When Dr. Margaret Boland looks back on her career in education, she admits that she has been blessed.
“This has been my life. The good Lord has been very good to me. Not everybody gets the opportunity to do what they love to do, want to do and feel called to do. And I have, and that’s a gift,” she said.
Boland, associate superintendent in the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, retired this year after more than 35 years in the Diocese.
“Nothing can be compared to our Catholic schools,” Boland says with pride. “Catholic education has the greatest freedom in the world – the charism of Catholic education itself is freedom.”
Setting High Standards
Boland arrived in the Diocese of Trenton after working in New York City public schools for 12 years. She taught eighth-grade math and science in St. Joseph School, Toms River, and developed an algebra and pre-algebra program for eighth-grade students in partnership with Donovan Catholic High School. She served as principal of St. Benedict School, Holmdel. She arrived as associate superintendent in 1995.
“I loved being a principal, but also I’m a researcher – I like to do research and professional development and writing,” she said. “In the 25 years I’ve been here, there’s been a lot accomplished.
“I wrote a lot of curriculum, and had a lot of curriculum published for the Diocese – but I worked with committees, because I believe in collaboration. I do not believe it should be written at my desk alone; it should be written together, with the teachers, the principals – and we did.”
During this time, Boland completed her doctorate in educational leadership at Seton Hall University, South Orange. She wrote a dissertation on “The Leadership Role of an Associate Superintendent in a Catholic School Office,” some of which was published in academic journals.
Also among her accomplishments: guiding curriculum development for Catholic schools in the Diocese; presenting on leadership and assessment at National Catholic Educational Association conventions and other dioceses; serving on a national committee that designed the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Elementary and Secondary Schools, and participating in a roundtable educational research program in Oxford, England.
“I was the only Catholic school representative there,” Boland said of the Oxford roundtable. “It was an incredible experience for me to bring the Catholic environment to the table, and at the same time listen to the public environment from all over the world.”
Athletes of Faith
In the midst of the research, curriculum writing, marketing, collaborating with schools and diocesan staff, and serving on a number of diocesan high school boards, a new opportunity came along – one in which Boland expresses great pride.
In 2011, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and his then-secretary Father Alberto Tamayo, approached Boland about researching and implementing the National Catholic Athletes for Christ program in the Diocese of Trenton. Bishop O’Connell, who had experience with the college-specific program during his presidency at The Catholic University of America, Washington, wished to bring CAC to Catholic high schools around the Diocese.
The Diocese of Trenton went on to become the first diocese in the country to implement the CAC program on a secondary school, diocesan-wide level, and hold yearly leadership symposiums (held in the fall at the diocesan Chancery). Members of the diocesan CAC committee now serve on the national committee, and representatives from seven Catholic high schools sit on the diocesan CAC board.
“It was a lot of work, but it was good work,” Boland said. “It has made an impact in our Catholic high schools, and for that I am very grateful, because our faith is the key of who we are.”
Signs of Strength
When it comes to education during the coronavirus pandemic, Boland focuses on the positives of remote learning, saying it has been an opportunity for introspection to ask, “What do they [students] need, what writing and research have they been doing, what books have they been reading?”
Boland praises the dedication she has witnessed from school administration, teachers, students and families during virtual learning in the pandemic.
“Students are emailing the teachers at 11 o’clock at night, and the teachers are responding,” she said, lamenting on the adjustments some families have faced. “If you have a mother and father at home working and they have three students at home, how many computers can you have?”
She continued, “For some parents, it must be hard, and I think parents of very young children have been really challenged, and they’ve tried their very best to teach the little ones – and keep them entertained!”
One of Boland’s greatest joys, both during COVID-19 and the many years preceding it, has been working with teachers and principals, as well as the opportunity to educate, research and collaborate.
“When you put it all together, it has been my pleasure and my joy to work with tremendously dedicated Catholic school leaders, and certainly in our diocesan office,” she affirmed. “To work with our pastors, to see people working hard to keep our Catholic faith alive, and to know how important our Catholic faith is … no matter the transition, keep your faith.”