Lisa C. Birkett


MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AUGUST 11, 2021)  Lisa C. Birkett knows there’s a perception among students and staff at most schools that when they go to the principal’s office, it’s because they’re in trouble.

As the new leader of Forest Avenue Elementary School, Birkett said she’s looking to turn that on its head.

“We have to celebrate the successes and not take them for granted,” Birkett said, taking time off from getting things ready for the first day of school on Sept. 8. 

“Students are here to learn and grow, not just academically, but as people and we have to help support them any way we can. It’s not all about being on grade level. It’s as important to me about where you started and where you ended up and the progress you made along the way.”

An educator for 20 plus years, Birkett comes to Middletown as a resource teacher in the North Providence school district. She earned her school administrator certificate over the past two years through the Principal Residency Network.

Spend any time talking to Birkett and it’s clear family is her foundation. She speaks proudly about her husband Jason and four children Addie, Grace, Charley and Chase ranging in age from 13- to 17-years-old.

“A lot of what I do as an educator is through the lens of ‘How would I feel if this were one of my kids?’” Birkett said. “When you apply that standard to things, the picture becomes much clearer.”

Taking over for outgoing Principal Beth Hayes, Birkett said everyone has been great at Forest Avenue, helping her get adjusted to her new job and the community itself. Whether it’s questions about the schedule to how lunch is handled, there’s someone to help.

Birkett said she’s looking to bring some of the “fun” back to school after things were impacted so much by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think the pandemic changed things for a lot of students, as well as adults,” Birkett said. “We need to be aware of that and do everything we can to get students comfortable here in school, whatever it’s going to look like this fall.”

As for her vision for Forest Avenue under her leadership, Birkett said she’d like to build on the strong sense of togetherness that already exists within the school. She also spoke about the importance of each student having at least one person at the school that’s always there for them, whether it’s their teacher, the librarian or someone in the lunchroom. 

Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger said Birkett the moment Birkett started speaking about her desire to be principal of Forest Avenue, it was clear she was the right choice.

“We feel very fortunate to have Lisa as part of our team,” Kraeger said. “She has such a positive spirit and great outlook on education and the importance of students having at least one adult in the building they know really well and can turn to. She’s going to work wonders at Forest Avenue.”

When she’s not working, Birkett said she spends most of her free time together with her family, attending their athletic events. To start her day, Birkett said she enjoys getting out and running to set the right tone.

“So much of what we do every day isn’t just about academics,” Birkett said. “There’s a huge social and emotional component to school, more than ever before and I’d tell anyone who’s considering education (as a career) if you’re just about the books, you might want to look at something else.”

Going with things and being able to improvise are critical to today’s educational environment too, she said. 

“You might have spent all week putting together that lesson plan, but if it isn’t connecting with the students, you have to be flexible and be able to pivot,” Birkett said. “Take advantage of those teachable moments, because you never know when they might come about again and where they might lead.”