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The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Celebrating Black Excellence, Leader Spotlight: Mr. Xavier Fitzgerald

Liberty Middle School’s Principal speaks about what it means to be an educator of excellence in West Orange.
Principal Fitzgerald speaking at Liberty Middle School.
Liberty Middle School
Principal Fitzgerald speaking at Liberty Middle School.

 In honor of Black History Month, The Pioneer is celebrating Black Leaders of Excellence. Mr. Xavier Fitzgerald is the Principal at Liberty Middle School, previously holding the title of Principal of Thomas A  Edison Middle School for 17 years. Mr. Fitzgerald has been in the school district since 2005-06 and has thrived as an educational leader in the West Orange Public School District. 

Although biologically bi-racial (white mother and black father) and having been adopted by a single black mother, Mr. Fitzgerald identifies as a proud black man. Mr. Fitzgerald was raised in the housing projects of Paterson, NJ, with two older brothers (Alex and Irving).  Mr. Fitzgerald graduated from Barber-Scotia College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with Honors. He earned his Master’s Degree in Urban Education with a Concentration in Administration and Supervision with Honors at New Jersey City University. He continued post-master’s work  (Ed.D) in educational leadership at St. Elizabeth University, Morristown, NJ.

Mr. Fitzgerald has been a classroom teacher since 1994, starting as a teacher in a 5th-grade Gifted and talented class at Hollywood Elementary in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Approximately a year later returned to his hometown of Paterson, NJ, to teach grades 6-8 grade in the area of Mathematics. Mr. Fitzgerald has also served in other positions in education, such as Kindergarten Teacher, Paraprofessional, School Bus Aide, and Substitute Teacher. 

Mr. Fitzgerald has also coached at the collegiate and high school levels in the following sports: Track and field, cross country, and basketball.

In 2004-05, Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed Asst. Principal at Grace Wilday Middle School in Roselle, NJ, and then in the school year 2005-06, Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed the Principal at Thomas.A. Edison Central Six Middle School in the West Orange Public School District. In the school year 2022-23 Mr. Fitzgerald was assigned to take over as Principal of Liberty Middle School after former Principal Robert Klemt retired. In 2023-24, Mr. Fitzgerald was permanently appointed the Principal of Liberty Middle School.

Mr. Fitzgerald, while enrolled at Barber-Scotia College, met Dr. Gwen Cunningham, the Dept. Chairperson of the College of Education,  who persuaded him to pursue teaching as a career option. Along with Dr. Cunningham, Mr. Fitzgerald has had many other important figures in his life, including his former basketball coach, Mr. Henry Baker Sr., along with Dr. Joseph Fulmore, his first principal when he returned home to teach in Paterson and was also a fraternity brother (Alpha Phi Alpha Fratenity Inc.) while he matriculated at BSC. At the time, Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to pursue a degree in criminal law, but as he navigated his career choices with Mr. Baker, Dr. Fulmore, and Dr. Cunningham, he ultimately decided to pursue teaching. 

Through his years of Elementary and Secondary school experiences, Mr. Fitzgerald had sparse and sometimes negative encounters with educators of color. This motivated him to be different and carve his path as an educator and leader of color. “When I finally got the chance to be an educator, I decided to educate,  mentor, and lead by example…” 

Mr. Fitzgerald believes that the lack of diversity among educators in the United States is a fact that cannot be overlooked, so he wants to do everything in his power to influence the students he can. “As a black man, I have often found myself explaining some cultural nuances to teachers and other staff members,  guiding them on how to interact with students and parents of color and other cultures. When students see a person of color in a leadership position, it can create a different kind of culture and climate in the learning environment. As an Educational  leader, I am committed to providing guidelines and support to teachers to ensure that all students feel valued and respected.” 

The values Mr. Fitzgerald has learned throughout his life and career have guided his path to becoming the man and leader he represents today. Discipline, responsibility, accountability, and work ethic have played a pivotal role in his career. “As an administrator with 21 years of experience, I have realized that certain values and characteristics are essential for success in this role. However, I also acknowledge that these values are a continuous work in progress as I strive to improve and grow as a lifelong learner.”

Mr. Fitzgerald has played a major role in the development of many students in West Orange and beyond and will continue to inspire the youth of tomorrow for years to come.

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