The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 13, 2008

Michael Fitzgerald takes a break after 18 years of town service

Michael Fitzgerald is an exceptional example of a public-minded volunteer. His recent retirement from the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) caps 18 years of service (so far) in Carlisle town government.

A Concord-Carlisle High School student, he attended Bentley College in Waltham, graduating with a MA in Business. Fitzgerald and his wife Susan moved from Concord to Carlisle in 1989. As to why they left their “home town,” they thought Concord was getting too affluent and too congested, he said. They found Carlisle to be “collegial, welcoming and very friendly.” Though it is still friendly, in the last 15 years he has seen newcomers move into town who may have come from larger cities and “are coming with higher expectations” for services. He notes people new to Carlisle may not be as driven by ideals of civic duty as he was when he moved to town.

History of volunteering

Fitzgerald has had extensive volunteer experience. He joined the Finance Committee (FinCom) a year after moving to Carlisle. After six years on the FinCom, he was elected to the Board of Selectmen and served six years.

He was elected to the School Committee in 2002, serving six years. Fitzgerald served as one of the Carlisle members of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC), chairing the RSC three times. Having a representative from the CSC serving on the RSC “is great,” he said. The connection allows both administrations and school committees to coordinate programs, he explained, “ensuring people are talking. We lose sight of the fact that even though the school is not in our town it is still our high school.”

Look to the future

“I believe there are a couple of areas that the schools should focus on in the next couple of years,” Fitzgerald said. “The schools must return to an environment where the administrators, faculty, and the School Committee are working cohesively to provide the optimal educational opportunities for the children of our community.”

The financial pressure is growing on the town, he notes, through the state’s mandating educational programs without offering financial support. Due to continuing budget constraints, he suggests the school will need to find ways to maintain quality while being fiscally responsible and developing funding sources. One option, he noted, is to explore regionalizing the lower grades.

Small town school

Fitzgerald praised the Carlisle School as a focal point for the community. “We pay taxes to live in the kind of community we have, with good government, police department, and school system.”

The increasing pace of life is felt in the schools, he said, and the amount of information that needs to be covered in a school day has grown significantly. “The teachers are asked to do so much in a short amount of time. There’s a lot of pressure on teachers,” he said. He remembers growing up and having time for pick-up soccer games. “Instead, kids are overscheduled and don’t know how to structure their lives.”

What’s next?

Fitzgerald now works as a financial consultant, and relishes the freedom to control his own hours. Remodeling the house is high on Fitzgerald’s priority list and his kitchen counter is strewn with blueprints. Future plans also include trying to “fly under the radar,” he said, and avoid volunteering so soon after finishing with the CSC.

Volunteering in Carlisle “has been a great part of my life,” he said. “Eighteen years – a great opportunity for my own advancement as a human being.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito