Leading the pack


Saam reflects on first year as NHS principal

Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam recently concluded her first year in the position. –FILE PHOTO
NAUGATUCK — As the school year came to a close and the senior class graduated, another milestone was reached — Janice Saam ended her first year as principal of Naugatuck High School.

“It was a charmed year. I can’t think of one thing I would undo or redo,” Saam said.

This was a year of changes for the staff and students at the high school. Not only was Saam the new principal, but she also began new initiatives throughout the school.

“We started initiating mandatory [identification badges] being worn. I thought I would get more pushback on that, but I didn’t. Kids did moan, but not that much,” Saam said.

Having students wear identification badges was only one of the initiatives Saam will be implementing at the high school.

“The next frontier is looking at stricter dress code. We’re tightening it up going into next year,” Saam said.

However, Saam knows that helping students will require more than changes to the dress code.

“I’m always struggling with what programs we can put into place to help the students who are struggling. How can we support the students who aren’t meeting with success,” Saam said.

She wants to look into what the school can do to motivate the struggling students and turn failure into success.

“Once students get a taste of success, it continues,” Saam said.

For some students, the typical school system in place will not be their path to success. That is why Saam is looking into the possibility of an alternate school.

Saam is also preparing for changes, such as a new type of standardized test, coming to all the high schools around Connecticut.

She explained that she is tweaking the courses the school offers and looking closely at the curriculums to be best prepared for the new balance tests that will go into effect in 2015.

On top of all that Saam has to prepare her school for reaccreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The reaccreditation process will begin in February 2013.

Her efforts as principal have not gone unnoticed.

“She has done an outstanding job. She cares very much about the kids,” Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said.

He said Saam works well with the staff and teachers, and is knowledgeable about Naugatuck since she has been living in town for quite a while.

“I can’t think of anybody that could’ve done a better job,” Tindall-Gibson said. “She’s enthusiastic, energetic, and always has a positive attitude.”

Tindall-Gibson pointed out that Saam also serves on the building committee in charge of the renovations to the high school.

“She’s the perfect person to be involved in that because of the depth of her knowledge of the school,” Tindall-Gibson said.

Saam has already begun making plans on how best to rearrange the classes throughout the building so the renovations provide as little disruption as possible.

“I think most of next year we will get through unscathed in the interior,” Saam said. “The upheaval will begin the following school year.”

Even though she is making plans for the years to come, Saam has some very fond memories of her first year as principal.

She said as the year came to a close a group of senior boys came up to her. Throughout the year, they had given her a hard time about the policies she put into place and being forced to wear the identification badges. However, this time they thanked her for her policies and the job she did as the principal.

“For me it’s all about the students. When the students can articulate what we are doing is the right thing, that’s all I need to hear,” Saam said.

When it comes to helping students, Saam knows that she has a good base of support at the high school.

“It’s not a one woman show up here. I have hundreds of people behind me. They make me look good,” Saam said.

Saam summed up her first year as principal as a great one.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with how the year’s gone. I’m very grateful to be the principal of Naugatuck High School,” Saam said.