Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Person of the Week

Howard Wardlow Brings Corporate America Experience to North Haven Schools


Howard Wardlow is the new director of finance, operations, and human resources for the North Haven Board of Education. Photo courtesy of Howard Wardlow

Howard Wardlow is the new director of finance, operations, and human resources for the North Haven Board of Education. (Photo courtesy of Howard Wardlow )

After years working in corporate America, Howard Wardlow was looking for a change. He wanted to find a way to use the experience he gained throughout his career to help his community.

Several years ago, he applied for a financial position in a school district. For the position, he needed a specific certification for the position, which Howard attained. Though Howard didn’t get the job, he still had an interest in working in a school system.

“These positions don’t pop up that often,” says Howard, who lives in Stratford. “Earlier this year, a similar position opened up in Stratford and though I was one of finalists, I didn’t get the job.”

The person who was hired in Stratford was Pamela Mangini, who was leaving the position in North Haven. Howard applied for Mangini’s former position and was hired by the North Haven Board of Education as the director of finance, operations, and human resources, beginning July 1.

“It was time to utilize the skills I’ve acquired throughout my career in corporate America in a local environment—being able to help the town and the community by managing finances,” says Howard. “The third time was the charm.”

Howard isn’t the first in his family to work in the education field—in his immediate family, he’s actually the last one to move to a career in a school system. His wife, Kim, works in the fundraising department at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield; his 25-year-old son Brendan graduated from Sacred Heart University and is a building substitute in Stratford; and his 22 year-old daughter recently graduated from Quinnipiac University and just began a job at Immaculate High School in Danbury.

“My wife has been very encouraging and she thought I’d be very good for a position like this with what I’ve accomplished in corporate America,” says Howard. “My family works in different capacities with schools and after watching them, I thought how can I take my finance skills and experience in benefits, HR, and operations and utilize them to help others.”

Howard grew up in Monroe, graduating from St. Joseph’s in Trumbull. He then went to Fairfield University to study accounting, but he then switched to finance. Because he enjoyed it so much, he pursued his MBA from Sacred Heart University. Howard’s wife grew up in Stratford, which is where the couple moved to live near family and raise their children.

When not working, Howard enjoys spending time with his family. His son likes board games and the family often plays from his selection of 200 games in his collection. Howard, who started golfing when he was young, didn’t have as much time to golf when his children were small. His daughter, though, golfed in high school and Howard was able to return to the game. The pair aims to golf together once a week.

At age 55, Howard is happy he has been able to realize his goal of moving into a more community-based position. As he started this summer, Howard has not only had to learn a new position with new systems, moving from a private sphere to a public sphere, but he came in amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He noted that while summer is generally a slower time for schools, COVID-19 has changed everything with a focus on reopening schools.

“It’s been interested watching the superintendent and assistant superintendent preparing for the upcoming school year,” says Howard. “They’ve been working on their plan for six weeks and I’ve tried to get involved and provide input where I can.”

One of the solutions he has helped with is the hiring of full-time building substitutes who will be available to teach in the event of sickness. Howard works closely with Superintendent of Schools Patrick Stirk and Assistant Superintendent of Schools Melinda McKenna and attends Board of Education meetings.

“My job is a little different every day and I don’t know what it will look like a year from now as I’m still learning the systems, processes, and protocols here,” says Howard. “I am also trying to evaluate things as we go asking if the way things are done is the best possible way, the most efficient way.

“For the taxpayers, I’m here to watch and monitor their investment, create efficiencies, and make sure they’re getting a return,” adds Howard. “The return is meeting the goals of the BOE, which I see as the board of directors elected by taxpayers to represent them and oversee the financial investment. Patrick is CEO and it’s my job to make sure we’re meeting and exceeding those goals.”

As he has settled into his new position, he has also had the opportunity to visit each of the schools in the district, meeting the administration at each school. Howard and Stirk toured each of the schools to review the building plans for the upcoming school year.

“It’s a great team to work with and they all seem very dedicated to the town and their students, which makes it easier for me to come on,” says Howard. “We are all trying to do the best for the school, teachers, students, nurses, and everyone involved. We are asking how we make that environment as safe as possible.”

Howard is enjoying his new position so far. He is counting on being able to apply the skills he has acquired throughout his career in order to benefit the community.

“The combination of my career experiences have prepared me for this position,” says Howard. “It’s off to a good start. I enjoy the team here and it’s been a good change for me.”

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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