Meet the new High School Principal at CIA FIRST

Dear CIA FIRST Parents and Community Members,

My name is Omar J. Salaam, Ph.D. With more than 25 years of experience as a professional educator, I am very pleased to now live in Cambodia and very excited to be the CIA FIRST High School Principal. Born and raised in Flint, MI, USA, I grew up in a multicultural environment, but throughout my adulthood I have always wanted to live abroad. As a promising school administrator looking to expand my experience by working overseas, I returned to the classroom to pursue music teaching and band directing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I fell in love with Southeast Asia spending four years of my life in the region from 2005-2009.

After two years back in the classroom, I returned to administration as Principal of an International School in Penang, Malaysia followed by a year as an Independent Educational Consultant working in K.L, Jakarta and Surabaya, Indonesia, and a small city outside of Bangkok, Thailand. 

When I left my home country in 2005 I vowed never to return to the USA except to visit. But after my first two years of marriage, in 2009 my wife and I agreed that it would help us both if we returned so that I could pursue my Ph.D. in person, from a highly recognized university in the USA. After multiple years of doctoral coursework, I received a 3-year full tuition fellowship. Upon completion of the fellowship I continued working on my dissertation, while we both completed 2 year contracts at an International School in the Middle East. With many successes accomplished in the USA and the Middle East, our desire remained to return and live and work in Southeast Asia. Cambodia was one of our most preferred destinations.

To give you a brief outline of my experience and education, in addition to a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida (USF) and an M.Ed. from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU), both in Educational Leadership, I have more than 9 years of experience in Educational Leadership as a Principal, Assistant Principal, and Educational Consultant. Strengthening those experiences, I have more than 17 years of inclusive, student-centered, classroom teaching experience in:

  • public and private schools;
  • rural, suburban, and urban schools; 
  • for-profit and non-profit schools; and 
  • American and British curriculum schools;
  • in Michigan and Florida USA, and abroad. 


Earning a B.A. in Music Education from Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) ignited my passion for teaching. Certifications I hold include:

  • an Educator’s Certificate for K-12 Educational Leadership from the Florida Department of Education;
  • a Graduate Certificate in Evaluation from USF; and
  • a Graduate Certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from (SIT) School for International Training of Brattleboro, VT  
  • additional certifications.


While proud of my documented accomplishments, what I hope endears me to the CIA FIRST parents and community is my commitment to working with a constant intent of doing what is in the best interest of my students. Having been warmly welcomed by staff and students each day I have been on campus, I feel I am part of the CIA FIRST family. I say my students because I am protective of my family and thus the safety and security of my staff and students is a consistent underlying priority. Within this safe and secure environment, my primary focus is the peace and happiness of everyone, enabling student success in STEM and Humanities courses, extra-curricular activities, and community engagement.

Having recently published a dissertation, I could type for far longer, but instead I look forward to meeting you in person. You are valuable members of the CIA FIRST family. 

Your children will confirm that I believe in being amongst the students and staff, so please know that I also look forward to meeting each of you. WE are CIA FIRST.

I look forward to new heights of achievement that we can reach together.

Yours truly,

 Omar J. Salaam, Ph.D.