Principal Karen Barnes

Karen Barnes is an award winning principal, whose school has also been the recipient of many valuable partnerships under her lead. Principal Barnes was most recently awarded the National Distinguished Principal Award from the state of Maryland. Barnes is also an America Achieves Teacher and Principal Fellow. Her career in educational leadership spans middle and high schools, community college and university levels.

This month, during the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Women of Color Conference, Barnes will be receiving the Women of Color K12 Promotion of Education Award. “I look forward to attending the 20th Anniversary of the Women of Color Conference as it will afford me the opportunity to meet and confer with many women who are excelling in the various fields of study that we are introducing our students to”, Barnes explains.

At the Southwest Academy Magnet School for Science and Engineering, Barnes says her students focus on a variety of science, math and technology experiences. Additionally, they work on STEM, (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The school prides itself on creating learning opportunities that introduce our students to a variety of science, math, and technology experiences. Some of the activities offered at Southwest Academy include:

  • WINGS (Women Instruction and Nurturing Girls in STEM), a program we developed to increase female students’ interest and enrollment in our school’s magnet program.
  • Cool Women: Hot Jobs, a STEM career fair for our female students which is offered annually during Women’s History Month.
  • iReady Summer Camp for new magnet entrants.
  • MESA After School Program
  • Math Counts After School Program
  • Robotics Club
  • MakerSpace After School Program
  • Project Lead the Way
  • Sigma Beta Saturday STEM Club sponsored by the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
  • Chess Club
  • Maryland STEM Festival Site
  • Monarch Butterfly Project Partnership between Spanish World language Staff and AVID Staff

WINGS was founded by Barnes, in response to increasing the number of female professionals in STEM careers beginning with increasing the enrollment in the middle school’s science and engineering magnet program.

For the past year, Southwest Academy has been partnering with Ms. Karen Harper of the Department of Defense (DoD). During that time, Barnes shares that her school has been the recipient of valuable resources and partnerships from the DoD.

Barnes explains how successful the program has been, as well as some places for improvement.

“Our magnet applications have quadrupled over the last three years and as a result, we have expanded partnerships with various organizations. Additionally STEM enrichment after school activities have tripled with a marked increase in female participants.”

Southwest Academy is one of only two schools in their district selected as sites for the State of Maryland STEM Festival this year. Another goal Barnes says the school has is to increase the number of students who gain entry into our district’s magnet high school. ‘Each year, we increase’, Barnes shares.

She says there are two areas of improvement identified for the 2015-16 school year. One is to increase parental workshops and involvement in their STEM programs. The second is to hopefully secure additional field trip opportunities for the students at Academy Magnet School.


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