Among the nearly 1,900 students and 180 staff members, there’s one smile that is always brighter than the others – that of Dr. Sonny Arnel. The Francis Howell Central (FHC) High School principal is known for his magnetic smile, but he’s also known for so much more – his compassion for students and staff, his attention to the improvement of his school, and his ability to motivate teachers and students to give their best. Because of these attributes, and perhaps also because of that smile, Dr. Arnel was recently named the St. Louis Association of Secondary School Principals (SASSP) High School Principal of the Year.
“I am honored to receive this recognition. However, I view it as an award for all of Spartan Nation,” said Dr. Arnel. “It is because I serve such a terrific community, work alongside AWESOME professionals, and get to work with dynamic, inspirational students that I am able to earn this recognition! They all allow me to love my job and make it easy to be passionate about the work we do every day!”
Dr. Arnel, the devoted husband and father of two daughters, has spent the last 23 years as an educator in the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) and Rockwood School District, 17 of which he spent as an administrator. Prior to working in administration, Dr. Arnel’s began his career at Francis Howell North High School, as a coach and teacher. As a para-educator, he aided students with disabilities, adapting curricula to individual learning styles. He also taught social studies in the traditional setting, finding ways to reach students on multiple learning levels. After a couple years, Dr. Arnel knew he could help not just one classroom, but them all.
In the past ten years as principal of FHC, Dr. Arnel has been the leader of one of the largest high schools in the state of Missouri. And leadership has become a hallmark of his career.
Whether it’s his implementation of a teacher performance evaluation program (in a collaborative format) that allows faculty and administrators to aim toward a more professional working and learning environment, or serving on building or District committees, Dr. Arnel has been a leader in his field. His wide-ranging experience as a leader lends to his ability to work collaboratively with the school’s National Education Association (NEA) representatives to develop a fair and equitable investigation process that allows for faculty and staff to be treated with dignity and ensure a safe environment for students at the same time. His attention to data and self-improvement are testaments to his leadership, as well.
Dr. Arnel’s energetic, positive attitude and his extensive leadership experience are two main reasons he was bestowed this esteemed accomplishment. Winners will be recognized at the SASSP Banquet on April 26, 2017. He is the first high school principal from FHSD to win this award; however FHSD Chief Academic Officer Nicole Whitesell won in 2011 while she was principal at McCluer High.