Paula Fitzgerald named principal of Blessed Sacrament School


Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2020 11:12:22 PM

HOLYOKE — City native Paula Fitzgerald, former principal of the Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown, began her new job as the principal of the Blessed Sacrament School on Monday.

Fitzgerald replaces Anne O’Connor, who retired at the end of the last academic year after working 29 years, including six as principal at the Catholic elementary school on Westfield Road, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

“I am absolutely thrilled, and I feel quite fortunate to have been selected and offered the position,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It’s a lovely community.”

Father Robert Gentile, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, said in a statement that Fitzgerald is “a fitting successor” to O’Connor. Blessed Sacrament School serves students in preschool through grade 8. Twelve people applied for the open principal position at the school, according to diocesan officials.

“The search process for a principal was arduous,” Gentile said. “By the end, Mrs. Fitzgerald’s interview impressed every member of the committee. She convincingly demonstrated she was a good fit for us, and we believe we are a good fit for her. We believe we have a principal for the foreseeable future and are excited to be working with her for years to come.”

Fitzgerald earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in applied teaching from the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, as well as a certificate in education administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

As an educator, Fitzgerald said she focused primarily on teaching reading. Once she received her certificate from UMass, however, Fitzgerald moved into administration, serving as the principal of the William G. Morgan Elementary School in Holyoke, the Quarry Hill Community School in Monson, and most recently the Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown from 2013 to 2016. 

Fitzgerald said that after working as principal in Belchertown, she supervised practice teachers at Elms College. She said she was approached by a former colleague and friend who told her about the open position at Blessed Sacrament and convinced her to apply.

Reached on her third day of work, Fitzgerald said she was still getting comfortable with certain processes and procedures, enrollment numbers and even the physical layout of the building.

“I feel like this is one of those well-established communities already,” Fitzgerald said. “And if anything, I want to build on the success that they have.”

While local public school systems continue to draft and debate separate plans for in-person, remote and hybrid learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the diocese has announced that students at most area Catholic schools will be returning to full-time, in-class instruction in the fall.

Fitzgerald said that both the diocese and the state has issued guidance on how to reopen. And while “the goal is to have as much in-person instruction as possible” come the fall, Fitzgerald said, she also understands the safety concerns people may have about reopening schools. 

“We have to be somewhat flexible … because the guidance changes as more data comes in,” Fitzgerald said.

“It is a strange time, I have to say,” she added. “I will do all I can to assure that the kids and staff are safe, just like a parent would and just like a superintendent would.”

Fitzgerald lives in Holyoke with her husband Kevin and their children, Nick and Katie. The family are parishioners of Our Lady of the Cross Parish in the city.

Michael Connors can be reached at 

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