Kim Fitzgerald | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Kim Fitzgerald


Kim Fitzgerald is principal and chief academic officer at Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School in Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the staff at Urban Pathways in 2009, she worked at Northampton Junior High School in Northampton, Pa., and at Lehigh Valley Academic Public Charter School in Bethlehem, Pa. 

The Mistake:

Because I was young, I didn’t realize the amount of time it takes do things right.

I’ve been working for charter schools, either teaching or as an administrator for almost 16 years. And, I helped open some charter schools. My kids were young when we moved Pittsburgh, and so I tried to balance my time and not take on too many responsibilities.

When the opportunity arose for me to take on the position at Urban Pathways, the first thing we did was sit down as a family to talk about it. I knew I would be working 60 or 65 hours a week to do it right during the transition, because there were so many things that needed to be taken care of. I had the foresight from previous experience about the amount of time this would take away from my family.

The kids were just getting into kindergarten when I took the job at my previous school in Bethlehem. My youngest was in preschool, and I had stayed home with them the first few years. I think the biggest frustration for me at that time was that I’m a perfectionist. I wanted to be good at my job, but I wanted to continue to be a good mom, and it was hard because I was used to spending so much time with them. I kept thinking, ‘I’m not going to get this right.’

Every evening we went to the park or the gym or played ball, and always made sure we had reading time at night. For about a year and a half, while we were still in Bethlehem, my husband took a job in Pittsburgh. He came home on weekends, but we were trying to sell our house at the same time so it made the balancing act even more challenging.

I reached out to other moms and built support systems. Your community is so important when you have children, and when you can serve each other and work together, sometimes things just fall into place. But it was not always easy and I didn’t want to go through all that again.

If everyone in the family is on board, it can make things a lot easier. 

The Lesson:

So when I decided to take the job at Pathways I knew it was going to mean a lot of changes. We were in a position at that time where my husband could work more from home, because leaving three teenage boys home alone was not ideal. My boys played sports, and one was a musician. So it was important for them to understand that mom might not be at every game or every practice, but that we were all going to support each other as a family. It was important for us to get that buy-in from everyone in the family.

I don’t have guilt about my decision because I know my boys appreciated it. Two of my boys are now in college and the third is getting to college, and when I go out to dinner with them, they say to me “Mom, we saw what you did, how you give back.” They know that we believe it’s important that if you have a talent, you should pay it forward. They tell me that their father and I modeled that for them. Everything may not always be perfect, but if everyone in the family is on board, it can make things a lot easier. 

Follow Urban Pathways K-5 College Charter School on Twitter at @UP_K5CS.

Photo courtesy of Kim Fitzgerald.


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