By: Maria Alejandra Pulgar.
Susie Castillo is a well-known name in Doral, especially by those who have lived in the area for more than 10 years. Her commitment to the community and moreover to public education is a family value. “For me, to serve in the Public Schools System is part of who I am; educating children is so sacred, so important, that I have to be there, to contribute, to serve as someone who understands what being a mother and a school system employee means. For me it is not a political position but a position to help children”.
She began her career on the Miami-Dade Public Schools System as administrative assistant to the Principal of the school she attended as a child; later she worked for Region IV, then with the School Superintendent, the highest level of administration for the school system and after that spent 5 years working with the School Board Member for District 5, the same district she now aspires to represent; “It is a district I know very well. It includes Doral, Miami Springs, and portions of Hialeah, Sweetwater, Fountainblue; also the area of Belen and a portion of unincorporated Miami.”
Her Public Administration experience and knowledge of the Doral area were very important when she was hired to work as Assistant to the Mayor of Doral, position she has held for 8 years. That experience has given her a broad experience on how to deal with the issues of the School Board as well as the issues of the City, and how both entities work together to solve them in order to provide the best solution for all.
Given the opportunity, Susie is always willing to share her knowledge on how the Miami-Dade Public School Board works and relates to the State and Local authorities and government, something that can be confusing, especially on a community where many residents are new to the country and want to learn how to navigate the different instances related to their children’s education. Here we present a summary of her answers to several of these questions from Doral residents.
DFJ: What are School Regions, Feeder Patterns and School Districts?
School Regions are sets of schools within an area. “Those sets of schools have a director that works along with the principals on managing the budget for the schools and coordinating the programs that come from the district. Also assist on solving any issue that might arise in the schools.” On the other hand, Feeder Patterns are the group of schools from different levels that provide the students for a High School within an area, whereas “School Districts depend on the representation of population within the district. All School District Commissioners have to represent the same amount of people.” All schools in a district are not necessarily within the same Feeder Pattern or School Regions.
DFJ: Who is the entity in charge of the School Board? What is the job of a School Board member?
The Miami-Dade School Board is an organization that is separate from the Miami-Dade County, the city administration. The Mayor and his team handle the administration of the county public operation: port, airport, garbage, etc. in all areas that are not independent municipalities like Doral.
The School Board is not under Miami Dade County but the State of Florida. They have their own commissioners, make their own decisions, manage public schools and administer the funds awarded by the State for education. Among the public schools, there are also charter schools, that receive state funding via the Miami-Dade School Board but at this time are controlled by their own Board. The School Board only handles Public Schools in Miami-Dade County. So the School Board is not a department of the County, but reports directly to Tallahassee. And the Commissioners of the School Board manage all functions and the Public Schools budget.
DFJ: How are school needs detected and processed?
When a municipality detects there is a need for a school, they submit the application to the school board district commissioner who will act as bridge between the city and the interest of the people he or she represents and they will work together to make decisions that address that request.
There is where Susie’s experience as assistant to the Mayor of Doral, her community involvement through the PTSA and her deep knowledge of the School Board procedures gives her an excellent added value to perform dutifully the position of District 5 County Commissioner she is aspiring to. “It is essential that the Commissioners are knowledgeable people, who understand the process and start right away to take productive actions that benefit the citizens they represent”.
DFJ: What will be your priority once elected School Board Commissioner?
“My priority is to listen to the people, to identify their needs. I love interacting with people. I understand much of what is happening on all of Doral therefore I want to get closer to the surrounding areas and get to know them better too. My priority is to listen to people and identify their needs to support them effectively”
Elections for School Board Commissioners will be on August 14, not in November along with the City elections. Susie Castillo reminds us before concluding that “It is important that all voters participate this August 14th, and show their support to the Miami-Dade Public Schools System”. Not for nothing it is the body that regulates the most important organization in the life of the children in this community. Citizens are responsible for placing qualified personnel in these key positions to defend and preserve the quality of public education in this District and in the State.