09:38 AM

Ed.D alumna Candice Castillo accepts dream-team role at NM Public Education Department

Candice Castillo Ed.D '22Candice Castillo Ed.D ’22 joins the New Mexico Public Education Department leadership team as part of what the recently confirmed Education Secretary Arsenio Romero calls his “personal dream team,” also “brilliant and dynamic.” Castillo will take on the position of Deputy Secretary of Identity, Equity and Transformation.

The bilingual (in English and Spanish), first-generation college graduate leaves her post as Executive Officer of Student Support Services at the Houston Independent School District, where she has been responsible for districtwide oversight and strategic leadership of the district’s student support services.

Castillo described her new role.

“As Deputy Secretary of Identity, Equity and Transformation, I will be working at the Cabinet level of the New Mexico Public Education Department, reporting directly to the secretary of Education,” she said. “I will oversee federal programs fostering safe and healthy schools, language and culture, and be in charge of the state’s Black and Hispanic education, as well as student, school and family support.” 

In addition to that large purview, Castillo will lead the implementation of the state’s action plan in response to the consolidated Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit, which, in 2018, resulted in a decision that New Mexico was not fulfilling its constitutional duty to its most at-risk students.

Understanding the Critical Gap

The accomplished education leader firmly believes in the power of education and the opportunities it can create for students. She understands the challenges and is ready to help clear obstacles for at-risk students in New Mexico. If not for her personal champions, Castillo, who grew up in humble surroundings in Panama City, Panama, might have succumbed to her own difficult circumstances.

Castillo said, “I look back and think of all the people who encouraged me, pushed me, believed in me, and opened doors for me. But, unfortunately, I’ve seen how systemic barriers harm our students and communities, especially those who have been historically underserved.”

Prepared to Make a Difference

In addition to her substantial experience, Castillo said her Ed.D from UST has helped to prepare her for this new challenge. 

“What I learned during my Ed.D program at UST has been key in expanding my knowledge base on my leadership journey. I came away understanding the root causes of many of our education system’s challenges. It gave me the tools and the push to think critically about tackling those challenges. My Ed.D prepared me for this role and any future one. It was incredible! I absolutely loved my experience at St. Thomas.”

In New Mexico and everywhere, Castillo wants to pay it forward and “pour into others above and beyond what I’ve received along my journey.”