Deborah O'Neil

Deborah C. O’Neil

St. Bernadette School
Diocese of Worcester
Northborough, Massachusetts

Throughout her 34-year career of teaching and principalship, Deborah O’Neil has consistently advocated for educational practices that reach underserved populations, particularly students needing special education support. When she became principal of St. Bernadette School (SBS), she found that a lack of adequate or substantive assessments was preventing students from fully accessing their education. Already experienced at implementing special education programming, she made it her first directive to lead a comprehensive assessment of individual student learning needs and make the staffing and curricular changes necessary to meet them. Fourteen years later, the program is serving over 50 students, with resources being constantly developed to improve instruction. O’Neil has extended this same passion to her instructional leadership at the school level, leading SBS through a re-accreditation process, a successful National Blue Ribbon School Award application in 2014, and the implementation of such programs as Discipline with Purpose, which establishes age-appropriate language to establish shared behavioral norms. In each of her initiatives, O’Neil’s leadership has been guided by a community-driven approach and a deep commitment to service, always making sure that parents understand the purpose driving changes in instruction. As leader of SBS, she has done what she believes effective principals should do: “actively engage the community to create shared responsibility for student performance and development.” O’Neil holds an M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts and a B.A. from Elms College.