Casteel recognizes the promise technology holds in transforming teaching and learning. In her 15 years as superintendent, her leadership has propelled Chandler USD on a sustainable path toward 21st-century learning. Technology is central to the district’s strategic plan, called Journey 2020, creating a “district of choice” through personalized learning. Casteel leads the journey, keenly focused on continuous improvement by means of high-quality assessment, high-quality learning experiences, and effective teaching, while managing costs and increasing productivity. She views technology as the key to innovation and to redesigning how schools do business.
Highly respected by the community, Casteel has forged many strong alliances with businesses and higher-education institutions—most notably with Intel Corp. Through this partnership, Chandler has been able to use Intel’s expertise and funding to help with planning its technology infrastructure and to support its professional development in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Casteel led the drive to develop Chandler’s website and an integrated suite of network-delivered applications known as Chandler’s Information Portal. This allows “one-stop shopping” for administrators, teachers, support staff, and the community. The website is a true content management system, designed to put the tasks of editing and posting content into the hands of those who own the information. All district media resources are available through a single searchable database accessible by staff, students, and the community.
The Assessment Management for Instruction (AMI) system—a segment of the portal—is a realization of Casteel’s vision to give instructional staff access to a wide variety of achievement results, including district benchmark tests, state tests, and teacher-created assessments. The data are hosted in a district-developed data warehouse that connects achievement, professional development for teachers, and demographics in a district-developed student information system. Reports available on teachers’ and administrators’ desktops place data quickly into the hands of those making instructional and resource allocation decisions. High-quality professional development helps instructional staff to be “data wise” and use information in ways that support their planning of student-centered classrooms.
Chandler USD is one of the fastest-growing districts in the state. This district of more than 38,000 students has opened 21 schools since 1998 and now consists of 29 elementary schools, seven junior high schools, four high schools, and two alternative schools. More than 2,000 classrooms in Chandler are equipped with a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, document camera, eInstruction Chalkboard (wireless slate), one to four computers, and a diverse array of software. Casteel is adamant that equipment and software be distributed equitably, with older schools being renovated and outfitted to meet a common district-wide standard, and that teachers participate in professional development before implementing the technology tools. Professional development may be accessed through traditional workshops, podcasts, classroom follow-up sessions, and website information.
All projects are reviewed and analyzed to determine their effectiveness; classroom walkthrough protocols, for instance, evaluate the integration of technology to increase active student engagement.