Lindsay Brett is a busy woman. And she is about to be even busier. The principal of Plantersville Middle School has been selected to serve on a statewide commission initiated by the Mississippi Department of Education. The Principal Advisory Council is the brainchild of Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. Brett will join 28 other principals from around the state to brainstorm ways to improve education in Mississippi: “We are elementary to high school principals from low- to high-performing schools and low- to high-income schools,” said Brett. She is the only principal of any school in Lee County chosen to serve on the commission; her term lasts until May 2022. The first meeting of the group will occur via Zoom on January 28. Brett said meetings will continue through the rest of the school year. She expects the meetings will offer a wealth of ideas for improving students’ performance and education opportunities. Brett is frank about the status of her own school and the 258 fifth- through eighth-graders attending there. Plantersville is a low-income and low-performing school; all students are on the free-lunch program, a standard measure of school income level. She said the two biggest challenges she and the 24-member faculty face are students entering with low reading levels and “social emotional” health. Brett said the blame for the former does not lie with the feeder schools in Shannon and Verona; the students, she explained, are probably not read to as very young preschool children, which places them at a disadvantage when they do reach school age. Social emotional health, she surmises, likely results from low-income home environments where parents are often absent due to trying to earn enough money to keep the family afloat. In fact, addressing that fact is one of four areas Brett feels is requisite to improving students’ performance. The other three are equipping teachers with the tools and training they need, early childhood education and involving the arts in their education curricula. “It is a ministry,” Brett said of her mission to improve her school. “(This commission) has the potential for good things. If it works like it’s supposed to, it will be a wonderful thing.” Brett emphasizes that she approaches educating students as a team effort: “You get better when you listen to others,” she said. ‘We’ is stronger than ‘me.’ ‘We’ make a decision.” Working within the commission is something Brett looks forward to. She anticipates receiving some good suggestions for school improvement and even figures she might be able to help some of the other principals with some of their concerns. Brett had to apply for the position, which she finds somewhat ironic because, as she said, “I never apply for anything.” Indeed, landing in her education career was not a matter of applying for it; she received a call from a friend in the Tupelo Public School District informing her of the need for a drama teacher while she was applying for a job at a church in Mobile, Alabama. Since that was one of her majors in college, she took the position and was fast-tracked to certification while teaching at Tupelo Middle School. “I just fell into education,” she said with a chuckle.
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