Philly archdiocese names dual school superintendents

Carol A. Cary (left) and Jacqueline P. Coccia take office following a period of upheaval.
Carol A. Cary (left) and Jacqueline P. Coccia take office following a period of upheaval.
Posted: July 21, 2012

Six months after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia began a restructuring that led to elementary school closings and mergers, as well as new financial support for its high schools, two longtime Catholic educators have been tapped to lead the schools.

The archdiocese announced Thursday that Carol A. Cary, 57, who has overseen curriculum, instruction, and professional development for secondary schools in the five-county region for nearly five years, has been named superintendent of the archdiocese's 17 high schools.

Jacqueline P. Coccia, 47, who has overseen elementary education in the archdiocese for two years, will be superintendent of the 123 Catholic elementary schools.

The appointments were effective Thursday.

The two women replace Mary E. Rochford, who had overseen both secondary and high schools until she stepped down June 30.

Rochford - the archdiocese's first female superintendent - announced this spring she would step down after four years to care for her mother, who was in declining health.

As part of the superintendent search process, the archdiocese consulted with John DeFlaminis, executive director of the Penn Center for Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania, and H. Edward Hanway. He is chairman of the Faith in the Future Foundation, an independent body established a few months ago to raise $100 million in the next five years to help Catholic schools.

Schools throughout the archdiocese were thrown into turmoil in early January when a blue-ribbon commission recommended closing four archdiocesan high schools as part of a plan to ensure the viability of Catholic education. The commission also called for shuttering many Catholic elementary schools to create regional schools to deal with declining enrollment and rising costs.

"Because of all the restructuring of the elementary schools and the new support from the Faith in the Future, it is important we split the roles," Coccia said Thursday.

Her immediate focus will be on working with the 20 newly merged regional elementary schools and the 14 new "mission schools." The missions schools will receive support as they develop independent boards to help them raise funds so they can continue to focus on educating low-income students.

Cary said she wanted to build on the momentum that was created by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's announcement in February that, thanks to $12 million in donations and pledges, the four high schools slated to close would remain open. At that time he announced the Faith in the Future Foundation.

Cary said that as a result of the outpouring of financial and emotional support for the high schools, enrollment at the high schools this summer is slightly above projections. The Office of Catholic Education will not release 2012-13 enrollment figures until October.

She also said she would continue the work begun by Rochford and the Office of Catholic Education to implement a nationally recognized core curriculum in the high schools.

Both women said they admired Rochford.

"Mary has always been a strong role model and I consider her a mentor and friend," Coccia said.

Cary added: "It's exciting to be able to serve in this legendary capacity in the archdiocese and to bring my experience from parenting and as a teacher and administrator serving in the Office of Catholic Education for five years."

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or

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