Groton fills vacancy on board of education

Groton - The Board of Education on Monday unanimously appointed Katrina Fitzgerald, a longtime volunteer in the public schools, to replace board member Shelley Gardner, who resigned in May.

"I think she brings a great background," said board member Kirsten Hoyt.

Fitzgerald has served in more than a dozen volunteer roles in the schools over the years, according to her resume. She volunteered for the school improvement teams at S.B. Butler Elementary School, Carl C. Cutler Middle School and Robert E. Fitch High School. She co-founded the Fitch Parent Council and served on teams that interviewed candidates for positions of principal, guidance director and an English teacher. She volunteered for one of the interview teams during the superintendent search.

In the community, she has served as a domestic violence hot line volunteer for Safe Futures and as a mentor for the Child and Family Agency.

Fitzgerald told the board, who interviewed her prior to the vote, that she was fortunate in that she worked part-time when her children were young. Her jobs included being a domestic violence educator for Child and Family Agency, substitute paraprofessional at S.B. Butler Elementary and Northeast Academy, and a kindergarten paraprofessional at Northeast Academy. She considered running for school board after her children finished high school, and approached the Republican Town Committee, she said. Former school board members encouraged her to apply for the open seat.

"It's something I've always been interested in, and having watched the board and been involved for so many years, being on the board you can make a difference," she said. "I'd like the public to know what's going on at the board level. The more you know what's going on, the more faith you have."

Fitzgerald is known by the board because she often attends meetings, but she also learned about politics at a young age. A native of Mystic, her mother was manager of the Groton Public Library, and Fitzgerald often brought her homework to attend budget meetings with her mother.

As a new board member, she said she'd like to hold more public forums to inform residents about complicated issues like the "minimum budget requirement," the funding requirement by the state.

She also suggested a clearer policy about responding to questions or comments from the public.

"It's hard to stand at that lectern," she said. "People deserve the respect of a response."

In addition, she suggested updating the district website more often.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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