2021 | Bethesda Beat

Reflections on school board member Pat O’Neill

Longest-serving board member in district's history died on Tuesday

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Some of the comments about Montgomery County Board of Education member Pat O’Neill, who died Tuesday at age 71 (see story):

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich:

“We are saddened to learn about the passing of Montgomery County Board of Education Member Patricia O’Neill. Her love of our children was only matched by her commitment to the constituents she served for nearly a quarter of a century.

“Montgomery County lost a leader, public servant, and compassionate resident who was determined to make this County a better place for current and future generations. To honor her legacy, we need to continue the work she dedicated her life to.

“I join all Montgomery County residents this evening in extending our thoughts and sympathies to Mrs. O’Neill’s family and friends as well everyone in our Montgomery County Public Schools community.”

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Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker:

“It is with great sadness that the Council mourns the loss of one of the most beloved members of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Mrs. O’Neill was not only the longest serving Board of Education member in MCPS history, but a dedicated public servant who always searched for ways to improve school policies to better serve our students.

“Montgomery County Public Schools has changed a lot since Mrs. O’Neill first joined the Board of Education in 1998 — her hard work has been an essential component to its success. Our school system is not only greater in size, but also in academic achievements and student support services to help children and youth of all ages and backgrounds succeed academically.

“The Council has lost a colleague, friend and a champion for children. Mrs. O’Neill always put our young people first and was committed to investing in teachers and support staff to deliver world-class educational opportunities to support student success.

“On behalf of the entire Council and its staff, I extend our deepest condolences to Mrs. O’Neill’s family, loved ones and the entire Montgomery County Public Schools community.” 

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Cynthia Simonson, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations:

“Many PTA leaders identified with Pat as she learned the system, as many of us have, leading a PTA, advocating for our children. Today, the students of Montgomery County lost one of their biggest supporters.” 

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School board President Brenda Wolff:

“I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Patricia O’Neill, my Board colleague, my good friend, and a fierce advocate for education in Montgomery County.

“My day frequently started on the phone with Pat, when we would discuss the important issues of the day and how we could make things better for our students, for our staff, and for our county. She mentored me when I became a Board member and has been an invaluable colleague since I became Board President, a role she held five times.

“In many ways, Pat is a perfect role model of community service: She selflessly gave her time to the school district from which she and her children graduated and made a lasting impact on countless lives in Montgomery County.

“I offer my sincerest condolences to Pat’s family and friends. The board will find a fitting way to honor her legacy in the near future.”

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Jerry Weast, retired MCPS superintendent:

“Pat O’Neill has been an institution in Montgomery County Public Schools for more than 20 years. Her calm leadership, clear-headed advice, and deep institutional knowledge were invaluable during my time as superintendent.

“She always put the needs of MCPS students first, especially those who were most profoundly feeling the effects of poverty and trauma. She was a strong advocate for MCPS staff and took great pride in the school system’s successes.

“I am grateful for her partnership and her friendship in guiding MCPS during a time of tremendous growth and change in the county.”

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