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Meet Our Newest Principals

The Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS) has named 14 new principals for the 2013-2014 school year.

“We are fortunate to welcome these leaders into new roles, and we are confident that we’ve again found the best candidates to continue our work of delivering high quality education that meets the needs of every student in JPPSS,” said Superintendent Dr. James Meza.

KarinaCastilloKarina Castillo – Harold Keller Elementary School

Karina Castillo, a native New Orleanian whose professional career has been in Houston, is happy to be home and serving as the new principal of Keller Elementary School.

For the past eight years, she’s worked in the Houston public schools as an elementary school teacher, a middle school teacher and a high school assistant principal.

“I’m very excited to work with the elementary students,” Castillo said. “I’ve always said that my heart is in the elementary school because we can make a big impact on our students.”

Her goal is to increase student achievement by challenging teachers to collaborate, share best practices and to do what is best for students.

“I want to be an instructional leader and work with teachers,” she said. “I want to be someone who serves.”

Castillo will serve as a mentor to her students. She wants them to know that there is someone on campus that they can turn to for help.

Debbie Dantin – Fisher Middle/High SchoolDebbieDantin

After serving as the assistant principal for the past two years, Debbie Dantin has been named principal of Fisher Middle/High School.

Dantin began in JPPSS as a kindergarten student and is a proud graduate of John Ehret High School. She started her teaching career at Pittman Elementary School, moving to the division of instruction, followed by stints at Solis Elementary and Pitre Elementary. Her first leadership position was as the assistant principal at St. Ville and from there she moved to Fisher.

She loves being at Fisher because of its unique community.

“It’s a wonderful place to be because the community supports the school with academics and athletics, fundraising, and even clean up,” Dantin said.

The community attends Friday night football even if they don’t have kids in school, says Dantin. And last year after Hurricane Isaac, Dantin was pleased to see over 100 volunteers who came to clean the school without even being asked.

As principal, she is excited to implement a new program through Mass Insight called the Advanced Placement (AP) Initiative, which will be aligned with the common core standards to provide a more rigorous curriculum. The goal is to have every student take at least one AP course before they graduate.

The school will also partner with the Achievement Network, which gives middle school teachers diagnostic information to help them plan for improved instruction and better meet the needs of the students.

Dantin says she has always wanted to be a principal, but decided to wait because she had two young children.

“Now is the perfect time,” she said. “My children are older, so I feel like I have more time to dedicate to the school. Being a principal is a 24 hour, seven day a week job.”

Chuck DiLauro – Adams Middle SchoolChuckDiLauro

When Chuck DiLauro returned to Cleveland after finishing school, jobs were hard to come by, but he learned about a program called Positive Education which helped students who did not succeed in the public school system. Inspired by this program, DiLauro went back to school and got licensed to teach special education, starting his career in education.

Before arriving in Jefferson Parish to lead Adams Middle School, DiLauro most recently served as the principal of Hudson Middle School in Hudson, Ohio.

“I love the middle school learner,” he said. “They come in wet behind the ears sixth graders, and we get to watch them grow both physically and emotionally.”

DiLauro believes that middle school students, while they try to be more independent, still need an adult role model.

“It’s an important age to build those positive assets in kids.”

He plans to implement a program called Response to Intervention at Adams that uses scientifically-based intervention strategies. It helps teachers pinpoint where students are struggling and use data to drive instruction.

In addition to academic programs, DiLauro will introduce programs in which students can actually go out into the community and give back.

He also stresses the importance of parental involvement.

“Parents need to feel welcomed in the school,” he said. “The more that parents are involved in the school, the more that their kids will have a better buy in.”

He says it’s important for both students and staff to feel good when they come to school.

“If you have a good positive climate in the building, it trickles down to the students and I want to be a facilitator of that.”

SavinaJasper2Savina Jasper – Woodmere Elementary School

Savina Jasper knows that she has a challenge leading Woodmere Elementary School and she’s up to the task.

Jasper has eight years of experience in JPPSS in elementary and middle schools including in a K-8 setting, but her heart belongs to the elementary students.

“I love working with the babies,” she said. “I love the look on their faces when they walk through the door. They are excited to walk into the campus and see their principal and their teachers.”

Jasper has been studying the data from Woodmere and knows that the school must implement different interventions to help students move and excel.

“The challenge that I see at Woodmere is to change the culture and get the staff to use data to drive instruction and help our kids.”

As principal, she won’t just concentrate on academics. Jasper wants to focus more on positive reinforcement, so she will implement a strong Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, taking the time every week to focus on the good things that the students are doing.

In addition, she plans to have parents and community involved in the school.

“Our doors are open. I can’t do it by myself. I need their support and I need them to know what is going on in the school.”

Karla Russo – Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies

Karla Russo grew up in a family of educators, but didn’t consider entering the field until college.

“When I became a teacher and realized how much I love the instructional process, I wanted to share that passion as a school leader.”

Russo has been selected as the principal for Haynes Academy for Advanced Studies. She’s been a part of JPPSS for nine years teaching at Higgins and Thomas Jefferson, working in the department of instruction, and most recently was the assistant principal at Ruppel Academy.

She loves working with middle school students because they are transitioning from child to teenager and she gets to be a part of that process. She enjoys working with high school students because they are starting to develop their personalities and becoming adults.

Her style as principal will be a collaborative one.

“I really appreciate all of the expertise that teachers are able to bring to their content area and I respect that expertise.”

Other new principal appointments include:

Scott Deemer – Gretna Middle School, Audrey Easley – Bissonet Elementary School,  Preston Gassery – Cuillier Career Center, Erika Mann – Westbank Community School, Jewel Jackson – Alice Birney Elementary, Tiffani LeBouef -Airline Park for Advanced Studies, Mark Perry – Helen Cox High School, Wesley Taylor – Vic A. Pitre Elementary School and Tamara Warner – Hart Elementary.

In addition, the district has named Cristin Bailey Menyweather as the principal of Cherbonnier/Rillieux Elementary and Vanessa Brown-Lewis as the principal of West Jefferson High School. Both served as acting principals of their respective schools during this past school year.