Peter O’Neill

pon-headshotPeter is the founding partner of Hillcrest Associates, providing consulting services to independent schools and other nonprofit organizations. Hillcrest Associates creates opportunities for transformational leadership transitions and emphasizes executive coaching for new heads of independent schools. In addition, Peter has extensive experience in strategic planning and board governance. Peter brings 30 years of experience leading a wide range of independent schools including four interim positions. With a leadership style grounded in collaboration and communication, he has guided schools through leadership transitions at Rutgers Preparatory School, a K-12 day school in Somerset, New Jersey; Whitby School, the nation’s oldest Montessori school in Greenwich, Connecticut; New Canaan Country School in New Canaan, Connecticut; and most recently, The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut.

For two decades, from 1994 to 2014, Peter served as head of Garrison Forest School, an all-girls’ boarding and day school in Owings Mills, Maryland. Under his leadership, Garrison Forest’s enrollment and financial resources and national and international reputation grew significantly, and the school completed unprecedented campus-wide expansion. Peter established signature, innovative programs including the James Center for experiential learning and the groundbreaking Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program in partnership with Johns Hopkins University.

Recognized as one of the country’s most outstanding school heads in 2006 by The Klingenstein Center at Columbia University, Peter has leveraged his expertise and experience to advocate for the broader independent school community. He has served as president of Association of Independent Maryland Schools, served on the boards of the National Coalition of Girls Schools, National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls, and Connecticut Association of Independent Schools. Additionally, he has worked with the Living Classrooms Foundation and the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. Peter currently serves as the vice chair of the Board of Trustees for The Ethel Walker School.

He is a frequent speaker for professional organizations, including the National Association of Independent Schools, CASE/NAIS, and the Association of Independent Maryland Schools, and has chaired and served on numerous school accreditation committees. Peter was elected to membership in both the Headmasters Association and the Country Day School Headmasters Association, and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Professional Studies, where he created and taught a course on independent school governance. Peter received his B.A. from St. Michael’s College and his M.A. from Trinity College, both in American Studies. He and his wife Peggy, who is the Executive Director of the International Security Foundation, share three grown children.