Ms. Fitzgerald

For her senior spring term project, Tianyi Shen interviewed women administrators at Govs. Here is her interview with longtime administrator, and current Dean of Students, Ms. Lynda Fitzgerald

Tianyi Shen, Editor

Q1: How did you decide to enter the Education Field? Was there anyone that inspired you? 

When I was in ninth grade, I had the most phenomenal teacher in Latin 1. She was the assistant principal at our junior high, and in those days having women in administrative positions was very unusual. She asked me to be her helper on the last period of the day, and so I had a little desk in her office and I worked with her. She inspired me, one, to be a woman administrator eventually, but also to be a teacher after I majored in the classics and came to teach Latin. So she was my mentor.

Q2: What does your day-to-day job include, and what do you find particularly meaningful? 

Mm, what I don’t find inspiring in my day-to-day job as interim dean is all the meetings I have to go through, but meetings are necessary, so you have to do them, but that takes away a lot of my time. 

The most inspiring part of my job includes two things: one is working one-on-one with students, be it talking about good things or helping with a discipline issue; the other is working with the administrative team at Govs. Dr.Quimby has some very powerful and professional women on the admin team, and they are brilliant, they are organized, they are supportive. It’s been really rewarding to work with them. \

Do you miss teaching at all?

 Yes, I teach one course and I really love it. It’s a fun part of my day. I am looking forward to being a full-time teacher again.

 Q3. Were there any considerations that went into your choosing Govs (as a private institution over a public one?)

Good question. Before I came here, I was a public school teacher in Woodstock, Vermont for 14 years. I came here one because my parents lived in Andover, so I was looking to get closer to them as they got older. I was also hoping to provide an opportunity for my children to have a good high school education. These were the two factors, I think, that led me here.

Do you find private school much different than public school?

 Well, in public school, I had 130 students. That is a lot more than what I have now. I taught six classes, and some of the students came from poor families. In my early teaching career, I had boys that would leave school at three o’clock and go work in the Bridgewater Woolley Mills until 11, and then come back to school the next day. So they weren’t really thinking about homework; they were tired. That’s a very different setting than here. At Govs, you’re really involved in all aspects of a student’s life.  

Q4. How has your experience as a female faculty at Govs been? You mentioned a little bit that the female admin team this year is really supportive.

When I first started here, the admin was mostly male, which was very different. I was also a single mother then, so it was even harder. I don’t think they[the male administrators then] really understood what it was like for me to be a single mother and administrator and have so many demands on my time simultaneously.

Over the years, more and more women have been brought into the admin team. This year is so very different from when I started way back in the 80s and 90s. And for me, this is really fulfilling and rewarding.

Do you think this change in the gender composition of the admin team was a result of progressive leadership, the passage of time, or both?

I think the past headmasters have definitely played a big role. Marty Doggett was aware of it, and Peter Bragdon hired me as an administrator. Dr. Quimby now has really made a concerted effort to hire the best candidate; and in many situations, that has been a female [candidate].

That’s remarkable. Have there been any specific challenges as a female administrator in your time here?

Well, I mentioned that being an admin as a single mother was challenging. When we [female admin] are surrounded by male faculty, we also really have to think about how to use our voice. We want our voices to be listened to. We want it to be valued. We don’t want to overuse it. 

Do you think you were ever treated differently because you were a female admin?

I think there was probably some of that at the beginning; there definitely was different treatment with parents. If I had to call a male parent about a discipline case, often that parent would say, “I want to talk to the head”, so I’d have to go over to the head and give him the call.

I was always supported [by my colleagues], but students’ fathers didn’t want to take messages from me. Now it’s a little different, whether it’s because of my age or because things have progressed. But that was an interesting experience. 

Q5. Alas, why do you think female leadership in education is important, and what do you wish for younger people to know?

Females have just as much, if not more, potential in education. I think we need to be role models for younger women; even at my age (when many people have already retired) I can still be a voice and take care of business. I think that is important. 

I wish for younger people to know that they have a voice in their field, that they need to learn how to use their voice, and that they don’t have to become a sexual object or use that as a ploy [to find a voice]. I want young women to be confident, say what they want to say, and advocate for themselves. Part of that is demanding equal pay. 

We are not there yet, but hopefully, in your generation, we will.