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Windermere Observer Friday, Apr. 12, 2019 1 week ago

Dr. Julie Helton appointed principal of Castleview Elementary

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The new school’s mascot is the Dragon, and the school colors are royal blue, silver and white.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

Dr. Julie Helton is excited about the possibilities for her new school with the recent selection of the Dragons as the mascot of Castleview Elementary. The newly named principal of the school — currently under construction at 9131 Taborfield Ave., Orlando — has been looking at different renderings to come up with the perfect dragon image to go with the school colors of royal blue, silver and white.

“I think they’re very appropriate for the area,” Helton said of the name and mascot. “I really like that the students and the community have input into everything.”

A survey was held in recent weeks to name the school, which has a view of Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

“Castleview really gives you a good sense of the motif,” Helton said. “We’re already thinking of some murals and things to paint.”

Helton’s days have been filled with appointments. She is working on former partnerships in the community, she has attended area homeowners association meetings to introduce herself to nearby residents, and she is meeting with her PTO board later this week to plan events and activities for the school.

She has hired two teachers, one each from Prairie Lake and Sand Lake elementary schools, and she is interviewing and hiring more for the next month. She wants to bring in a mix of teachers — veterans and those new to teaching — to create an educational melting pot.

“I do want to pull from the schools that I’m relieving because most likely they will have to lose teachers since they are cutting students, and I want to be able to take some of their teachers so our students see some familiar faces,” Helton said.

Construction is on schedule, she said, and a move-in likely will occur in early summer, with plenty of time for teachers to get set up at the end of July for their first school year as Castleview Dragons.

Tours and walk-throughs will be announced so families and students can get familiar with the school.

Castleview’s enrollment is projected at 700, Helton said, with a capacity of 836. It is being built to relieve Bay Lake, Sand Lake and Independence elementaries.

Helton is excited to introduce the house system to students in hopes they will feel like they belong to something.

“The students will be sorted into houses, kind of like the houses in ‘Harry Potter,’ and the houses will earn points together, they will do fun things together, and they will be a part of that together,” she said. “They’ll feel like they’re not just a number.”

There are plans for a PTO, School Advisory Council and Parent Leadership Council to give parents various ways to become involved in their child’s school.

Extracurricular activities will be important, too, she said.

“My philosophy is making sure every child feels connected in multiple ways, not just through academics or relationships with adults; I’m very big on extracurricular activities, as well, because I believe when students find something they really love, that connects them to school in a different way,” Helton said.

Students will be able to choose from clubs focusing on music, art, STEM, math and chess, but more could be added.

“I always tell the teachers and students, if there’s something you want to learn, or as a teacher if there’s an interest that you have, we’ll make it a club,” she said.

 

A LOVE OF TEACHING

Helton said many educators, but especially her fourth-grade teacher, influenced her decision to major in education. In high school, she taught dance classes to younger students, and this made her realize how much she loved helping students learn and grow.

After graduating from the University of Central Florida, Helton became a second-grade teacher at Durrance Elementary. From there, she served as the curriculum resource teacher at West Creek Elementary before spending four years at the district level as a curriculum services administrator and two as multilingual services administrator.

She served as assistant principal at East River High School before becoming principal at Winegard and Eccleston elementaries.

This is Helton’s 21st year with Orange County Public Schools.

She and her husband, Sean, met at UCF and have been married for 20 years. They have lived in Lake Nona since 2003.

“We have two cats, no kids, so I pour my energy into work, into my school,” she said.

Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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