Stillwater Public Schools names new high school principal and CFO

Story provided by Stillwater Public Schools

At a June 30 special meeting, the Stillwater Board of Education approved the hiring of Walter Howell as head principal for Stillwater High School and Michael Arnold as Chief Financial Officer for the district.

Howell first joined the district in 2006 and has served the district in several roles. He was the assistant principal at the junior high for seven years, also serving as activities director for junior high sports for five of those years. He served for a year as the assessment and accountability director at SHS and director of secondary ed for four years, as well as the district testing director for one year. Howell has spent the last five years as assistant principal at SHS. Prior to joining the district he was principal at Mulhall-Orlando High School for two years and taught math for eight years at Yale.

“I’m thrilled to receive this honor,” says Howell. “I honestly believe Stillwater High School is one of the finest high schools in the state. Ever since I came to Stillwater, this is the position I’ve watched and aspired to. I’ve worked with a lot of great people since I was first hired here. I’ve learned so much from countless spectacular teachers and administrators. Working side by side with great leaders like Dr. Washington, Trent Swanson, Frank McClain, and Uwe Gordon has greatly influenced me as a school leader.”

Howell says he attributes a lot of the school’s greatness to the culture there. “Students, teachers, staff, parents, they all work together so well to make this place so great for our students,” he says. “I hope to preserve that culture. It’s very diverse, and wonderful. That’s definitely a strength of SHS; it’s so inclusive. Whether it’s music, theatre, the arts, career tech, athletics, or a club, there’s a place for everyone.” 

The new principal says he’s proud to have been a small part of the school’s academic successes to date and looks forward to new responsibilities in that area. “We achieve at a very high level, and there are a lot of ways to judge academic success such as ACT scores, National Merit Scholars, scholarship money, and one of the lowest college remediation rates in the state. SHS is truly the place where the efforts of all SPS employees are seen in the achievements of our students.”

“But what really fills my heart is how well we do in helping every student succeed, however that looks for that individual,” he says. “When a student that was at risk of falling through the cracks and heading down a darker path finds me years later, tells me how they are doing, maybe introduces me to their family, and says they owe that success to their time at our school, that’s something every educator relishes.”

A Del City High School graduate, Howell holds a secondary mathematics education degree from Oklahoma State University, where he also obtained his Masters of Educational Administration. He has taught in an adjunct capacity at OSU several times and is currently pursuing his doctorate.

In his spare time, Howell enjoys playing golf, spending time with family and friends. Together with wife, Kim, a second grade teacher at Westwood, he has two children, Jackson, a senior at OSU, and Grace, a freshman at the junior high. 

The district’s new Chief Financial Officer Michael Arnold comes to the district following a career in Montana. He has extensive business experience, having owned his own businesses, worked in the insurance and banking industries, and held positions in three public school districts in Montana; Malta, Havre, and Billings. During his time in Billings, he served as CFO managing a budget of approximately $180 million in a district of nearly 18,000 students.

“I’ve been looking for something like this,” says Arnold. “I’m excited to be able to bring my experience in industry and schools to help SPS.” He says he enjoys using the tools that are available to school finance personnel to manage and explain education budgets.

“With schools, budgets are always tight,” says Arnold. “Working with the principals, the admins, laying out the needs, making a plan really motivates me. Having them lay out potential use of funds, how those expenditures will benefit the educational mission of the district, is key. I like the challenge of managing those priorities and planning and building around needs to get a budget that will accomplish, not everything you’d like to, but as much as you can as best you can.” Arnold says, “Ultimately what we do financially needs to be reflected in the kids and their academic progress.”

He says he works to use available resources and knowledge, not just to manage a budget, but to expand one. “Special funding programs, grants, those sorts of funds. I want to make sure the district is accessing all the money that may be available, and that the community trusts that that money is being well spent. It’s important that we explain transparently how money is being spent to the public and board members, and not just charts and tables on a page.”

“I know Stillwater has a bond election coming up in 2023,” says Arnold. “In Billings, we recently had a $120 million bond to build two new middle schools and improve upon 18 of the elementary schools. I’m happy to say we passed that bond. Providing information to the public and being detailed about what those dollars were going to be used for was so important.” 

A graduate of Hinsdale High School in Hinsdale, Montana, Arnold obtained his business degree from Montana State University – Northern. In his spare time, Arnold, the father of two adult children, enjoys spending time with his family and maintaining a few head of horses. “Growing up on a ranch in Montana, I try to keep ties to that farming and ranching background,” he says.

“I’m excited about these hires,” says Superintendent Uwe Gordon.

“Mr. Howell student taught at the Junior High while I was there, and it’s been a pleasure to see him grow as a professional,” he says. “I have a great deal of respect for him as an educator and a human being. He’s an excellent leader, and I feel I’m leaving the high school in good hands.”

Of the CFO, Gordon says, “Mr. Arnold brings a lot of experience, at a larger district, from which we can benefit. I also love his attitude about teaching people about the finance side of education.”

Howell and Arnold begin their new duties in mid July.