By Joni Quinn
To praise from challengers, School Committee member Kerry Fitzgerald is ending her campaign for another term.
In a letter e-mailed to friends, family and associates, Fitzgerald said she no longer has enough time to dedicate to serving on the School Committee.
Candidates Paul Maglocchetti and Krystine Hetel commended Fitzgerald for her years of service and said she will be remembered as a parent who cared deeply about education in Haverhill.
"I'm surprised to hear that she's dropping out." Maglocchetti said on Wednesday. "I think that she truly cares about the children in the city of Haverhill and she should be lauded for her years of public service. Even though she's dropping out, I don't think we've heard the last of Kerry. I think she will stay involved in some way," he said.
Fitzgerald herself has promised to remain involved, saying she will donate the remainder of her campaign fund to replace sound and lighting in the Haverhill High auditorium.
Although she will no longer campaign for the job, Fitzgerald's name will remain on the ballot, said Assistant City Clerk Rick Barber.
"Kerry is a parent who really cares about the schools and the children of our schools. She had some wonderful goals, but sometimes when you get into that political realm, things change," said Hetel, who, like Fitzgerald, served as the president of the district parent council. While she did not endorse any of the remaining five candidates, Fitzgerald said she plans to vote for the candidates that she believes will work in a positive way to move the schools forward.
"I plan to look at how they behaved in the past and not on what they say they will do in the future. I will also ask questions to ensure that the people I vote for — no matter the office — will be more concerned with what is right for students and the community than their own personal or political agendas. Our children deserve that," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said it has been an honor to serve and she is humbled by the kindness of so many people who have supported her.
"From the beginning it was my only goal to serve honorably in a way that would justify your trust in me. I hope I have done that," Fitzgerald's e-mailed message said.
While this was a difficult decision, Fitzgerald said it is unquestionable the right right one for her at this time.
When her children were small, she was fortunate to be able to work part time. Being a parent and advocating for parents and students was her full-time job, Fitzgerald said. Although, her family has always been her top priority, her career took a back seat to School Committee activities, she said.
"Both of my children will be leaving for college within the next two years and I don't want to miss the opportunity to spend quality time with them before they leave," Fitzgerald said.
In addition, Fitzgerald has accepted a new job that "requires her full attention," her e-mail message said.
Throughout her time on the school committee, Fitzgerald said she has learned a great deal about Haverhill schools, the city, its residents and herself.
"Some people may have disagreed with some of my decisions, but I believe it would be hard to deny that my commitment to the children and schools has never wavered," Fitzgerald said.
Although she will no longer seek public office, Fitzgerald said her commitment to the children of Haverhill will continue as she plans to return to the role of active and outspoken parent, where she started 12 years ago and encourage other parents to do the same.
"One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my tenure on the School Committee is how truly powerful an outspoken citizen can be in influencing the average politician. Amazing things can happen when private citizens get involved with their community," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said it has been a great pleasure to work with all administrators, staff and teachers and is looking forward to continuing to work with them in a different role in the future.
"Our schools are fortunate to have many talented administrators, staff and teachers, and a superintendent with a vision for the future of our schools. These people deserve the support and commitment of our community," Fitzgerald said.