Dr. Mary McDonald is leaving as superintendent of the Memphis Catholic Schools system effective June 30.
McDonald’s departure after 14 years as head of the system that grew during her tenure was announced Thursday, May 3, by the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
McDonald will be an independent education consultant. For years she has written and lectured on education and spoken at national education conferences and gatherings.
During her tenure, McDonald turned a set of long-standing parochial schools into a system with a more centralized administration. She also oversaw the reopening of eight Catholic schools in the city that had been closed. They reopened as Jubilee Catholic Schools with millions of dollars of support from private contributors becoming part of the larger system of schools.
The Jubilee schools as well as the structure and standardization of the other Catholic schools reversed a trend in which attendance was dropping and more of the schools were looking at closure.
McDonald knew the field of Catholic education well before becoming superintendent in 1998. She began her teaching career as a math teacher at a Catholic school in 1966 in Philadelphia. In Memphis, she was principal of St. Agnes Academy elementary school as well as St. Benedict at Auburndale in Cordova.
She earned her doctorate in education from the University of Memphis.
McDonald has always rejected the private school label for the school system she was instrumental in forming.
“We don’t consider ourselves private,” she told The Memphis News in a 2008 interview. “We educate anyone who comes to our doors. We don’t test for entrance and we educate them regardless of financial ability to pay. We’re Catholic, but we don’t consider ourselves private.”