Rita Zawalnicki Retires After 16 Years at FWCD

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Rita Zawalnicki at her desk in the office. Photo by Lisa Wallace.

Caroline Sanders, Social Media and Advertisement Editor

Many of you know Rita Zawalnicki, also known as Mrs. Z, whether you met her after walking in late for school, while signing out of class in the office, or while working alongside her in Team Service. Zawalnicki is the Administrative Assistant and Upper School Community Service Coordinator, and after 16 years at Fort Worth Country Day, she will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Zawalnicki plans to retire to spend more time with her kids and grandkids. With family in San Antonio and Houston, she remarked on how difficult it is to find time to see everyone. 

“[My grandchildren] are growing up way too quickly, and I’m missing a lot…you know, their activities and such,” Zawalnicki said.

Zawalnicki moved to Texas from St. Louis, Missouri and has been working at Fort Worth Country Day ever since. One of her bigger contributions to this school has been starting Team Service. Team Service is a group of students in the Upper School who facilitate community service events and plan for grade level involvement through volunteer work. 

“[Team Service] has been one of my favorite, favorite things to do here,” Zawalnicki said. “I started Team Service because I wanted the students to take over the planning and execution of community service events.”

Team Service has done many things over the years including painting houses for Habitat for Humanity and cleaning up the Trinity River. Christopher Baker ‘23, has been in Team Service for the past two years and reflected on his experience so far. 

“I love being in Team Service; it’s a small but fun community. Everyone is very enthusiastic about their work and in helping out around the community,” Baker said. “As sophomores, we worked on making Veterans Day Cards this year, which was great.”

Baker also commented on his time working with Zawalnicki in Team Service. 

“[Zawalnicki] is so passionate about Team Service and community work in general. It’s honestly really inspiring to most of us who work with her,” Baker said. “She’s been very helpful these past few years, especially in finding service opportunities for us and organizing events.”

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, Team Service hasn’t had the chance to work on many projects this year. However, the program will be continued after Zawalnicki’s retirement and into the coming years.

“I wish her the best of luck and I’m happy for her to have that experience, where she can just really invest in her family.””

— Peggy Wakeland

Upper School Assistant Division Head and next year’s Interim Head of Upper School, Peggy Wakeland shared insight on future plans for Team Service and on the new Service Learning Director, who will be taking Zawalnicki’s position as the head of the program. Who the new Service Learning Director is, however, has not been announced yet. 

“We plan to continue Team Service with the new Service Learning Director. That person is very excited about having the opportunity to be with a group that is so invested,” Wakeland said. “They have heard good news about Team Service and are excited to continue the program.”

Zawalnicki has done many things at FWCD besides creating Team Service, including planning graduations, Cum Laude, awards assemblies, parents’ nights, and other important Upper School events. Zawalnicki remarked on what she would miss most about working at FWCD.

“Probably just about everything… I appreciate everyone I work with and the students… it’s just a great place to be,” Zawalnicki said.

Since Zawalnicki announced her retirement, the school has been looking for someone to take her position as the Administrative Assistant. Wakeland explained that since she has now hired Paula Weatherholt to become the Interim Upper School Assistant Division Head, Weatherholt will be in charge of hiring the next Administrative Assistant. 

“[Weatherholt] will be working throughout the month of June, interviewing people for the position, since that person will work most closely with her,” Wakeland said.

Wakeland has known and worked with Zawalnicki for 16 years, having become close friends in the process. 

“A lot of times someone will ask me about something and I’ll finish off by saying ‘short and sweet just like Mrs. Z’,” Wakeland said. “It’s because she’s really sweet and always keeps a professional demeanor.” 

Zawalnicki has been a pillar in the Fort Worth Country Day community and her contributions and hard work ethic is appreciated and will be greatly missed. 

“I know it’s extremely important for her, in her retirement, to be able to be there for her grandkids,” Wakeland said. “I wish her the best of luck and I’m happy for her to have that experience, where she can just really invest in her family.”