Dr. O'Connell Receives Honor

Dr. Bridget O'Connell Receives Honor

Award Intro by Dr. Michael Donnelly: I am humbled and honored to present to you Dr. Bridget O’Connell, Superintendent of the Palisades School District.  I began the nomination I submitted by stating that “she is a leader among leaders...she is humble, intelligent, and caring.”  As you can see from the summary in the program, Dr. O’Connell is currently the longest serving superintendent in Bucks County, this being her ninth year, which is no small feet in contemporary society, where the average lifespan of a superintendent is about three years.

Here to join in the celebration today are Bob Musantry, school board president, and Donna Holmes, director of community relations.  They represent a segment of the Palisades family and it is, in part, due to their support that Dr. O’Connell, has remained effective in her role for a long period of time, most importantly is able to maintain her focus on what she espouses as the core mission of what we do in Palisades:  keeping our students safe and providing as many opportunities as possible to all students.  An example of this is the 34% increase in enrollment in AP courses, which has led to our high school’s designation on the AP Honor Roll.

Under Bridget’s tenure, we have increased nationally-recognized pathway programs and dual enrollment opportunities for our high school students.  Our middle school, just last year, was named a Don Eichhorn School to Watch, one of four middle schools selected last year in Pennsylvania. And, our elementary schools have been recognized at the state level for their effective implementation of Schoolwide Positive Behavior programs.

Dr. O’Connell has a keen sense of fiduciary responsibility, as well.  Since the 2012-2013 school year, the Palisades School District has realized tax increases of less than 1%.  All the while taxes have remained at a level of minimal increase, in coordination with the board of school directors, a Retirement Spike Fund was established to mitigate unbearable increases in taxes due to the pension spike for our state mandated pension payments.  Additionally, the district was able to fund, in cash, the nearly $5 million dollars for its share of the renovation project at the Upper Bucks County Technical School. Because of this payment, the district also realized almost $1.5 million in savings in interest and expenses over the next 30 years.  

In the district, under Dr. O’Connell’s leadership, nearly $5 million of investments in building renovations, namely three roofs and a high school science wing renovation, were funded with existing fund balance.  Additionally, many grants have been received by the district: $171,000 in a competitive PA state grant to support the 1:1 initiative (2017), $35,000 in a competitive PASMART grant for computer science education (2019), and $131,000 in a competitive grant from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency for support of school safety and security upgrades.

In addition to the internal daily work, Bridget has been a champion for public education both in Bucks County and in Harrisburg.  Annually, Palisades hosts a legislative dinner, during which time Bridget is able to work with our Board and engage in face-to-face conversations with the legislators who ultimately make the decisions that impact our work.

With all that, and more, Bridget is, in short, an outstanding person.  She successfully leads a forward-thinking school district while, at the same time, remains steadfast to her family as a proud mother of four children (Luke, Molly, Katie, and Sophie) and wife of Andy.  A hawk through and through, she holds her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees from Lehigh University; a school where she also serves as an adjunct professor.  

Recently, Bridget visited the class that I profess at Lehigh as a guest speaker and after she left the students openly commented by sharing just how “genuine” and “real” she truly is.  Dr. O’Connell sure is. She is both as genuine and real as they come and, honestly, she is the best educational leader with whom I have served. For me, personally, I could not find a better colleague and mentor.  

It is my honor and privilege to present the 2019-2020 Outstanding Service Award to my mentor and friend, Dr. Bridget O’Connell.

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