August 2019

Get to Know the Leadership of Arkansas’ Six Largest Private Schools


by Dustin Jayroe

Little Rock Christian Academy
Grade Levels: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 1,423
Leadership: Dr. Gary Arnold
Title: President and Head of School
Education: B.A., Wheaton College; M.A., Wheaton College; Ed.D, National-Louis University (IL)

Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!); Raised my family in the Chicagoland suburbs and in 2007, moved to Little Rock (Go Razorbacks!) from Madison, Wisc. (Go Badgers! No, I take that back.)

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them? 

Since religious and independent schools are not funded by taxes, keeping a high-quality program available to families of diverse socio-economic backgrounds is always a challenge. We seek to maximize tuition assistance for families in need through the generosity of other mission-minded families. Equally difficult is paying our professional teachers a salary they deserve. The largest percentage of school tuition is directed to the heart of our school, our faculty and staff.

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

We constantly refer to the “Golden Triangle” — the home, the church and the school — working together, on the same page and for the sake of the wholeness of the child. When faith and intellect can flourish at the same time, in the same place, good things happen. Put another way, as the British thinker John Ruskin is famous for saying, “When love and skill mingle, expect a masterpiece.”


Pulaski Academy
Grade Levels: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 1,345
Leadership: Matt Walsh
Title: President and Head of School
Education: B.S., Georgetown University; M.A., Middlebury College
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): West Hartford, Conn. Moved to Arkansas from Georgia in 2012. 

What are some challenges your school faces and how are you overcoming them?

In a competitive market place, the biggest challenge is to strike the right balance between timeless methods that have always worked in schools and seeking new and progressive approaches that are of intrinsic worth to our students and that also enhance our value proposition to current and prospective families. Communication about student progress (both internally among colleagues and outwardly to parents) for example, has always been important. Using technology and other methods, we are looking at ways to continue to strengthen our efforts in that regard. 

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

PA has always done a wonderful job of preparing our students for college and for life. What makes us special is that we do so by meeting students where they are and by helping them to get to the next level, whatever that may be for them. We take a “growth mindset” approach to our work, wherein students, faculty, and staff are all encouraged to see themselves and their abilities (and those of others) as capable of enhancement and improvement. The “proof is in the pudding,” as they say, and our record of success in students finding the right college for them and going on to successful pursuits is unparallelled. I would also say that due in part to our non-sectarian identity and in part to our unique school culture, PA excels in warmly welcoming students and families of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.



Shiloh Christian School
Grade Levels: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: Around 1,000
Leadership: Ben Mayes
Title: Acting President

Shiloh Christian School, serving pre-K through 12th grade in Springdale, was not able to participate in this year’s survey. 



Central Arkansas Christian Schools
Grade Levels: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 800
Leadership: Dr. Carter Lambert
Title: President
Education: B.A. and M.Ed., Harding University; Ph.D., Texas A&M University
Hometown: Maumelle

What attracted you to your career? 

Initially, I planned on attending law school but was influenced to consider education by key mentors in my life. As a Christian, I wanted to be involved in a profession that provided me with the opportunity to interact and positively influence young people on a daily basis. 

What school accomplishments make you most proud?

The lives of our graduates are what we are most proud of. We have our exemplars: A CAC graduate was awarded the Disney Spirit Award as college football’s most inspirational player. A CAC junior received the inaugural Arkansas-Democrat Gazette Walter Hussman Community Award for community service as a high-school student athlete. In 2016, a CAC graduate finished his residency as a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic and moved his wife, a CAC graduate, and family to Bomet, Kenya, to work and serve at Tenwek Hospital, one of the largest mission hospitals in Africa. However, we are just as proud of the everyday servant leadership of our graduates in their families, churches, workplaces and communities. 


Episcopal Collegiate School
Grade Levels: Pre-K through 12
Enrollment: 780
Leadership: Dr. David B. Perkinson
Title: Head of School
Education: B.A., St. Andrews Presbyterian College; M.A, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University
Hometown (and when you moved to Arkansas): Born in Charlotte and moved to Little Rock after stints at independent schools across the southeast in Chattanooga; Charlotte; Spartanburg, S.C.; and Baton Rouge.  

What’s something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?

In our 20-year history, we have won 35 state championships and 25 conference and regional championships in a variety of sports. Ninety percent of our students participate in some form of visual and performing arts. Students of color make up more than 20 percent of our student body. We award more than $1.4 million a year to families who could not afford to send their child to Episcopal otherwise, and our tuition assistance program offers a range of awards, with the average award being around 67 percent of tuition.

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

I recommend our school to families as a place where students can become the best version of themselves. We work to know each student well, giving us the opportunity to challenge them appropriately, equip them effectively and support them unconditionally. We challenge them to become honorable, engaged leaders with a heart for others. We provide an environment in which they feel safe to take healthy risks and learn from failure. We provide unique opportunities for students to be fully engaged in the life of the school academically, athletically, artistically and in service.  


Catholic High School for Boys
Grade Levels: 9-12
Enrollment: 720
Leadership: Steve Straessle
Title: Principal
Education: B.A. and M.S.E., University of Arkansas
Hometown: Born and raised in Little Rock


What’s something others would be surprised to know about you or your school?

Others might be surprised to learn that Catholic High has one of the strongest high school alumni networks in the nation. We host heavily attended alumni gatherings in Dallas; Washington, D.C.; Memphis; Northwest Arkansas; St. Louis; and, of course, Little Rock. Our alumni office helps with college connections, job searches, and highlighting alumni-owned businesses. It’s a very strong network.

Why would you recommend your school to prospective students and their parents?

I would recommend Catholic High to prospective parents and students for a number of reasons, but the most important is that we specialize in the unique aspects of educating a strong socioeconomic cross section of teenage boys. We recognize the changing aspects of our culture while holding fast to the unchanging characteristics that make a person strong. We send boys to Ivy League schools, to noted liberal arts schools, to the finest public universities and honor schools. We also send them straight to the military and the workforce. But, every boy who leaves Catholic High is in possession of an education that allows him to not just live his life – but to thrive in his life.  Thriving is life experienced at its fullest and the roots of that can be found in our classrooms and hallways. 

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