Alternative High School renamed in honor of Walter Fitzgerald
One of the town's schools has a new name.
The Alternative High School, housed in a former parochial school building on Biro Street, was renamed "Fairfield High Schools Walter Fitzgerald Campus" on a unanimous vote by the Board of Education Tuesday night.
"It's a celebration. It's a celebration of a life. It's a celebration of a school," said Sue Brand, a Board of Education member. "It's a delight."
Margaret Mary Fitzgerald, wife of the late Walter Fitzgerald, a longtime teacher at the school and boys' basketball coach at the main public high schools, said her husband "really gave his life for the alternative educational program" in Fairfield and that his family was "so greatly humbled and honored" that the school board had renamed the school in his memory.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart," she said.
A retired assistant superintendent of Fairfield schools, Margaret Mary Fitzgerald said that with the new name the alternative high school -- operating in a building that was once St. Emery's School -- would have an identity, purpose and mission. She said she believes the school, designed for students who may have difficulty adjusting to the standard curriculum at the main high schools or who have personal troubles, had no greater advocate or teacher than her husband, though she admitted to having "a little bit of bias."
School board member John Convertito said giving the school an identity was long overdue, and school board Vice Chairwoman Pam Iacono said, "These are the things that make you happy to be on the board."
But adopting the new name didn't come without two brief debates.
The school board first discussed whether the alternative school should simply be renamed "Walter Fitzgerald High School."
"It's actually very clean and simple," Gayle Donowitz, the school's principal, suggested. "We looked at `Walter Fitzgerald High School,' and we would like you to consider that this evening."
Donowitz said the proposed name on the agenda -- "Fairfield High Schools Fitzgerald Campus" -- lacks Fitzgerald's first name and that students thought if the name were too long, it would be unwieldy.
But Superintendent of Schools David Title said, "We don't want to create a third high school. It's a branch of the two high schools."
Title said if the state Department of Education in any way considered it a third high school it would pose problems that the school district didn't want. He said staff at the Biro Street school could shorten the name to "Walter Fitzgerald Campus" in conversations.
Philip Dwyer, the school board's chairman, said students at the school graduate with a diploma from either Fairfield Ludlowe High School or Fairfield Warde High School, depending on which attendance zone they live in.
Convertito started the second brief discussion by asking whether an apostrophe should be included after "Schools" in the name that was approved.
"We'll research it," Title replied.
School board member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly said normally an apostrophe would be included, but questioned whether schools outside of Fairfield did that.
"The minutes will clarify where the apostrophe is supposed to be," Dwyer said.
"If at all," Convertito said.
Donowitz said students in the high school's English class would be happy to help resolve the question.
Walter Fitzgerald, who died in May 2010 at the age of 61, taught at the Alternative High School for 25 years after starting his teaching career at Fairfield Woods Middle School. The Biro Street school that now bears his name has about 40 students this year.
No one from the public commented on the proposed names, but indicated by applause that they favored both renaming the school after Fitzgerald. The name was approved moments later by the school board on a 9-0 vote.