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News in Salem

Published on Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Laura James Named New South Salem Principal

Salem School Division Superintendent, Dr. Alan Seibert, is pleased to announce that the Salem School Board has formally approved a changing of the guard at South Salem Elementary School.  Laura James has been named the new principal at South Salem, effective July 1, 2018.  James, who is currently the assistant principal at South Salem, will replace Margaret Humphrey, who is retiring at the end of June.  Humphrey has served Salem’s children for 35 years as a teacher and principal and she has invested over 45 years in public education in her illustrious career.

“I have learned so many valuable lessons working under Margaret Humphrey,” says James. “I am humbled to be next in the long line of outstanding administrators at this great school, and those lessons learned will be applied daily.”

Humphrey and James became South Salem’s leadership team in 2006 and they were instrumental in maintaining an effective teaching environment and ensuring a smooth transition when the new building opened in 2013.  During their time together, the Virginia Department of Education has recognized the school several times with its Index of Performance Awards.

“Mrs. Humphrey has not only provided exceptional leadership to South Salem during her tenure as principal, she also has cultivated leadership in her staff that is exemplified by the high level of collaboration and empowerment with Mrs. James,” says Seibert. “South Salem School consistently performs at a very high level and we look forward to Mrs. James building on her strong relationships with staff to advance the school and grow the students it serves.”

Before arriving in Salem, James served as an assistant principal and teacher in the Hanover County School Division in Ashland.  The West Chester, Pennsylvania native obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Elementary Education from Randolph-Macon College and she earned her Master’s in Education degree from the University of Virginia in Administration and Supervision.

To say that educating children is in her DNA might be an understatement.  Her father was a teacher, coach, elementary principal and high school principal for 39 years.  Her mother was an educational administrative assistant for three decades and her mother-in-law taught elementary education for over 35 years.

“South Salem is an amazing family,” says James. “I am honored and blessed to lead this family of teachers, parents and children as we grow together.”

Humphrey’s retirement will mark the end of an incredible career in education in the Roanoke Valley.  She is a founding member of the Salem School Division having joined as a teacher in 1983 during the division’s creation. 

She began teaching at South Salem when it was still part of Roanoke County and also taught at Penn Forest Elementary from 1974-1977.  Her career as a lifelong educator began in a third grade classroom in Winfield, West Virginia in 1972.  She also taught Language Arts at Andrew Lewis Middle School and actually succeeded Seibert as assistant principal at Lewis in 2000, as she began her administrative career.

Humphrey, who is a Salem native, graduated from Andrew Lewis High School and later earned degrees from Radford University and Hollins University.  

“Mrs. Humphrey has taught me how to be a strong leader, and also demonstrated what it takes to be a remarkable mother, a devoted wife, and a true friend,” says James. “I am truly honored to carry on the traditions she has established at South Salem.”

James and her husband, Dr. Jay James, have three children, ages 5, 8 and 10.

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