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Pearl River Central Elementary principal named to advisory council

The Pearl River Central Elementary principal is one of 29 educators named to the inaugural State Superintendent of Education’s Principal Advisory Council.

Dr. Lori Burkett has been principal at the elementary school for three years. Previously she was principal at the Pearl River Central Middle School and worked as an administrator at the district office.

“I’m excited to serve and to learn from other administrators in the field and to be a part of it at this time, which to me is such a critical time for our children and for the educators as well, because they’ve had a lot of challenges this year,” she said.

The council members will serve through the 2021-22 school year. The council will discuss improving Mississippi public schools and opportunities offered at public schools, according to a press release from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“The Principal Advisory Council will be an important feedback loop for me understanding what is working and what needs improvement in schools,” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said. “I look forward to working with these thoughtful and engaging school leaders to improve educational opportunities for students.”

Burkett applied to be part of the council because she was concerned about the impact COVID-19 could be having on how children learn and wanted to be more involved in understanding and influencing what the state will do in the coming years to support students.

“In the prior year before COVID, we had had significant growth in our NAEP scores in Mississippi. I just had concerns with COVID that our children would start to struggle…that we would lose ground we made, especially with literacy,” she said.

Burkett is always concerned about literacy, but said that balancing virtual and traditional students during the pandemic has created an extra struggle for schools all over the world.

“I think children are resilient and I think given time and the great educators we have in our district, they’ll be fine,” she said. “It’ll just take time and I want to make sure we take the right steps to do what we need to do for them.”

In a presentation last week, Dr. Wright recommended waiving the passing requirement for statewide 3rd grade reading and high school end-of-course assessments for the 2020-21 school year. In a typical school year students must pass those assessments to move on to the next grade.

Burkett agrees with Wright’s recommendation.

“I agree with Dr. Wright’s recommendations for the third grade and the high school to not hold students accountable to the test this year. I think the teachers and students and parents need to sit down and make that decision this year, case by case, whether or not the children will be retained, and that’s kind of how we did it in the spring.”