Former Winter Park High School teacher, athletic director Matt Arnold returns as the new principal of the high school.
Winter Park High School has a new principal at the helm – and it’s a familiar face.
The home of the Winter Park Wildcats began a new chapter on Thursday, May 31 as now-former Apopka High School principal Matt Arnold took up the mantle as the new principal of Winter Park High School.
The change in leadership is a result of longtime principal Tim Smith accepting a promotion from Orange County Public Schools to become an executive area director – a role in which he’ll be reporting to the chief of high schools, working with principals, and supporting high schools within the district.
Arnold brings a wealth of experience in the education field, including a period of time from 1998 to 2004 at Winter Park High School where he served as a teacher, a coach for several sports, the athletic director and the dean of discipline.
It’s exciting for Arnold to be back at Winter Park High School, he said.
“I know what an awesome school this is,” Arnold said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was just something I couldn’t turn down.”
Arnold first began his career at Gateway High School in Osceola County in 1993. He went on to become a math teacher and coach at Poinciana High School for four years before going to Brevard County and working at Merritt Island High School.
Arnold then spent time at Winter Park High School before taking on leadership roles at the Silver Star Center in Orlando, University High School, Evans High School, Southwest Middle School and finally Apopka High School.
Winter Park High School parents and teachers had a chance to meet Arnold and wish Smith well at a meet-and-greet event on Friday, June 1.
Arnold told a small audience of parents, faculty and students that he’s already seen many familiar faces from his days at Winter Park High School.
“I’m excited to be here and I’m excited about the transition because I already know about a fourth of the staff,” Arnold said. “I know Tim Smith really well and he’s going to be in the area and can be a resource for me to help me with background knowledge moving forward.”
“I think that will help pave the way for a smooth transition.”
The new principal said his first goal is to continue the school’s successful legacy in academics, arts and athletics.
“(I want) first of all to continue the level of excellence here, because I know the tradition of Winter Park High School,” Arnold said. “Having this opportunity just present itself yesterday afternoon, I’ve got a little planning to do.”
Once a Wildcat, Always a Wildcat
Smith said the promotion to become an executive area director brings mixed emotions: excitement for his new job, but the tough feeling of having to say goodbye.
The transition brings Smith’s eight years as the Winter Park High School Principal to an end –
it was the longest ongoing tenure for a high school principal in all of Orange County Public Schools.
“Winter Park has been such a special part of my life and I’ve been really honored and grateful to be the principal,” Smith said. “It’s an incredible community and it’s just been such a special thing to work with our kids and the staff is incredible.”
“It’s really a close-knit school. That Winter Park family is a great one, so it’s tough to say goodbye. It’s a piece of my heart.”
But Smith also looks forward to making a broader impact with his new role.
“I want to do the best that I can for students and staff members at our various high schools,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can have lots of good things happening for our kids. If I can support that, that’s something that excites me.”
Smith said his fondest memory at Winter Park High School is that special moment at the end of every school year – where the seniors begin a new chapter in their own lives.
“One of my favorite memories is an annual memory, and that’s when I’m the lucky guy to be the one who shakes the hand of our graduating seniors on stage,” Smith said. “It’s just an incredible experience to be that guy. I’m the lucky guy to be the last one to congratulate them as they walk off the stage into their future. It is a heartwarming experience to do that. It’s just great – I will never forget that.”