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Former D.C. special-ed teacher to oversee schools in Washington Archdiocese

By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; B04

A former D.C. special education teacher has been named superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, church officials said Monday.

Bert L'Homme, who has spent much of his career in public education, will be in charge of Catholic schools for the archdiocese, which serves 29,000 students in 95 schools in the District and Maryland.

"It's a great school system that has been meeting the needs for Catholic families and non-Catholic families" for a long time, L'Homme said.

He comes to the job at a stressful time for the system. He will have to contend with declining enrollment and maintaining financial stability as families seek more assistance to pay for private education.

His predecessor, Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, who is becoming director of the Center for Catholic Education at Boston College, presided over the conversion in 2008 of seven financially struggling D.C. Catholic schools to public charter schools. This year, the archdiocese closed one school in Maryland and one in the District.

L'Homme said that despite the decrease in enrollment, "I don't think there is any decrease in will."

L'Homme, a deacon in the Catholic church, has been interim chief operating officer and director of education policy at the Children's Defense Fund since July. He was previously superintendent of schools in Franklin County, N.C.

Early in his career, he taught at the Rose School, a D.C. public school for students with special needs. Between 1982 and 1994, he was principal and executive director of City Lights, a private school for at-risk youths that became a D.C. charter school and closed in February 2009.

L'Homme, who grew up in Massachusetts and attended Catholic schools, said that Catholic schools educate "the whole child" in terms of character and religion while public schools stick to academics.

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl said he was "delighted to appoint Deacon L'Homme as superintendent because of his extensive experience as a superintendent and his commitment to the Catholic Church."

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