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Lipsey’s principal s national honor

Throughout her 38-year education career, Lipsey Principal RitaRich has loved children and sought to put their best interestsfirst.

“That’s first and foremost,” Rich said. “I’ve carried thatprinciple from my classroom life to my administrative life.”

Rich’s dedication and desire to help children have earned herrecognition as one of only 66 principals nationwide to be chosen asa National Distinguished Principal by the U.S. Department ofEducation and the National Association of Elementary SchoolPrincipals (NAESP). Only two of the over 600 Mississippi elementaryschool principals were chosen for the award.

“It’s a very select group, and I feel very honored to bechosen,” Rich said.

Rich will travel to Washington Wednesday for an NAESP programand will be recognized with other distinguished principals at anawards reception Friday night.

“I’m delighted to represent a town, people and children that Ilove,” said Rich, who has been Lipsey principal for five years andin the Brookhaven School District for 27 years.

Rich said the process of choosing a distinguished principal ishighly selective, with only a few principals getting to submit anapplication. NAESP affiliates in each of the 50 states make theirown selection process based on national guidelines includingnomination by peers, commitment to excellence, evidence of supportby students, colleagues, parents and the community, high standardsand expectations and service as a principal for at least fiveyears.

As part her application, Rich, Superintendent Dr. Sam Bounds, apeer principal, a teacher, a parent and a community resident wereasked to submit statements on the principal’s behalf. Discussionareas included purposeful leadership, instructional leadership,resource development and management and interpersonal skills.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop has had dealings with Rich throughthe chamber of commerce and as a past president of theParent-Teacher Association.

“Her relationship with her teaching staff reflects theprofessional nature of her entire school,” Bishop said about Rich’sleadership skills. “Her caring concern for each and every studentis the primary reason for the excellent relationship with herteaching staff.”

As another part of the selection process, students were asked totell the difference between a principal and a nationaldistinguished principal. They offered some humorous and thoughtfulresponses:

* “Principals watch over kids and keep children out of trouble.They also sit in the office or have parent meetings, too,” wroteJovial, a fifth-grader. “A National Distinguished Principal is incharge of a lot of things, like the United States or U.S.A. Theyare in charge of a lot of things.”

* “Principals tell teachers what to do and when to do it,” wrotesixth-grader Will. “A National Distinguished Principal is thebest-known principal admired for his or her excellence.”

* “Principals lead the school and make important decisions forthe school. They are the heads of the school,” wrote Blake, anothersixth-grader. “A National Distinguished Principal is a real goodand special principal. They know how to lead a school and do a goodjob.”

In her essay, Rich likened the job of principal to that of ajuggler. She said a principal has to keep many things in the airand balanced while at the same time acting like a cheerleader tokeep students, teachers, staff and parents motivated.

Rich said she is very humbled with the award and will accept iton behalf of all elementary principals who work hard at theirjobs.

“The job is getting to be more difficult as society changes,”Rich said.

Rich credited her parents’ influence with instilling in her theimportance of a good education. In relaying that message tostudents, the principal said she tries every day to be the best shecan be.

“The children deserve it,” Rich said.