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Allison Castellano

Allison Castellano

Allison, give our readers a brief intro about what you do and how you got started.

I’m the principal at Spanish River Community High School.  As a graduate and former teacher at Spanish River High School, I’m a Shark at heart. Even my children attended Spanish River, so for me it’s a place I call home.

I’ve been part of the South Florida school system since 1992, where I first started teaching at Plantation Middle School in Broward County.  From there I went to Nova Center, returned to Spanish River High as a math teacher, then eventually Atlantic High School, and then continued through different schools, teaching math and serving as an Assistant Principal.

My first job as a principal was at Banyan Creek Elementary School in 2015.  After that I transitioned to Omni Middle School, before finally coming to Spanish River in 2019.

Because my mom was a principal, I knew that I wanted a continued higher education with the focus to be in leadership.

I have my associate degree from University of Florida and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Florida Atlantic University. I’m on my path to also attain my Doctorate degree from Lynn University.  

Soon to be Dr. Castellano, Spanish River will always be special to me.  Spanish River has always been my dream school, so I’m very grateful to be the principal at this school now and hope to stay here for a long time. 

What have been your biggest challenge(s) so far?

The biggest challenge for me has been post Covid with student motivation, being willing to come to school, and an increase in absences.  Since Covid, there has also been a challenge in hiring and keeping teachers.  Finding teachers coming out of colleges, in some cases they understand it’s going to be really hard to make a living.  That’s something that I think we need to look at and change, because we need quality teachers.  I’ve been blessed in the schools that I worked in, all having phenomenal teachers, but I realize how it could be a challenge in the school systems.

What has been one of your greatest contributions to the schools you have worked in?

I’ve had the opportunity to work hand in hand with the school district and thankfully to our taxpayers, we’ve been able to increase our student population due to the campus and the improvements in the campus and facilities.

I’m proud of the work that I’ve put in with my team, adding to the culture and the school spirit around campus by wrapping storefronts with school spirit and other improvements.  I want the kids to go to school somewhere where they’re proud.  It’s nice that our school has been painted and upgraded with the help of the taxpayers.   Kids are proud that this is their school.

Recently I’m most proud that we were able to award over 220 students with their Cambridge diploma.   That has grown from 0 my first year here.  We’ve always been a high performing school, offering a lot of accelerated coursework but we weren’t offering a specialized diploma in 2019.  Now, we’re awarding over 220 students with this and are on track to have over 400 next year.  What the Cambridge diploma means, is that the kids that meet the necessary requirements, get to go to college for free in the state of Florida by automatically being eligible to receive the full Bright Futures Scholarship.  All these kids are getting the opportunity to go to college, where previously this opportunity was not available.  We’re making an incredible impact by giving children these opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have.  

How do you build a positive school culture or climate? 

Having high expectations, keeping the campus clean, and having pride in our school.  We’ve made improvements not only to the campus, but also to the programs and activities that are offered to the kids.  Kids are proud to call Spanish River their home.  

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully still with Spanish River.

I would like, however, to also begin teaching as an adjunct some classes in the community either at FAU or Lynn University, preparing future principal leaders, people that want to be assistant principals and principals.  I would like to get involved and teach at the college level, which is one of the reasons that I got my Doctorate so that I would the opportunity to do that.  I always want to be around kids so I wouldn’t want to leave here to do that, but it would be nice to make more of an impact and help in all aspects of education.

It's something I’m very passionate about.

For me what I do here at Spanish River, it doesn’t feel like work because of my passion and enjoyment in doing what I do.  It comes as a labor of love because everybody in my family graduated from this school.  I spend more time here than I spend at my house.  My husband even helps me with special projects and helps clean up the campus.   It’s a very special school community and I really enjoy and am blessed to be a part of it.

What do you think is most unique about the city/population of Boca Raton and working with this community?

I think what makes this community special is that it’s grown and has become much more diverse.  And yet even with the growth and being a big community, people really care about their family’s education and its importance.   Seeing the dedication to education and higher quality of live, setting children as a high priority in this community, is incredibly special.

What makes this area special is that it’s a city full of opportunities.  Children can join a band, go into sports, go to amazing schools, aspire to greatness, and make their dreams come true.

Boca sometimes gets a bad reputation for being spoiled but I don't see that here. Instead, I see it different as a community with high expectations for their children and others. Students have a lot of pressure to take school seriously and go to the best colleges and universities. Students in this county and community have choices giving them the opportunity to go to excellent schools and for that many of my students are thankful.

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