NEW CHAPTER: Longtime principal makes move to HR

·4 min read

Aug. 13—Starting her 26th year with with Ector County ISD, Natalie Fitzgerald is beginning a new chapter as director of human resources.

Fitzgerald was at Milam Magnet Elementary School for 25 of those years, but had a brief stint as a teacher at Burnet Elementary.

At Milam, Fitzgerald served as a first and fifth-grade teacher for 14 years, a campus curriculum coach, assistant principal, and principal for the last nine years.

Born and raised in Victorville, Calif., before moving to Orange, Calif., in seventh grade. My father's job brought him to Odessa. I moved here my senior year of high school and graduated from Permian High School.

"I have been married to my husband Jon for 32 years. We have two children who are products of Milam and ECISD and three grandchildren. My school-aged grandsons were also products of Milam and ECISD," Fitzgerald said.

"I'm excited for this next chapter of in my career with ECISD. In Human Resources, our mission is to attract, recruit, grow, and retain employees. The Human Resources Department is a team of supportive people who wish to add value to the district by investing in talent through strategic staffing and compensation," Fitzgerald said.

She hires auxiliary staff such as transportation, maintenance, custodial, food service and she is in charge of recruiting, as well.

"We've had a lot of applicants. We're filling them like crazy ...," Fitzgerald said.

It is different than hiring at the campus level because by the time applicants get to that point, they have been vetted by human resources.

"So now I'm doing the vetting. I'm doing the background ...," Fitzgerald said.

She went to Odessa College and University of Texas Permian Basin. She earned a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with a minor in life science and has a master of arts specializing in reading.

Fitzgerald knew she wanted to go into education ever since she was young.

"Ever since I was a little, I always said I was going to be a second grade teacher. I would sit my sisters down and give them homework. I would teach them and grade their papers and do the lesson. I went to a Catholic school and then so really until I started ... student teaching, that's when my public school experience came in as far as elementary," she said.

Initially, she was thinking of going into athletic training or PE.

"When I started teaching it wasn't where you had the job openings that you have. It was hard to get into the district. You had to sub for a while to even get in, so it was hard to even get a position in Ector County ISD when I started in '97. ...," Fitzgerald recalled.

She started teaching fifth grade at Burnet, but was excessed a month into the school year and moved to first grade at Milam.

"... I stayed there for about eight years and I ended up ... falling in love and never changed that path because I ended up loving the classroom," Fitzgerald said.

When the chance to work in HR came up, she was excited about the new challenge. But it was a difficult decision to leave Milam.

Over the years, she has watched multiple generations of children grow up and have families of their own.

"... My own children went through Milam; my grandchildren. So it was a very difficult decision. I was very invested in the campus, (the) school family, the community. That was probably the toughest thing about leaving Milam ...," Fitzgerald said.

However, she's found that her new job is interesting.

"It's a lot of new learning, but exciting learning because this isn't exactly what I did on the campus level ...," she said.

Executive Director for Human Resources Staci Ashley said she worked with Fitzgerald at Milam for almost 11 years.

"Natalie brings a wealth excellent leadership qualities to the HR Team. She is a team player, adaptable, a problem-solver, empathetic, a multi-tasker, proven strong ethics, and uses effective communication when dealing with others. I am both proud and delighted Natalie decided to join our HR Team. Her dedication, smile, and positive energy are a perfect match with our other awesome HR team members," Ashley said in an email.