Salem City Schools announced late last month that Salem High School assistant principal Scott Habeeb will become principal when John Hall retires at the end of the year. Habeeb will assume his new role July 1, 2013.
According to Habeeb, the last time this transition happened at Salem High School, he was in seventh grade. Given that, he says it will be natural for some folks to worry about the change. But he hopes they won’t.
“One of my creeds is ‘do no harm,’ ” said Habeeb. “This is a phenomenal high school. This is not a school in need of an overhaul. We are on a good trajectory.” Habeeb hopes to help the school to “continue to get better as we have always done,” he said.
He will be taking on a few new things, like working with the school’s budget and going through the hiring process as some of the teachers retire. He’ll also have to start building a new administrative team. Even if they’re the same people, he says, some–like him–will be in new positions. One of the first things he hopes to do will be to communicate to the current faculty: ” ‘You know me as assistant principal. Here’s who I plan to be as principal.’ ”
Habeeb credits many colleagues for helping him to become the educator he is now. But he’s also gleaned inspiration from some more surprising sources.
He hopes to serve as a compass for his students–a concept he admits he’s borrowed from the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
“We’re way more than just teachers of facts–we’re teachers of life,” Habeeb said. He believes teachers and educators help “point students towards the truths in life.”
He also credits working with English teacher Ray Moore for influence on his perspective. Habeeb came to Salem High School in 1997 as a modern world history teacher on the same team as Moore. Habeeb says that as a first year teacher, he “wasn’t ready to teach students who hadn’t been raised the same way as me,” which he said was to pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Moore taught him to get into the hearts of his students in order to reach them, Habeeb said.
Habeeb loved his work as a teacher–so much so that in the beginning of his career, he never anticipated making a move to administration. But Salem City Schools superintendent Alan Seibert changed his mind. Habeeb says while completing an Education Leadership Program through the University of Virginia for his recertification, he shadowed Seibert.
“I loved what I saw,” Habeeb said. “He did a million things in one day. As a teacher you can create magic within four walls. As an adminsitrator, you can help a bunch of people create magic within a lot of walls.”
He hopes he can do that for his faculty and staff by “being someone who creates an atmosphere where they can do their job,” he said. Here, he will learn from Hall.
“John Hall has given me tremendous flexibility,” Habeeb said. “He is the absolute best boss to work for. He’s trusted me to do a good job and has supported me. I hope to do the same for anyone else.
“When someone else has a really good idea, I want to help make it happen,” he said. “I know that I’m in for a lot of work–I have big shoes to fill. Our community has high expectations. I want to do a really good job. The kids and the community deserve an excellent principal.”
Habeeb and his wife, Julie, are parents to four children: Kaitlin, a senior at Salem High School; Kelsey, a freshman at SHS; McKenna, a fifth grader at South Salem Elementary and Matthew, who is four years old.