Although new principal is spending his days at a Matawan school until his contract there expires in a few weeks, he's been making his way to each afternoon to ensure everything is in place for the first day of school.
"This is just an absolute fit," he says of his decision to bow out of a contract he signed in May to serve as assistant principal at in Matawan and head to Oceanport instead. "It was really a no-brainer," he says.
Matt Howell, who comes to Oceanport after serving as principal at Lillian Drive Elementary School in Hazlet for two years, says it's his "strong middle school background" that makes him a right fit for the job. He was formally hired by the Oceanport Board of Education at its July 19 meeting.
So while he waits out the remainder of his contract's terms of separation, which expires on Sept. 17, Howell is busy working the late shift in Oceanport and getting schedules in place for teachers and students.
When he's not shuttling between the two schools, Howell — who's married to an educator and lives in Neptune City — says he spends his spare time surfing, working out and reading — mostly historical fiction.
He feels strongly that keeping the line of communication open with parents is important and plans to have an "open door policy" once he gets to Oceanport. Howell is also thinking about using the school's website and tools such as e-mail blasts and monthly newsletters to keep parents up to date on what's going on at Maple Place.
"Something I aspire to do is make sure I have a strong connection with students," he says. "I just don't know how long it's going to take me to learn all their names."
To get started, the district will hold an ice cream social on Tuesday, Aug. 28 at Maple Place School as an informal gathering for parents and students to meet their new principal.
"The start of the school year is exciting," he says. "That sense of newness that comes every year — it's never the same."
And while he's not looking to make any major changes right off the bat, Howell says he's looking forward to bringing his own approach to the school and building on the "great work" of his predecessor, Cory Radisch.
"I'm very excited about sinking my teeth in here," Howell says.