(Drew Saunders, Aug. 3, 2017)
Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak School’s new superintendent has been on the job about a month. With her first school year fast approaching, Mary Beth Fitzpatrick is excited for her first year.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge of leading the Royal Oak School District and getting to know the folks in all of our schools,” Fitzpatrick told the Oakland County Times in an interview by phone.
Royal Oak Schools has received recognition from state and federal education authorities. A Royal Oak High School junior was recognized by PBS News Hour for its Student Reporting Lab last spring and C-Span awarded ROHS students for documentary videos.
But the district is not without its problems. The day after Trump won the election last fall, a video in which Royal Oak middle schoolers chanted “build the wall” went viral.
“The district has … made a commitment to celebrating diversity; to recognizing choice and student difference and similarities. And [the district is] also giving our students opportunities to work together and appropriately share with others,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have a strong Positive Behavior Intervention Support program in the district. Those things were all ongoing well before the incident.”
“When something like that happens, and becomes very public, you react to it. But you also fall back on things that are systemic,” Fitzpatrick added. “So, we continue our education of staff and all adults that work with students. We continue programs with students for recognition of diversity, social justice programs [and] working with parent groups. And they will all just add to the culture and supportive environment we have in the schools.”
Fitzpatrick is a University of Detroit alumni, with a Bachelor of Science degree in special education and a Masters in Educational Administration. Fitzpatrick has spent most of her career at Berkley Public Schools. After starting as a classroom teacher, she served as the assistant principal of Berkley High School, an elementary school principal and then an administrator for the district at large.
She is inheriting a district whose taxpayers will be voting on a bond change initiative come November. The plan, created by the school board and her predecessor, Shawn Lewis-Lakin, would create a $59.9 million bond, over the course of 11 years, to fund improvements to buildings and technology.
Both Fitzpatrick and Lewis-Larkin insist that this will not result in an increase in the net taxes that Royal Oak residents pay into the school coffers. It’s just a rearranging on how tax dollars are being spent. Fitzpatrick said that the improvements planned out by the board of education would be more conducive to a contemporary approach to education.
“The good news about Royal Oak is that [there] is a good balance between veteran staff, veteran administrators and those that are newer to the profession.” Fitzpatrick said that the balance of fresh ideas and experience from teachers and district staff, “creates a nice team approach to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the students in our district.”
Learn more about Royal Oak Schools at http://www.royaloakschools.org/