WASHINGTON (November 1, 1999) -- Mary Ellen Russell, Associate Director for Education at the Maryland Catholic Conference, has been named to head the U.S. Catholic Conference Office for Catholic School Parental Rights Advocacy.
She assumes her new position in November, succeeding Raymond Burnell, who left the position to assume principalship of a California school.
Mrs. Russell has been at the Maryland Catholic Conference since 1995. During her tenure she established and maintained the organizational structure, communications network, and advocacy efforts of a statewide Catholic-school parent organization representing the families of students attending Maryland Catholic schools from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington.
She also drafted, monitored and lobbied for education-related legislation affecting Catholic-school families and facilitated the participation of Catholic-school students and teachers in federal education programs.
Mrs. Russell also has been a member of the USCC Committee on Education and its Federal Assistance Advisory Committee.
Before joining the Maryland Catholic Conference, Mrs. Russell worked for The Catholic Telegraph, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati; in religious education at St. Rita Parish, Hamden, Connecticut; and as a high school teacher at St. Patrick's Academy, Washington, D.C.
She attended Trinity College, Dublin and earned a bachelor's degree from Boston College. Currently she is a student in a master's degree program at St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland.
She is married and mother of four sons.
The USCC Office for Catholic School Parental Rights Advocacy was established in 1994 as the Office for Catholic School Parent Associations. The office helps dioceses and states form associations of Catholic school parents and provides assistance to those groups already established in support of educational policy positions of the USCC, state Catholic conferences and dioceses.
The office also serves as a clearinghouse providing information, promotion materials, technical and legal assistance, existing models, training and a network of contacts to facilitate reaching legislative goals. In addition, the office coordinates the National Coalition of Catholic School Parent Associations to facilitate parental legislative networking.
The 1994 establishment of the office marked a key effort by parents seeking to exercise their right to choice in education for their children.
The Parental Rights Advocacy Office is one of five within the USCC Education Department. The other offices focus on federal assistance, higher education and campus ministry, catechesis and multi-cultural concerns, and catechesis and leadership development.