About Janet Palmer Owens
Janet Henderson Palmer Owens was born on October 11, 1946 in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her
sister Estelle were the daughters of Horace Palmer of Baltimore, Maryland and Frances (Henderson)
Palmer of Boston, Massachusetts.
Janet married John Owens from Boston, MA and they had a son, Brian Palmer Owens. She was a proud
mother to Brian, a Senior Vice President of Commerce Advertising. Her four-year-old
granddaughter, Olivia Pelot Owens, was the apple of her eye.
Janet grew up in Roxbury, MA and attended the Boston Public Schools, including Girls’ Latin School. As a
child, she enjoyed dancing and often represented her school by performing calypso at outside venues.
Janet, who was once described by her teacher as a “ray of sunshine,” graduated from Jeremiah E. Burke
Upon graduation, Janet devoted her entire life to educating urban children, and earned both her
bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northeastern University on a scholarship provided by the Ford
Foundation. At Northeastern, she became a member of the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha
Sorority, Inc. She was selected to be a Kappa Sweetheart and loved being a member of the sweetheart
With her mom’s work as a social worker and her sister’s career as a guidance counselor, Janet came
from a family committed to helping others. She was a dedicated and passionate educator, a caring
mentor, and a strong role model and leader. Janet began her teaching career in 1969 at the William
Monroe Trotter School in Roxbury as one the youngest teachers on staff. For eleven years (1974 -1985)
Ms. Owens then served as the guidance counselor at the Thompson Middle School, followed by ten
years at Brighton High School. In her role as a school counselor, she specifically worked with students
on career awareness and making sure that young people of all backgrounds had access to higher
When asked to assume leadership of the award-winning Samuel Mason Elementary School in 1998, Ms.
Owens set out to take the school to the next level. During her tenure as principal, she established a
strong learning foundation for students, created a culture of academic rigor, and oversaw the school’s
transition to pilot status. In November 2003, the Mason was chosen from among the top schools in the
nation to be named a member of the National Alliance of Black School Educators Demonstration
In June 2007, Ms. Owens was appointed as Assistant Superintendent for the Boston Public Schools,
working with more than forty schools throughout the city. After a year on Governor Deval Patrick’s Task
Force for Education, she was asked to serve on the Governor’s Leadership Council to help develop the
Massachusetts Strategic Plan for Education. BPS Superintendent Carol R. Johnson then selected Ms.
Owens to serve as Academic Superintendent for the Pilot Schools, where she worked with innovative
principals and headmasters to increase academic achievement. In April 2009, Janet was appointed as
Chief Academic Officer for Boston Public Schools. Finally retiring as CAO in 2010, she ended her career
having brought decades of knowledge, instructional leadership, creative thinking, and empathy to the
Janet was an active member of the Rho Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The
Middlesex County Chapter of The Links, Inc., and The Girl Friends, Inc. She enjoyed all of her clubs and
looked forward to their meetings each month.
In her retirement, Janet continued to work in an academic capacity, mentoring principals for the
Brookline Public Schools and supervising administrative interns in graduate programs at Harvard
University. She also took cruises and other trips with friends to include annual visits to Fort Myers,
Florida and Martha’s Vineyard. In later years, she enjoyed spending as much time as possible with her
Janet will be greatly missed by many people from different walks of life and will not be forgotten. She is
survived by her son, Brian Palmer Owens; daughter-in-law, Danielle Pelot; granddaughter, Olivia Pelot
Owens; sister, Estelle Palmer Hector; brother-in-law, Harold Hector; niece, Tracey Hector; nephew,
Stephen Hector; niece, Bethany Taylor; great nephew, Jayden Hector-Davis; great niece, Evelyn Hector;
cousins, Arnold Henderson, Jeanette Gerald, Frederick Boyd, Patricia Davis, Ernest Gambrill, Judy
Gambrill, Lauren Henderson, Albin Xavier, Reid Boyd and Katie Boyd; and family friend, Clifford Weeks.