New Kettering Middle principal draws on science experience -- Gazette.Net


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New Kettering Middle School principal Amin Salaam said his background in science will grant him the tools necessary to improve math scores at the school.

Salaam, 47, of Bowie said he plans to implement programs to boost Maryland State Assessment scores in math and increase student interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM.

“We’re placing a lot of emphasis on rigorous instruction, and with STEM, we’re working with the county to start a new technology course,” said Salaam, who was previously a resident principal -- part of a county principal training program--at Ernest Everett Just Middle School in Mitchellville. “We’re updating the curriculum to emphasize pre-engineering, basic software design and computer programming.”

While Kettering’s 2012 MSA scores for reading met the school’s annual measurable objectives with 75.5 percent of students testing as proficient, the school’s math scores lag behind at 54.2 percent proficiency, short of the AMO of 63.8 percent proficiency. AMO is a statistic intended to keep schools on track to meet the goal of cutting the number of students not testing as proficient by 50 percent by 2017.

Salaam replaces Maurice Wright, who served as Kettering Middle’s principal since 2007.

Salaam said that despite his extensive background in science and technology, including a Master’s degree in science and administration from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and work in a doctoral program for artificial intelligence from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he felt his role in life was in the classroom, not the private sector.

“[When I was in school] I did a lot of soul searching, and I decided I would follow my heart and become a teacher,” Salaam said. “...In my graduate, undergraduate and even my studies at a magnet school in New York City, I’ve always been around people interested in STEM and science and technology. I see the opportunities I had and how important it is for children to have those same opportunities.”

Another challenge, Salaam said, and one he said he was excited to meet, is garnering more involvement in the school by all parties, from teachers to students to parents. He said he was off to a good start with an attendance of 125 to 150 parents at a principal meet and greet earlier this month.

“The ultimate goal is to get every parent involved in PTSA,” Salaam said. “We also want to boost student involvement, both in SGA and as part of the school improvement plan, representing student needs and providing input.”

PTSA president Carlah Magee, 44, of Upper Marlboro and parent of eighth-grader Lauren Wilson, said she is excited to see what Salaam has in store for the school.

“I think anything he brings to the table is going to be new and improved and innovative,” Magee said. “...I’m glad to hear he’s bringing a different background, with different types of classes and programs to get us on the same page as others.”

Salaam said he hopes to implement a strong professional development program for the school’s 40 teachers as well, focusing on how to ensure students are absorbing information and using data models to track their progress.

“We want to make sure we’re teaching the teachers to plan properly and conduct rigorous instruction,” Salaam said. “We’ll also teach how to use data to assess whether students learned what you taught, and how to modify your lessons to make sure the students are learning.”

ewagner@gazette.net