Head of Washington's Catholic schools to lead Boston College center

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 11, 2010

The head of the Washington Archdiocese's Catholic schools will step down in June to lead a center at Boston College, she announced Wednesday.

Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill has been superintendent of the 28,600-student school system of the archdiocese, which also has schools in Maryland, since 2002. She presided over the schools during the creation of the D.C. voucher program and the conversion of seven inner-city Catholic schools to public charter schools. At Boston College's education school, she will head the Center for Catholic Education.

"I look forward to this new opportunity to serve at the national level," she said in a statement.

Before Weitzel-O'Neill arrived at the archdiocese, she was vice president of academic affairs at Trinity Washington University.

"She will be greatly missed," Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said in a statement, adding that Weitzel-O'Neill had strengthened the area's Catholic schools during her tenure.

Weitzel-O'Neill had to fight declining enrollments and tough financial times in her eight years with the schools, problems that have plagued Catholic schools across the country. When she arrived, she oversaw 33,600 students. Enrollments have since declined almost 15 percent.

She also opened a school, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High, in Takoma Park, and she was among the founders of a regional consortium of Catholic schools. Most recently she led a battle to continue the D.C. voucher program, which uses federal money to provide scholarships for low-income D.C. students to attend private schools. The program appears to be winding down without enough congressional support to sustain it.

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