New school board president ready for challenges

As the new president of the Wicomico County Board of Education, Don Fitzgerald has a main goal – the welfare of students.

“We will try to get the best for them,”  the 68-year-old Salisbury native and former school board vice president said.

“We always have goals on this board, but the biggest thing is, if you can get more funding. We need more teachers. We go out and get grants, wherever we can get extra money, to make sure we can do the best we can do for these students,” he said.

The number of pupils who speak English as a second language has tripled in the past few years, he said, adding ESOL teachers are important.

And, he wants to see a new West Salisbury Elementary School built.

“That has been on the burner but it keeps getting turned away. It’s time for those students to get the same thing that other students in the county have. That’s what we’re after. We’re after giving them the best. That’s a challenge right now but I think we’ll be able to work through it if we can sit down and talk about it,” Fitzgerald said.

“It’s been a rough road, when the county executive (Bob Culver) kind of pulled it off the table, then put some money back in. The community is tight knit. They are upset and they have a reason to be upset,” Fitzgerald said.

Now in his seventh year on the school board, Fitzgerald was nominated for president, and named to the top position, on July 14.

An A.I. DuPont employee for more than 35 years, Fitzgerald, now retired, said he doesn’t have “all the education that a lot of people have, but  I’ve learned  a lot through the years at DuPont and I bring a different mindset to the table.”

A cancer survivor, Fitzgerald has had seven throat operations, and is pleased doctors were able to save his larynx. Some years ago, after surgery, there were two openings on the board of education. Because of his involvement with youth through coaching, he was interested.

He called former Maryland Delegate Norman Conway, who encouraged him to submit his resume.

“I didn’t have a resume, so my daughter helped me,” the congenial, humble Fitzgerald said.

“I was interviewed by the Central Committee and appointed by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley,” he said.

As a coach who recently had an annual award for softball and baseball players named for him, Fitzgerald believes sports are important.

“Kids have to get exercise. When I was in school we had so much time on the playground and now they don’t get as much. We have to give them some time to burn off some energy and not sit there and just read. It’s been proven to help,” he said.

There was some objection when the required grade point average to play extracurricular sports was increased from 1.6 to 2.0 grade, but Fitzgerald is in favor.

“I had found out if a student wants to play a certain sport, they will keep a 2.0,” he said, adding he would like to see more places in town where children can become involved in sports.

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