Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick talks about the school district’s goals for the next five years during her State of the Schools address.

Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick talks about the school district’s goals for the next five years during her State of the Schools address.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Royal Oak Schools superintendent lays out goals for district

By: Mike Koury | Royal Oak Review | Published October 3, 2023


ROYAL OAK — In her State of the Schools address Sept. 28, Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick addressed a new strategic plan for the district’s next five years, up to 2028.

In her address, Fitzpatrick laid out four goals that the district will aim for over this period. They are committing to fostering an impactful learning community where students will be embraced, accepted, challenged and prepared; strengthening and expanding school community connections that are crucial to both the success of the school district and the community; optimizing the use of all financial and physical resources; and attracting and retaining the best staff.

“We want to make sure that we’re an optimal workplace environment and that both a diverse pool of potential employees are sought on a regular basis and we also meet the needs of our current employees so that they want to stay here long term,” she said of the last goal. “The workforce in general across our state and our country have choices. People are making choices with work and life balance. We want them to stay here. We want our staff to stay here, and so as important as it is to find the key people to work in our district, we also want those that are here to want to stay here.”

On fostering an impactful learning community, Fitzpatrick said students learn best when they are engaged in authentic learning experiences, whether it’s through field trips or engaging in real-world experiences beyond the books.

“We also know that students benefit from timely and meaningful feedback,” she said. “It’s not just report cards. It’s not just letter grades. We talk about formative assessments, feedback to students about how they’re progressing, how they’re thinking and how their work is going, and that needs to continue on a regular basis. … Students not only need to know what they’ve learned, they need to talk about why they’re learning it and then understand where they’re headed. We’ve all had the question posed to us: ‘Why do I need to learn this?’ We want to make sure that our learning is within a context and that our children know that as well.”

For strengthening school partnerships, Fitzpatrick stated the district needs to not only maintain its partnerships, but grow them. She also said the district wants to expand the services that are provided to students and staff, and the district wants its students to be a vital part of the community.

“They’ll roll beyond the borders of the city,” she said. “They’ll go to other places in the state and across the world, and we want to make sure they’re well prepared for that. We also want to make sure that our district systems are ready to take care of that expanding collaboration that we have.”

In optimizing the use of the district’s financial and physical resources, Fitzpatrick stated Royal Oak recently got a clean audit back, which district leaders were happy to see. She said she also knows how much the district’s properties and facilities mean to the community.

“We also need to meet the changing needs of our families and our students,” she said. “So we want to be ready with our finances and through other public initiatives to meet those needs, to change them, to grow them, as needed.”

Watching from the audience was school board President Maryanne VanHaitsma, who said an important issue for her is meeting students where they are today, and focusing on them will be key moving forward.

“Some of that social emotional component that we talked about is really important,” she said. “You know, we just finished the end of a bond. So from a facilities perspective, we’re working on a maintenance kind of thing at this point, but then evaluating what we need to do in the future. … I think we’re in a good place. So that part’s not as concerning to me as just making sure we’re meeting the needs of our students and our staff.”

To watch the entire 30-minute address, visit the Royal Oak Schools YouTube page at and click on the “live” tab.