New Northern High School Principal Kevin Howard said he plans to be a visible presence — welcoming students off the bus in the morning and cheering his school’s teams on Friday nights.

“I know what it’s like to be 16, but I don’t know what it’s like to be 16 in 2013,” Howard said. “If you want to know what’s going on in a high school, ask a high school student.”

Besides learning from the students, he will focus on how they learn at the Owings school as the county and state prepare for curriculum changes. Howard said a big challenge will be maintaining the school’s rich tradition of academic success.

“We have a lot of new initiatives,” Howard said. “Our main focus should always be students first.”

Initiatives include using “Common Core” standards, new teacher evaluations and an academic assessment system related to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Howard said these are tools to help students prepare for future involvement in the workforce or secondary education.

The Philadelphia native who lives in Chesapeake Beach was a wide receiver at Towson University, graduating in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. Howard was the school’s all-time leader in receptions.

Howard began his teaching career after obtaining a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

He started as an attendance officer at Overlea High School in Baltimore County, then became a guidance counselor. After four years, he transferred to Montgomery County public schools, where he was the assistant principal at Paint Branch High School.

After two years, Howard arrived in Calvert County and was vice principal at Calvert High School for two years and at Windy Hill Middle School for one year. In February, he returned to Calvert High as acting principal.

Howard said he is excited to be the principal at Northern, which his sons will eventually attend.

“Working in three different counties . . . has given me a wider scope of how schools operate,” Howard said. “I had the opportunity to work with tremendous principals, outstanding teachers in all those schools.”

The Calvert County Board of Education also has the challenge of replacing former Superintendent Jack Smith. Howard said a leader should be a visionary.

“There’s an educational shift right now,” Howard said. “We need to make sure we have a leader who can manage those things in a manner that is productive.”

The board also will continue its bullying-prevention summits this year. Howard said student input about bullying is crucial if administrators are to be effective in eliminating it. Students must be taught how to manage their emotions and interact with each other, he said.

Regarding reluctant learners, he said, “I never want to see anyone drop out of high school. Our goal is to reach every child. The challenge is coming up with innovative ways to reach those [students] . . . and bring them back into the fold so they can be successful.”

Howard said his teachers encouraged him when he was growing up. Now he wants to do the same with others.

“I truly wake up every day excited to go to work,” Howard said.