide opportunities for everyone who works with the students, including educational opportunities and access. The faculty represents advice and input for the students and everyone is given attention. The key is that I'm available and able to listen, and that I understand the team leadership style. I believe in the team approach to leadership," Weitzel-O'Neill said.

As superintendent, Weitzel-O'Neill will draw on her experience as the former vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Trinity College in Northeast Washington. She held a number of positions at Trinity College, including as an associate professor in sociology.

"At Trinity College, I learned about teacher preparation, certification and the programs that are delivered. The most important thing that I learned in higher education is to build a better understanding of college education and work with grades K through 12. I have 20 years of articulation of the Catholic mission in education and want to provide the best possible education no matter how old [the student]," Weitzel-O'Neill said.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washing-ton, said he is "delighted" with Weitzel-O'Neill's appointment.

"She brings not only impressive professional experience to this position, but a strong personal commitment to and knowledge of our local Catholic schools, gained through her experience as a parishioner and involved parent," he said.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator