NAUGATUCK — Newly hired Naugatuck High School Principal Janice Saam brings 31 years of experience in the Naugatuck school district to her new position.
After a 90-minute interview, the Board of Education voted unanimously to hire Saam Monday night, immediately following the high school graduation.
“We’re very excited that we’re able to fill the position quickly,” Board of Education Chair David Heller said.
Heller pointed to Saam’s long-time residence in the borough, and her experience as associate principal for the past seven years as reasons the board decided to hire her.
Saam enthusiastically accepted the position and said she is looking forward to her new role.
“I have to say after the vote last night, I am thrilled to have to opportunity to lead the high school,” Saam said Tuesday.
Heller said Saam’s appointment will provide a seamless transition into next school year.
Saam was the only internal candidate who applied for the job. Although some outside candidates applied for the job, Saam was the only candidate the board interviewed or considered, according to Heller.
“We had what we thought was the best possible candidate already in the building,” Heller said.
Heller said Saam has already been fulfilling many of the principal’s roles as associate principal and has implemented a number of programs that are working well. He added Saam also has a terrific relationship with other administrators and staff.
“She’s intimately familiar with all aspects of day-to-day operations of Naugatuck High School,” Heller said. “We’re thrilled to have her leading our educational team up there.”
Having worked under two former principals, Heller said Saam has assimilated some of their skills and abilities.
“I think she’ll blend their attributes into her own style and performance as the principal,” he said.
Saam said she was honored, humbled, and privileged to work with the “amazing” faculty and staff at the high school.
“This organization wouldn’t be what it is without everyone coming to work every day doing their absolute best,” Saam said.
She said each staff member makes the high school a wonderful place for the nearly 1,400 students who attend.
“It’s their support, their dedication, and their hard work that makes it very easy to lead this building,” Saam said.
Saam said her main motivation as an educator is the students.
“The students are absolutely amazing. … They make it worth getting up every morning and coming,” Saam said.
Saam was born and raised in Waterbury, but moved to Naugatuck after she got married because she wanted her two sons to benefit from a Naugatuck education, she said.
Saam said she attributes her boys’ success to a strong background in the Naugatuck public school system. Her oldest son is now a dentist and her youngest will be starting college next fall.
Saam decided to pursue a career in education after her high school guidance councilor told her she would make a great teacher.
She attended St. Joseph’s college in West Hartford with a dual major in special education and general education.
“For some reason special education students with special needs really held a special place in my heart,” Saam said.
She started her career in Naugatuck as a special education teacher at Central Avenue School in 1980.
After 10 years in that position, Saam became a fourth grade teacher at Maple Hill School, a position she kept for another 10 years. While teaching at Maple Hill, then Principal Raymond Powell encouraged Saam to take on leadership positions. He appointed her as lead teacher and encouraged her to get her administration degree.
“Thanks to his encouragement, I went back to school,” Saam said.
Armed with her new degree, Saam moved on to become coordinator of people services at the district office, climbing the ladder to associate principal at the high school.
Saam said she takes the learning experience from each of her positions into the next one.
“It’s very important for an administrator to remember what it’s like in the classroom,” Saam said.
To that end, Saam said she plans to teach an ethics course next year.
She said it’s important for her to get back into the classroom to remember what it’s like to teach. She’ll have to do everything she asks her teachers to do.
“Now I’m going to have to walk the talk,” Saam said.
Saam said the transition from associate principal to principal should be very smooth.
“We won’t skip a beat,” Saam said.
She said she will continue with initiatives she started under retiring Principal Francis Serratore, and doesn’t expect to make any big changes at the high school in the immediate future.
Next year students will have an advisory period once a week, as planned, and the school has already shifted to an eight period day, Saam said.
“I don’t anticipate there being any new,” she said.
Saam said she plans to continue on the path set out by her predecessor, strengthening the school curriculum and improving student engagement as well as providing professional development for teachers.
Saam’s salary will be $130,280, about $9,000 more than her current salary, according to Heller. He said the salary is similar to that earned by Serratore.
Saam’s promotion creates another vacancy, which the board hopes to fill as soon as possible, according to Heller. As with the search for a new principal, Heller said the board will look to fill the position internally first, but will expand the search if no candidates emerge.