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Back to Communications Home

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 friend.

 

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, Mackey said.

 

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 don’t need to have a Facebook account to view the pictures. A window may display the text, “To see more from Albany City Schools on Facebook, log in or create an account,” but you can dismiss it by clicking “not now.”)

     

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 nearly 9,700 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 School.

         
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