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School superintendent touts ‘back to basics’

Acknowledging challenges ahead for the school district, newBrookhaven Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya espoused a “back tobasics” approach to education while speaking Wednesday to theBrookhaven Kiwanis Club.

Karmacharya focused several of her comments on the importance ofreading and “foundational learning.”

“Without reading and mastery of critical thinking, you are notgoing to be a successful person,” she said.

The new superintendent emphasized the importance of buildinggood relationships and the link between good teachers helping todevelop good students. To help teachers, Karmacharya indicated sheplanned to seek several early school release days for next year forstaff development.

“No significant learning is going to occur without a significantrelationship,” Karmacharya said.

Karmacharya, who has been on a job for a little more than amonth, said she is getting acclimated to the position and thecommunity. She said she is very “data-driven” in her approach tovarious educational issues.

“I’m going to ask a lot of questions before I put anything intoplace,” she said.

Karmacharya spoke about two personnel matters facing thedistrict: a new assistant superintendent to follow James Tillman,who announced his upcoming retirement last year along with formerSuperintendent Lea Barrett, and a new head football coach for thehigh school.

Regarding the assistant superintendent situation, the new leadersaid she would not be hiring anybody to replace anybody. Sheindicated the possibility of positional re-alignments and a reviewthat would allow the best people to fill any positions that mayopen.

As for the football coach position, Karmacharya said there havebeen about 30 applicants and they are under review. She said she islooking for a person of high quality and good character to lead thestudent-athletes.

With the state legislative session recently concluded,Karmacharya said she is reviewing budget numbers and looking aheadto next year. She said there could be a slight reduction in statefunds, but nothing significant after level funding of theMississippi Adequate Education Program was approved.

“Our funding is going to look about the same as it did lastyear,” she said.

Among other areas, Karmacharya said she was appreciative of thegenuine community support the Brookhaven School District receives.She also spoke of several challenges and opportunities that lieahead for the district.

Karmacharya mentioned a Common Core curriculum model that isbeing implemented across the nation. While there will be someindividual differences, she said that would allow an “apples toapples” comparison of school districts’ progress with others in thecountry.

“That will give us a good idea of where we stand,” she said.

Karmacharya also offered a defense of the much-maligned federalNo Child Left Behind Act. She said it got a “bad rap” but didexpose gaps in educational areas and the need for attention todetails.

Karmacharya went on to say there are gaps in the local educationpicture.

“We have a gap between the haves and the have nots,” shesaid.

Karmacharya said there must be a realization that the districtis not perfect and that it will take hard work to reach studentsand have them succeed.

“We’ve got to do a good job of reaching all of them at every endof the spectrum,” Karmacharya said.