Earlier this summer, Matt Ames became the new principal for CHS. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because in 1977, Matt Ames was a student teacher for the CHS art department. A year later, he was hired at CHS, and eventually became art department chair. He then left to become an assistant principal at Franklin High School and, later, principal of Parkville High. Now, thirty eight years later after he first started at CHS as a student teacher, he’s back in the school where he started his career–as the boss.
“It feels really weird walking through these halls and sitting in these classrooms as a supervisor rather than a teacher,” Mr. Ames laughed. “I even used to sit in [Barrett] Garvin’s classroom during my planning period to receive free guitar lessons.”
Mr. Ames is passionate about education and working with his staff in order to create an effective, learning environment for students.
“I really, really, like kids,” Mr. Ames said, “and I want to make Catonsville a school they enjoy coming to everyday [in order to] learn.”
Mr. Ames started his “training” in educational administration at Franklin High School where he served as the assistant principal for five years. Patrick S. McCusker, the principal of Franklin, would often assign Mr. Ames tasks that a principal would normally face, posing hypothetical situations that made Mr. Ames stretch his creativity and knowledge.
“Sometimes I wondered if he was just making me do his job,” Mr. Ames joked.
This unintentional training was crucial to the next step in Mr. Ames’s career: becoming the principal of the Parkville High School.
“It was really a learning experience,” Mr. Ames admitted.
At Parkville, Mr. Ames became heavily involved in the ESOL program, a program once looked down upon by many in the school.
“A lot of people looked down upon the program, and it didn’t take long for that mentality to reach me,” Mr. Ames explained. But after taking a step back and reviewing the situation, the data and the facts, Mr. Ames saw that the common view was far from the truth.
“I realized that the ESOL program was actually something Parkville should brag about!” Mr. Ames exclaimed. “More than 85% of ESOL students were on the Honor Roll. They were a positive impact to our community.”
Mr. Ames admits that he wasn’t ready for the principal position of CHS when he applied the first time; however, he is thankful that he had the opportunity to serve at Parkville and learn the ways of the trade.
“There’s more than one way to teach,” Mr. Ames said. “And as a principal, you need to see the strength in your staff because individuals can bring certain talents to the table.”
After serving at Parkville for two years, Mr. Ames got a chance once again to apply for the principal position at CHS when Dr. Bill Heiser left in 2014. Now, he’s back to the school where it all started.
“I’m really excited for the school year,” Mr. Ames said.
And he’s bringing about a few changes, most notably the adjustment of the “off and away during the day” cell phone policy. At Parkville High, students were allowed to use their cellphones during class breaks and lunches. Mr. Ames explained that he saw no negative difference in student behavior; in fact students used cellphones less in class after the enactment of the policy.
“We were operating with a five- to ten-year old paradigm about cell phones,” Mr. Ames said.
Along with the cell phone policy change, Mr. Ames has further ideas up his sleeve, such as creating video morning announcements.
“I think it would be really cool if we could turn on the TV [in the classrooms] and watch the announcements. I think students would pay attention more,” he explained.
All in all, Mr. Ames has big plans for CHS, making the school even better as the year progresses. He finds it important to collect data and listen to the teachers, as well as students, in order to move the school forward.
Whether you’ve seen him in the hallway or in the classroom, Mr. Ames has made an effort to be visible among students throughout the day.
He believes building a relationship with the students is important.
“It’s going to be a great school year, and I’m happy to be home.”