The chairman of the trustees at Boston College High School has left the board as part of a massive restructuring that aims to restore confidence and transparency in its leadership, following a public uproar about the idea of admitting female students to the all-boys institution.
It remains unclear whether John McQuillan, the chairman who faced heated accusations from parents and alumni about allegedly orchestrating a coeducation movement, resigned or was forced out. About two dozen other trustees, from both sides of the coeducation debate, have also left the board, according to the new roster of trustees.
In announcing the changes, the board of the school, which was founded in 1863, reaffirmed that it has no plans to allow female students to attend.
The outgoing board of trustees announced the changes late Wednesday afternoon in a letter to the BC High community, two days after the board decided to dramatically shrink the number of trustees serving the Dorchester school. The new board has 12 members, down from nearly three dozen.
“As you know, the board is composed of many good people who care about the school’s mission and ensuring its future,” according to the letter, which was obtained by the Globe. “We acknowledge that, in recent months, communications to the school community have not worked as we would have liked, and the resulting rumors and articles in the press have created confusion and unease among our community.”
For the past two months, BC High has been embroiled in controversy over speculation that some trustees wanted the school to go coed in an attempt to reverse a slide in applications. The idea proved unpopular among many parents and alumni, and a Jesuit leader warned trustees that Cardinal Sean O’Malley opposed a coed BC High out of concern it could put some all-girl Catholic schools out of business.
McQuillan, who had been dodging questions about the coeducation controversy, finally addressed the issue directly last week in a public statement, saying that the time was not right for the institution to consider admitting female students.
The board, in an attempt to put that controversy behind it, reaffirmed its position Wednesday that BC High should remain an all-boys institution and would continue with a Catholic focus, even as it faces future enrollment challenges that many other Catholic schools are also grappling with.
“The new board of trustees is committed to working with the Jesuit Provincial’s Office and the Archdiocese of Boston to address these challenges,” the letter said. “The new board is in unanimous agreement that we are not pursuing an option to convert BC High into a coeducational institution. And, as a group, we are reaffirming BC High’s Jesuit, Catholic identity.”
Many parents and alumni, though, remain skeptical that the shake-up in trustees will help the school turn the corner. One chief concern is that the board, in making its announcement, did not explain how decisions were made in terms of which trustees would remain on the board and which would leave.
“Everything regarding this board has been a comedy of errors,” said Greg Vasil, a parent. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in this lineup.”
And he added, “For a school stressing diversity, shame on the board of trustees that no one of color is on the board.”
The one trustee of color, John Barros, who graduated in 1992 and is the city’s chief of economic development, is leaving the board. Other well-known trustees who are exiting include Jack Dunn, a spokesman for Boston College; Joseph Corcoran, of the Corcoran Jennison Companies, a development firm near the BC High campus; and Patrick Cadigan, Anne Hajjar, and John Hajjar II.
The chairman of the new board is the Rev. Brian Conley, a Jesuit; the vice chairwoman is Kelly Verrochi, president of Thrive Inc., a leadership consulting firm; and the secretary is Paul McManus Jr., a wealth manager. The immediate goals of the new board are to seat a new president, to begin the healing process throughout the community, and to rebuild the board over time, according to the letter.
The board initially began discussions about changing its composition at a meeting last week at a law firm McQuillan uses for his environmental cleanup business. The proposal was introduced as the board gathered to discuss differences among board members, some of which stemmed from a divide on the coeducation issue.
BC High officials on Wednesday would not release details about the deliberations and would not disclose the criteria used for deciding who would remain on the board.
Joe Donahue, a trustee who left the board about a year ago, said he viewed the change in trustees as a positive development.
“There’s collateral damage on both sides,” he said. “It’s time to move on and run a school. . . . If the board stays true to the school’s mission and traditions, they will do fine.”