The Birmingham School Board has tapped Dr. Kelley Castlin-Gucatan to lead the city’s school system, following the resignation last fall of Dr. Craig Witherspoon. Castlin-Gucatan, who recently served as interim superintendent of schools in Bibb County Georgia, begins work in Birmingham on July 1.
Castlin-Gucatan grew up in Hueytown and attended undergraduate school in Nashville at Tennessee State University. She says coming back home is a special opportunity.
“Being able to return home, to be able to give back to a community that has given so much to me and to be able to be part of something great — this is really special,” she says. “Birmingham, in spite of its challenges is on the move for greatness. I want to be part of that. I want to be a part of working alongside our team to really see some great things happening — not only in our school district, but in the community.”
The newly appointed superintendent says she is impressed by what she has learned about programs in place including initiatives to increase Birmingham’s graduation rate and recover potential dropouts and direct them toward high school graduation.
“To hear now that today, those students, over 100 of them, have now graduated — that says to me that in spite of our challenges we are doing the best that we can for kids,” she says.
As superintendent, she wants to boost overall academic achievement and enlist the support of community groups to help.
“I think it’s important for us to work with the business community, local universities and the faith-based groups to see how we can best support the school system and ultimately make sure that all of our students achieve,” she says. “It’s important to me that I am in classrooms, working along side teachers and school administrators to make sure that we are doing everything possible to support teachers in the work that needs to be done for our students.”
Castlin-Gucatan has been a classroom teacher, principal, and school system administrator, but her appointment in Birmingham is her first-time role as school superintendent. She acknowledges potential challenges, but says those challenges can also be opportunities.
Her plan is to re-acquaint herself with the city while also getting to know the concerns of the students, their parents and teachers.
The new superintendent will have to fill several key positions in her administration that currently are filled with interim appointments.
“It is an opportunity to assemble a team. As part of that process, I am looking into what we need in terms of school district leadership,” she says. “Part of the work I am doing now is gathering information about those specific roles, and from there seeing what needs to be done to get the right people in those roles.”