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Leaders named exemplary principals


Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo and Nancy Branch, Named Exemplary Principals by Maricopa County

Posted May 2019

Two Kyrene School District principals have just received the Maricopa County Exemplary Principal Award. Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo, Principal of Kyrene de los Lagos Dual Language Academy, and Nancy Branch, Principal of Kyrene de la Mirada Leadership Academy, accepted the awards during surprise celebrations at their schools.

Kyrene Superintendent Dr. Jan Vesely joined Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson as he presented the awards to Dr. Gomez del Castillo and Principal Branch. The annual Exemplary Principal Award is presented to school leaders who set high expectations and create an environment for exceptional student learning, build community by actively engaging staff and community, use data to guide instruction, have a history of high teacher retention, and demonstrate an ability to inspire others.

The nomination process begins with a review of school achievement and teacher retention data, then Maricopa County invites Superintendents to nominate principals who meet the criteria. A selection committee interviews principals, surveys their staff and conducts on-site visits to observe leadership in action. The committee then selects a small number of leaders to receive the prestigious award. Kyrene’s winners are two of the District’s long-standing principals and highly regarded leaders.

Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo is the proud principal of Kyrene de los Lagos, one of Kyrene’s two Dual Language Academies. Dr. Gomez del Castillo, or “Dr. Ana” as she is affectionately called, actually started Kyrene’s Dual Language program in 2010, at Kyrene de los Niños in Tempe (now housed at Kyrene del Norte). The program was so successful, that Dr. Ana was tapped to launch a second academy, in Ahwatukee, which she calls home. Dr. Ana is an Arizona native and earned her Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate all from Arizona State University. She is celebrating her 20th year with the Kyrene School District.

Principal Nancy Branch is at the helm of Kyrene de la Mirada Leadership Academy, where she has served for the last nine years. Under Branch’s leadership, Kyrene de la Mirada was named a Franklin Covey Leader in Me Lighthouse School for outstanding work implementing leadership practices on campus. Principal Branch is also an Arizona native and earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and her M.A. in Supervision and Administration from the University of Phoenix. She has spent 26 of her 28 years in education in the Kyrene School District.

Both Dr. Gomez del Castillo and Principal Branch have led their schools to Arizona Education Foundation (AEF) A+ School of Excellence™ awards. Under the leadership of Castillo and Branch, Kyrene de los Lagos and Kyrene de la Mirada are also both State of Arizona A-rated schools.