Edmondson named Catholic school superintendent

She has been interim superintendent since July

  • Barbara Edmondson is a former principal in the archdiocese.
Barbara Edmondson is a former principal in the archdiocese. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
February 22, 2011|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

The Archdiocese of Baltimore made its acting superintendent the official head of its 70 schools Tuesday, naming Barbara Edmondson to oversee 2,750 employees and more than 29,000 students.

The first laywoman to supervise the school system, Edmondson has moved up through the ranks and feels privileged to serve with those "who believe in Catholic education."

"Together, we can strengthen our schools and continue a legacy that dates back more than 200 years," she said.

The official announcement, which earned a standing ovation, came at the launch of the Principals Leadership Institute for Advanced Study, a certificate program for administrators that Edmondson helped to develop in partnership with area Catholic colleges.

"My job is to make things happen in our schools and to find the resources to make those things happen," she said.

The 51-year-old Davidsonville resident, who has served as interim superintendent since July, said she is moving forward with the groundwork she has laid the past seven months. She replaces Ronald J. Valenti, who retired after 20 years as superintendent. Her appointment came after a 15-month, nationwide search, led by a committee chaired by Mary Pat Seurkamp, president of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Many in the audience of more than 100 Catholic school leaders said they had already guessed who would be their new boss. Edmondson had dropped the "acting" from her title in an early-morning e-mail with a weather-related time change for the session at Loyola Graduate Center in Timonium.

"She brings a wonderful combination of gifts," said Monsignor Richard Woy, vicar general of the archdiocese, who served on the search committee. "She is a mother and a credentialed educator with a lot of hands-on experience as a principal and teacher."

Woy praised Edmondson's "unwavering passion for education and her commitment to Catholic education for every child who wants one."

A graduate of Montclair State College in New Jersey, Edmondson began her teaching career in that state's elementary schools. She later spent a decade as an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where she earned a doctorate in education and human development. She came to the archdiocese in 2000 as the first principal at the School of the Incarnation in Gambrills and during her tenure there, enrollment increased from 80 to 800 students.

She is married to Joseph Edmondson, an attorney and partner in a Georgetown law firm. The couple's four children are all students in the school system; their two younger children attend Incarnation and their two teenagers are at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis.

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien said in a statement that Edmondson's "performance over the past several months as well as her accomplishments in building one of our most successful schools made her a clear choice to lead our school system."

Sixty percent of the superintendents of the Catholic school systems across the nation are women.

Among her most immediate tasks is the implementation of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Catholic Schools' Strategic Plan, a blueprint that grew from a report released in June by a panel of Catholic education experts. The plan outlined recommendations to stabilize a system that has closed 28 of its schools, or 40 percent, since 2000.

"The strategic plan gives us the directions for where we need to move," she said. "My job is to make it a living document and to implement the recommendations so that it comes alive in our schools."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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