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The director of the Defense Department schools that educate military children will retire Aug. 31.
Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, notified her employees Thursday that she will retire after 41 years of federal service, according to a copy of an email obtained by Military Times. She has served as director since November 2011, and before that, as acting director since June 2010.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve our military families and their children who have sacrificed so much for peace, prosperity, and the freedom we all enjoy,” Fitzgerald wrote in the email.
A spokeswoman confirmed that the email had been sent.
Fitzgerald’s retirement comes as the school system faces furloughs of its 12,500 employees, mandated by the Defense Department as the result of sequestration. Teachers, counselors and others on nine-month work schedules will be furloughed for up to five days starting in September; other employees will face furloughs of up to 11 days starting July 8.
Fitzgerald previously served as director of Workforce Issues and International Programs in DoD’s office of civilian personnel policy, among other positions. She also previously worked for DoDEA as chief of staff, chief of executive services and chief of staffing.
“I have never enjoyed a job more than this one,” she wrote. “This is because of the mission and each one of you, in all of your roles, who are so dedicated, passionate and devoted to our children, their families and our noble mission.”
About 84,000 children attend DoDEA schools around the world in grades K-12.
“Although I am happy for her as she heads out to her next adventure, I will admit the feelings are bittersweet,” said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association. “I think she’s done a lot for military families during her whole career with DoDEA and during her relatively short tenure as the director.
“She’s had to guide the systems through some tough issues, especially the Japan earthquake and tsunami and the current budget mess. I think her finance/logistical background probably servied the system well because of the issues it faced.
“She’s reached out, listened, and supported military families and DoDEA staff.”