William Ryan III, the Archdiocese of Washington's secretary for Catholic schools for the past year and superintendent of the archdiocese's Catholic schools for the previous four years, is stepping down from his post effective June 30 to become superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.

Ryan, announcing his decision April 14 in a letter to pastors and school leaders, said he made his decision with “a heavy heart.”

“The decision to leave this position was very hard,” he said in his letter. “I feel my time in the Archdiocese of Washington was the highlight of my career.”

Ryan said he decided to relocate to South Carolina because “for the past four years, my wife and I have lived apart due to her father’s illness and then, relocated to South Carolina. Over time, this has become difficult for me, and when an opportunity to lead the schools in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina presented itself, I could not pass up being at home with my wife each night and still being able to serve the Church.”

In looking back over his tenure with the Archdiocese of Washington, Ryan said he was proud that “our schools provide an incredible academic program that is enriched by the teaching of our Gospel values.”

Archbishop Wilton Gregory praised Ryan as “an educator of the highest caliber who plans and guides the mission of Catholic schools with deep interest and dedication. His own devoted service was an engine that helped to drive the success of our schools.”

“Bill was one of the first members of the archdiocesan staff that I met upon my appointment as the archbishop” of Washington, Archbishop Gregory said. “He introduced me to the wonderful Catholic education programs that we have for our youngsters. He was so proud of our schools, students, faculty, and parents.”

Ryan spoke of his pride in archdiocesan educators and noted that “the strength of our (Catholic) schools are the leaders and teachers working to support our students. Their commitment to our mission of providing a faith based instructional program has been inspiring, even in light of the pandemic.”

During the first day of school in 2018, Bill Ryan, then the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, reads to children at St. Peter School on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Praising archdiocesan schools in rising to the challenge of distance learning during this time of COVID-19 self-isolation and quarantine, Ryan said he is “thankful and humbled that God has chosen our teachers to serve God’s children and support them and their families through this challenging time.

“Archdiocesan Catholic schools have not had a break in faith formation or instruction. Why? Because of our teachers. Our campuses may be closed but learning continues thanks to all of our principals and teachers,” Ryan said. “They have brought the comfort and routines of their classroom to our children’s homes throughout the archdiocese. They have shown our parents how our children embrace the opportunity to pray together.”

He added that “the tech savvy and the not-so-tech savvy have teamed up to provide for our learners,” and because of that “parents throughout the archdiocese have expressed their gratitude for our teachers, to our office, to the principals.”

Ryan said that as he looks back over his years with the Archdiocese of Washington, he takes great pride in the creation and implementation of a long-range strategic plan for archdiocesan Catholic schools that was started several years ago.

The multi-year process, he said, included meeting with teachers, principals and parents “to formulate initiatives that are in line with the four pillars of Catholic education.” Those pillars are: Catholic identity; academic excellence; affordability and accessibility; and governance.

“Our schools provide an incredible academic program that is enriched by the teaching of our Gospel values,” he said. “It is the strong sense of a school community focused around our faith that makes our schools special and sets them apart from public schools.”

In the Archdiocese of Washington, there are 93 archdiocesan and independent Catholic pre-kindergarten through high schools. The archdiocese's Catholic schools are located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

In a 2019 interview with the Catholic Standard, Ryan said each Catholic school in the archdiocese is “unique and special,” and while they may differ because of their location in the suburbs, the city or rural Southern Maryland, they all have one thing in common: “each (school) provides a quality education.”

Bill Ryan shoots a basket during a 2016 visit to Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

Ryan came to the Archdiocese of Washington in 2015 after 30 years in public education, including serving as the employee performance and evaluation officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

“Cardinal (Donald) Wuerl gave me the wonderful opportunity to lead the Catholic schools several years ago, and I feel honored to have been selected and given the great responsibility to serve the archbishop and the Church in leading our schools,” Ryan said in his letter to pastors and school officials.

A native of Pennsylvania, Ryan graduated from Bloomsburg University. He moved to Maryland in 1985 and began working as a seventh-grade social studies and math teacher in Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton.

During his time there, Ryan was recognized as a teacher of the year for Prince George’s County. He later became vice principal at Carroll Middle School before being named principal of Eisenhower Middle School in Laurel from 1994-98. Ryan then became the principal of High Point High School in Beltsville for six years, and earned the 2002-03 Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award.

From 2004-10, Ryan served as principal of River Hill High School, where in 2009 he was recognized by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals as the best high school principal in the state.

“I have been blessed to have had both experiences” in public and Catholic education, he said. “Working for the Church in helping students develop a strong relationship with Jesus Christ has been very rewarding for me personally.”

Ryan said that whoever succeeds him will find themselves “surrounded by incredible leadership in the Catholic Schools Office, at the Pastoral Center and in our schools... Working with all of the leaders to serve our Church as the secretary of schools in the Archdiocese of Washington will be the highlight of their career.”

Father Daniel Carson, the archdiocese's vicar general and moderator of the Curia, in announcing Ryan's decision April 14, noted he was “extremely grateful for (Ryan's) service to the schools and to the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Sister Dorothy Lyons of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, marking her 65th year in Catholic education, was congratulated during the Aug. 26, 2019 Opening of Schools Mass at the National Shrine by Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory and by William Ryan, the secretary of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Archbishop Gregory said that Ryan “will be deeply missed .”

“We thank God for his (Ryan's) devotion to Catholic schools,” Archbishop Gregory said. “I ask God to give him success and good fortune as he assumes his new position in the Diocese of Charleston in South Carolina. They are fortunate to have him, as we have been fortunate to know him as a colleague and friend.”