By Derek Maul
In February, the Hillsborough County School Board named Susan Burkett principal of Bloomingdale High School.
Ten weeks down the road, the former Burns Middle School leader feels 100 percent at home.
“By nature I’m a high school person,” Burkett said. “Burns was a huge growth opportunity for me. I learned a lot there and it’s helped me see the whole picture.”
Burkett’s first administrative job came in 2002, when she was appointed student affairs AP at Riverview High School. In 2005 she moved to Bloomingdale as AP for curriculum, then became principal at Burns in 2009.
“We have 2,300 students, 124 teachers, and 197 total staff,” she said. “But a lot of the faces are the same and most of the kids I just spent three years with. It really did feel like an instantaneous coming home.”
Born and raised in the Bronx, Burkett was hooked on education by the end of kindergarten, when she lined up stuffed animals to give them lessons.
The Bronx heritage, Burkett said, makes her “inherently brutally honest.” Another way to describe her style would be direct, collaborative, and action-oriented. “If there’s an issue, you’re never going to wonder what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling,”
Burkett said the big challenge is always change, and “How do you make a great school even better.”
“Change is always difficult,” she said. “Empowering Effective Teachers (EET) is difficult but it’s good. It was a complete culture change but the concept is great. It’s my job to support the teachers and make sure they have the understanding, the knowledge, and the training to make it work. But everybody buys in to doing the right thing for kids.”
And that’s the bottom line for Bloomingdale’s new principal.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” she said. “It’s like Christmas morning every day. The spirit, the energy, the collaboration. I can’t tell you the feeling of contentment that it is to be here. This is home, this is my school.”