Montclair Community Pre-K Names New Executive Director

Montclair Community Pre-KThe Montclair Community Pre-K announced today that Mrs. Stephanie Fitzgerald has been appointed as the Executive Director of the Montclair Community Pre-K. Mrs. Fitzgerald brings over 22 years of experience in education leadership ranging from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. She began her career as a middle school teacher in Chicago, where she founded and led three different schools, two of which included early childhood programs. Most recently, she served as a program executive director for New Leaders for New Schools – a nationwide non-profit principal training program serving over 500 school leaders annually.

In addition, Mrs. Fitzgerald was the  founding President and  CEO of the  Rodel Charitable Foundation of Delaware. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and holds Masters degrees in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Delaware. A Montclair resident since 2006, Mrs. Fitzgerald served on the MCPK Board of Trustees in 2011-2012.

“My husband and I moved to Montclair for its diversity, culture and strong public schools, and have lived here for over seven years with our four young children. Our first introduction to education in Montclair was the Montclair Community Pre-K, and we have been huge fans ever since. I am excited to utilize my professional experience to serve the children and families of Montclair,” Mrs. Fitzgerald said.

Following the departure of long time Executive Director Eve Robinson at the end of June, the Board of Trustees formed a Search Committee to seek a replacement. The Committee, which included Trustees, current and former MCPK parents as well as Township Councilor Robin Schlager, conducted a wide-ranging search for a new leader.

Sean Flynn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees commented, “We are delighted to welcome Stephanie Fitzgerald as our new Executive Director. Stephanie has a long history with MCPK, both as a parent and as a Trustee and she brings tremendous education leadership experience and energy to our program. Our recent accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a reflection of the strength of the MCPK and we are confident that Stephanie will build on the great work that our team has been doing for years.”

Since July 1, Carolyn DeVito has been serving as the Interim Executive Director. Mrs. DeVito, who joined the MCPK at its inception in 1998, has been the Assistant Executive Director since 2003. She will continue in that role as a member of the senior leadership team.

“We are fortunate to have been able to turn to Carolyn DeVito to provide leadership and continuity during our search process. We had a great start to the 2013-2014 school year with Mrs. DeVito’s ever-welcoming presence to our students and their families. She has been instrumental in the success of the MCPK since the doors opened and as a partner to Stephanie, Carolyn will continue to be an important education leader for our school,” noted Mr. Flynn.

“I am excited to be continuing my work at the Montclair Community Pre-K in the role of Assistant Executive Director” Mrs. DeVito added. “Having worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for over 35 years, I am eager to continue doing what I love – directing the day-to-day operations of the school. I look forward to the arrival of Stephanie Fitzgerald as our new Executive Director and to developing a strong administrative team to work alongside our strong committed faculty. I thank the Board of Trustees for their vote of confidence in leading the program in the interim.”

Mrs. Fitzgerald will assume her new post in December 2013. She noted that she is “looking forward to meeting the children and families of our school, working with our excellent teachers and staff and developing strong relationships with our community partners at the Township Council and Board of Education.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Did the search committee know that Stephanie Fitzgerald is tied to the same corporate education reform movement as the Montclair schools’ superintendent, Penny MacCormack?

    Her bio with the foundation she led in Delaware is here: https://www.rodelfoundationde.org/who-we-are/board-advisors/

    It mentions her background with charter schools, some business venture with an “education data warehouse,” and with an “Edison Project” in D.C., presumably part of Edison Schools, the for-profit education company. She is also associated with New Leaders for New Schools, run by Jon Schnur, who is listed on MacCormack’s state paperwork as her official mentor for getting her NJ superintendent’s credentials. New Leaders for New Schools is heavily involved in the charter school movement.

    How did this person get picked to lead our publicly subsidized pre-K? And why?

  2. Congratulations to Mrs. Fitzgerald and the entire Montclair Community Pre-K. Mrs. Fitzgerald is well qualified and an excellent choice to lead the MC Pre-K.

    montclairparent87 concerns are understandable in light of what is happening within the Montclair School District. The MC Pre-K, however, is a private, not-for-profit organization running a private school. Mrs. Fitzgerald has the right background and track record for this school, which is also a valuable education resource for the community (as is MKA).

    We should keep in mind that the MC Pre-K is not a substitute for a public pre-kindergarden program that serves the entire community. If the Montclair School District is serious about giving every child a fair chance to succeed in education, then a public pre-K program that serves the entire town is needed.

    We do wonder what the “partner”ship is between the MC pre-K and the Town Council and the Board of Education to which Mrs. Fitzgerald refers. Perhaps a partnership between a private education facility and the town’s government and school district is appropriate, but it should be clear what that is. Similarly, any of the public money from the town going to private education should be clarified. Also, the role of Ms. Robin Schlager on the Board of Trustees at MC pre-K needs clarification. Did the Town Council appoint her as their “Township Council Liaison?” and if so is this documented and her role precisely defined? What is her role as a public representative on a private board of trustees?

    Finally, the MC pre-K has tried to serve all members of the town by offering financial aid to those who cannot afford the 13,000+ fulltime 10 month tuition fees. This is valued and should be applauded. One barrier for many parents is that financial aid is not reviewed until after registration and partial tuition fees have been paid. Thus, parents do not know prior to enrolling their child if they can truly afford it. Perhaps Mrs. Fitzgerald could review this policy.

    In addition, town support should be dependent on annual reports of the number of children enrolled that pay the full tuition fees and the number of students enrolled who receive financial aid and the precise level of that aid.

    nb Much of the opposition to what is happening in the Montclair District Schools is not simply ideological; that is, it is not only an opposition to the charter school and corporate approach to education in a public school environment. That opposition is legitimate, but the real questions have to do with whether the choices already made by Superintendent MacCormack and the BOE promote improved education for the town’s children in a public school system and within the education values and tradition of Montclair. What is good for MC pre-K is not necessarily good for the Montclair public schools and vice-versa. Choice in systems of education is a valuable asset for a town. Supporting and promoting excellence in public education should always be the public priority.

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