Atholton High vice principal wins state honors

March 29, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff writer

Three years at Atholton High School and Vice Principal Addie Kaufman has made her mark.

She has taken on the intricate task of coordinating student and teacher schedules -- an administrator's nightmare -- and she has helped changed the way teachers educate ninth-graders, an initiative that, for the first time, raised their grade-point averages higher than those of tenth-graders.

Her work has not gone unrecognized. She has been named assistant principal of the year by the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals, picked from a field of about 20 candidates. She will represent the state at an educational leadership conference in Chicago in April.

"She's the best thing since sliced bread, as far as I'm concerned," said Principal Scott Pfeifer, who nominated her for the award. "I just have so much respect for her abilities."

Ms. Kaufman, 33, credits the school and staff. "The school has been wonderful," she said. "The kids are great. The faculty has welcomed me with open arms. I had a lot to learn, but they were helping me."

She is best known for helping create a cross-curricular program for ninth grade. The program involves about a dozen English, math, social studies and science teachers who act as a support net for new students, those who may not readily adjust to the high school environment.

The program requires the dozen teachers to have a common planning period at which they discuss students who may be having problems and coordinate instruction for the following weeks.

The program is believed to be the first in county high schools to follow interdisciplinary teaching, a program that will be used at two new high schools scheduled to open in the fall of 1996.

"The transition from middle school to high school is just overwhelming," Ms. Kaufman said. "It was just so much. The idea [for the program] came from the teachers. They felt kids weren't successful, and they felt they weren't successful."

The program has run for three years and has gotten high marks -- for students as well as from teachers. Last semester's grade-point average for ninth-graders was 2.72, compared with 2.68 for 10th-graders. Ninth-graders typically have the lowest grades at Atholton.

"It was a bottom-up effort," she said. "The teachers led the way. I let them have the leadership, and I was there as a support service."

"It was a grass-roots initiative from teachers, but you need administrative leadership to take hold," said Mr. Pfeifer.

Aldema Ridge, a team leader for the cross-curricular program, praised Ms. Kaufman for the support she's given. "She will come into the classroom and help with moral support," she said. "What she does is she listens to us and figures out what our needs are, and she finds it for us. I've been in this business for 23 years, and she's one of the best I've ever seen."

Ms. Kaufman taught at Mount Hebron High School before joining Atholton. She earned a master's degree in education from Rutgers University and is involved in community activities, particularly with the Associated-Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. That organization gave her the Harry Greenstein Young Leadership Award in 1991 for her work with the Jewish Big Brother-Big Sister program.

Ms. Kaufman's background is in special education. She worked with emotionally and physically disabled children as well as general education students in New Jersey and Georgia.

"She has a good sense of vision," said Mr. Pfeifer. "She puts kids at the center of the decision-making process."

She also has ambition. She aims to become principal of a school some day, and then superintendent of schools -- not necessarily in Howard County.

"I always tell her I try to treat her wonderfully," says Mr. Pfeifer, "because I will probably work for her one day."

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