School: Thomas G. Connors Elementary School
School District: Hoboken Board of Education
City, State: Hoboken, New Jersey
About the Nominee: Gerald Fitzhugh, II is a dynamic principal and leader of Thomas G. Connors Elementary School. Over the past few years, he has been the catalyst of significant changes within the school community. His efforts are focused on improving the social and academic development of each student that enters the school building. From an academic standpoint, his efforts and leadership have resulted in significant academic gains and the removal of Connors Elementary from its Focus Status as viewed by the New Jersey Department of Education. This impressive turnaround in such a short time speaks to Mr. Fitzhugh's dedication and vision. From a behavioral standpoint, the students have benefited tremendously from the Positive Behavior Supports in School (PBSIS) program. The students are reminded daily of the school’s motto - “Connors C.A.R.E.S.”, which stands for "Commit to learning, Act responsibly, Respect everyone, Effort matters, and this will result in the school Soaring to success." This initiative, along with Mr. Fitzhugh's consistent presence, have resulted in significant changes in student behavior. If one were to visit Connors Elementary on a typical school day, they would see quiet hallways and hear an excited buzz coming from the classrooms as students interact with each other. His voice can often be heard on the loudspeaker reminding the school community that Connors Elementary students are leaders.
Mr. Fitzhugh also supports the staff and provides them with the tools necessary to promote the rigorous education of each student. He holds weekly common planning meetings to promote staff collaboration and development. In addition, he is a consistent presence within each classroom, where he can often be seen observing teachers. Mr. Fitzhugh is particularly focused on integrating technology within each classroom so that students can become 21st century learners. Sometimes, he teaches the students himself so that other staff members can model many of the skills he encourages!
Beyond his academic focus, Mr. Fitzhugh consistently shows that he cares about every student that enters his school. He has been known to make house calls to the homes of students with attendance issues, and he visits parents who are unable to come to school to discuss student needs. Each marking period, Mr. Fitzhugh invites the parents of Honor Roll students to enjoy breakfast with him and the students as a way to celebrate their successes. This year, he created the "middle school advisories" program, where students and teachers can interact in less conventional subjects including yoga, dance, gardening, and digital photography.
Mr. Fitzhugh's commitment to his students and staff is truly remarkable. He has changed the course of many lives within the Connors community, and he continues to raise expectations and promote the successes of all stakeholders. The reputation of Connors Elementary has become a model for the district and an excellent example of the successes that can occur with hard work, dedication and strong leadership. Connors Elementary is now better suited to serve its student as a result of Mr. Fitzhugh's efforts!