New school year rings in with new principal

Former vice principal to head Millstone Twp. Middle School


MILLSTONE — The middle school will have a new principal when school starts Sept. 8.

Matthew Howell, the Millstone TownshipMiddle School’s former vice principal, has been appointed to replace former principal Michelle Vella, who left at the end of the school year to take a position in the Cranford school district. The Board of Education voted unanimously at its Aug. 24 meeting based on a recommendation made by Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Donahue.

Donahue had not responded prior to press time regarding questions about the selection process, including how many candidates had been interviewed for the position.

Board Secretary Bernard Biesaida said that Howell would receive an annual salary of $105,000 in the position. The district had been paying Vella an annual salary of $118,427.

Howell, 37, Neptune City, has worked a total of four years in the school district. He spent two years as a remedial language arts teacher before becoming the middle school vice principal two years ago.

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English education from Montclair State University in Montclair, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange. He is married to Shanna, the superintendent of social studies at Marlboro High School in Marlboro.

When asked about the biggest challenges the school faces, Howell said making certain students are getting real world experience and connecting to the global picture.

“It’s a challenge for education in general,” he said, as the world is so dynamic and change is so rapid.

Howell said the school would continue its intensive professional development of staff, as well as continue and grow its REACH (Respect, Environment, Attitude, Courtesy and Honesty) character education program for students.

“The goal is to match the high level of expectations and success for students,” he said.

The new principal praised the staff’s high level of professionalism.

“Our success is dependent on the professionals,” he said. “I’m grateful for the work they do.”

Howell also said he appreciates the support of the Millstone community.

Donahue said that Howell is an intelligent, hardworking, dedicated administrator who truly embraces the concept that children and education come first.

“He understands the importance of focusing on the child and their individual educational needs above all else in a school day,” she said.

According to Donahue, Howell’s strong middle school background — spending his 10-year career in education at the middle school level — distinguished him for the principal position.

“Matt has the firsthand knowledge and understanding of the current middle school initiatives, which are all aimed at continuing the advancement of good teaching and student learning,” she said. “Matt knows the curriculum, the faculty, the staff and twothirds of the student body, which makes for a smooth transition.”

At the meeting, language arts teacher Arlene Agulnick stressed how important it was for the district to appoint a new principal by the beginning of the school year.

“Teachers’ morale is already very low,” she said. “Middle school students need to know administration is set in place. If the year doesn’t start running smoothly, it’s really a catch-up game.”