New superintendent ready to greet kids on first day of school

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published August 29, 2017

 Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick is ready to lead the district when school begins Sept. 5.

Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick is ready to lead the district when school begins Sept. 5.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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ROYAL OAK — Things have been relatively quiet for new superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick.

Her first day as head of the Royal Oak school district was July 1, when she replaced former Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, who retired at the end of June.

Fitzpatrick’s first couple of months without students have been spent getting to know her administrative team, school and community leaders, and settling into her new role.

“The first goal is to get to know the community well,” she said. “The district community of teachers and parents and students and all of the staff members — that is something that I really enjoy doing.

“I want to know everyone that works for the organization, and the greater Royal Oak community that supports us.”

Fitzpatrick, 53, said she also has curricular and instructional goals, awareness goals so that students may learn about all supportive activities and programs within the district, professional development goals and student service goals.

“You have to meet students where they are, and meet all students’ needs,” she said.

Fitzpatrick said the district’s building administrators know their students well, and she will be leaning on their strengths to carry out specific goals.

The new superintendent said she will be building on existing strengths.

“A lesson I’ve learned from other superintendents that I’ve worked for is that we who come new build on the strengths and stand on the shoulders of those that came before us,” she said. “And it’s very true.”

She will be jumping right into a $59.9 million facilities upgrade bond campaign. The Royal Oak Schools Board of Education officially approved placing the initiative on the November ballot during the June 8 board meeting.

The proposal includes additions to and remodeling of all existing buildings; site improvements including playgrounds, parking lots and athletic fields; new furnishings and equipment; roofing and mechanical work; and new instructional technology equipment.

Fitzpatrick has bond experience in the Berkley School District, having helped lead the neighboring district’s $59 million bond for improvements at many buildings.

But what Fitzpatrick said she looks forward to the most is greeting the kids.

She spent 31 years in the Berkley school district before accepting Royal Oak’s lead role. Her three-decade career in the neighboring community began as a teacher.

As a former assistant superintendent, Fitzpatrick made it her personal policy to get out of the administrative offices and visit classrooms at least once a week. She said she plans on keeping that policy while in Royal Oak.

“Day-to-day visits, just walking through classrooms, seeing what is happening with the students, talking to teachers if they are available, and that is on my regular calendar,” she said.

Fitzpatrick said that will be a regular part of her routine.

“It’s what we’re here for,” she said. “We’re here for the students and the families. We are a school district, and if you as a leader are not aware of what is happening within the schools, how could you possibly make good decisions and lead well if you are not out there to see what is happening for yourself.”

Fitzpatrick said she has gotten to know the school board members and every administrator. She looks forward to the district’s opening day on Aug. 30, when she will have the opportunity to meet school building staff, including teachers.

Residents and school families will also get to know the new superintendent, as she believes being a part of the city and school community are an important part of her new role.

“I was the past president of the Rotary in Berkley, and so already, I was a guest at the Royal Oak Rotary Club’s meeting, and I was their guest speaker,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to joining the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce and meeting the mayor, police chief and police liaison officer, and connecting with the Boys & Girls Club.

Fitzpatrick said she believes the school district is an important part of the community.

“We have to work together. We have to be informing each other of what is happening, and I think that is the role of the superintendent and our other administrators — to be the face of the district with the organization,” she said. “The neighborhoods are the foundation for the community, and the school district’s quality helps foster strong neighborhoods.”

When Fitzpatrick isn’t out and about in the Royal Oak district and the community, she enjoys traveling, gardening, cooking and baking, and spending time with her family. She has two children in college.

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