By Seth Daniel
Charlestown’s Michael O’Neill has served on the Boston School Committee under the past two administrations, and he said Mayor Martin Walsh’s commitment to Boston’s schools drove him to want to return for another term on the Board and also to continue being the face of the Board as its chairman.
After being sworn in during a City Hall ceremony on Jan. 4, the next day O’Neill’s colleagues voted him once again the chair of the Boston School Committee – and he said that even though it’s a daunting task, he was happy to return under an administration that is focusing on the schools.
“It was not time to walk away yet,” he said on Thursday, after being voted to chair the Committee for the fifth year in a row. “I’m honored the mayor appointed me and I”m very impressed with what he’s doing…It was his demonstrated support for the public schools that made me want to stay on and do this. Of course, I also could have never done it without the unwavering support of my wife, Rana, and my family.”
O’Neill said he is proud to see the accomplishments the schools have made in light of new policies, such as extending the day and brining in more supports. That has paid off, in particular, with schools like the Harvard Kent Elementary School moving up to a Level 1 school this past fall.
At the moment, both the Harvard Kent and the Warren Prescott Elementary Schools are the benefactors of Extended Learning Time (ELT) programs, and the School Committee is embarking on expanding that number greatly this year citywide.
“The work we’re doing to expand the school day and the numbers of Level 1 and Level 2 schools we have is the highest we’ve had in years,” he said. “A number of those schools are in Charlestown. The Harvard Kent just got Level 1. We have a lot of exciting school options – the Warren Prescott, the Edwards is doing well and the high school is doing some very good things under Headmaster William Thomas. Charlestown has a lot of options that not all neighborhoods in the city have. We have to expand that kind of success to all parts of the city.”
To that end, he said he has been glad to see a reversal in the trend of new parents leaving the Town when their children hit school-age – as was the case and is now showing a decline.
“We want families to stay in the city and choose the public schools,” he said. “We don’t want families to leave the city because of the schools. We want them to stay and they want quality seats. We want to be able to have those quality seats all over the city.”