Dedication honors Edmund O'Neal
New school named after first black district principal
ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept.
12, 2017) –
The past and present intersected on Tuesday as the
City School District of Albany honored the man for whom its newest
school is named.
About 150 people gathered at Edmund J. O'Neal
Middle School of Excellence on North Lark Street to pay tribute to the
late Edmund J. O’Neal, who taught, was a principal and ran the human
resources office during his 36-year career in the district.
O’Neal was remembered as a mentor, colleague and
Warren Mackey, a former student, recalled the
interest O’Neal took in him as a student at Arbor Hill Elementary
School. Even after Mackey moved away O’Neal kept in touch and hired
Mackey to work in the school district when he graduated from college,
Born in 1936, O’Neal spent most of life living
and working in Albany. He moved here as a child and was educated in
Albany’s public schools, graduating from Albany High School in 1956
after a brief stint as a medic in the Army.
He went on to graduate from Hampton Institute in
1959 and was hired to teach in the school district the following year.
In 1969, he became the first African-American to
be appointed as a principal in the district. He was assigned to the
former School 6, where he had taught for several years. He went on to
become principal in 1973 of the then-new Arbor Hill Elementary School
and spent a dozen years there before being tapped to lead the district’s
human resources office.
O’Neal was a bedrock of support for students and
staff. But he was no pushover. Board of Education President Sue Adler
called him “old school.”
“He was tough and demanding in his expectations.
He also was revered, and sometimes feared, holding his students and his
colleagues accountable for their actions and their words,” she said.
“I’ve also heard he was a man of great heart who
was known to buy clothing and groceries for children and families out of
his own pocket, a man who was a father figure to the decades of young
people he worked with,” Adler said.
Besides Mackey and Adler, several others spoke
of O’Neal’s dedication and work, including his daughter Angela,
Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams, former colleagues Linda
Jackson-Chalmers and Doris Bedell, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and state
Assemblywoman Pat Fahy.
Also speaking was a representative of the
current generation. Nay’Quan Harris, an eighth-grader at the new school,
said he was inspired by his teachers and hopes to become one someday.
All agreed the act of naming the school after
O’Neal was the right thing to do.
“Edmund O’Neal literally devoted his life to the
children and families of the Arbor Hill. For a man who was all about
community, it is only fitting, proper and sensible that this fine new
school, located in the community he served, bears his name,” Adams said.
Click here to see
a Facebook photo album from the event. (You
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The mission of the City School District of
Albany is to educate and prepare all students for
college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our
diverse community. The district serves
students in 18
elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood
schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as
well as other innovative academic opportunities for students,
including four themed academies at Albany High