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New leadership team for school board

Michael D. O'Neill smiled after he was elected the new chairman of the Boston School Committee. At right is Superintendent Carol Johnson and at left is committee member John Barros.

Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Michael D. O'Neill smiled after he was elected the new chairman of the Boston School Committee. At right is Superintendent Carol Johnson and at left is committee member John Barros.

The Boston School Committee has selected Michael O’Neill, a life insurance executive who has served on the panel for four years, as its new chairman.

O’Neill, 52, a Charlestown resident and the committee’s vice chairman for the past year, was selected on a unanimous vote of the seven-member board this evening.

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The committee also tapped Alfreda Harris as the new vice chairwoman. She has served on the committee for two decades.

O’Neill replaces the Rev. Gregory Groover, who decided against running again for the position, which he had held for the last four years.

Groover said in an interview with the Globe last week that he wanted to hold the post for only a few years and that it was time for someone else to lead the committee. He also said he wanted to devote more time to his church, the historic Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in Roxbury, which is trying to emerge from bankruptcy.

O’Neill’s elevation to chairman came just three days after Mayor Thomas M. Menino swore him in for a second four-year term on the seven-member committee, which the mayor appoints. O’Neill is a graduate of Boston Public Schools.

“Michael is the perfect choice to lead the school committee at this important time, and I’m proud that this group continues to put the education of our students first,” Menino said in a statement. “Michael will serve as an advocate for youths across our city, building on all the past success of Reverend Groover.”

As the senior vice president of marketing and distribution at SBLI of Massachusetts, a life insurance company, he brings a business executive’s perspective to the committee, often raising questions about the costs of proposals and drilling down on the details.

O’Neill is passionate about preventing students from dropping out of high school and is chairman of the Youth Council at the Boston Private Industry Council, a public-private partnership that focuses on education and workforce issues.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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