When Camille Casteel started in Chandler USD as a first-grade teacher in 1971, there were somewhere around seven schools—none of which had air conditioning.

Flash forward a few decades and Casteel, in her 25th year as superintendent, oversees the day-to-day operations of more than 40 schools.

The superintendent announced Dec. 10 that she plans to retire at the end of this school year.

“From six or seven schools to 46, it’s just a little change,” she said in an interview in July 2019. “Now we have streetlights and paved roads.”

Casteel has worked her whole career in Chandler. In those 49 years she has been a teacher, curriculum specialist, principal, assistant superintendent, associate superintendent and superintendent—a role she has been in since 1996.

“I still can’t believe it,” Casteel said. “I still pinch myself and think, ‘Where in the heck did the time go?’ I don’t feel that much different.”

During her tenure, Casteel said one of the constants she has seen is growth. According to city records, about 10 years before she started as a teacher in the district, the population of Chandler was hovering just over 9,500. As of July 1, 2019, city records indicate the population has surged to 261,173.

“We went from a very rural community to a buzzing, suburban area with a lot of high-tech industry,” she said, noting that the city is home to Intel. “There used to be sheep between [the district office] and Val Vista Road and lots of farmers and ranchers. It’s a tremendous change.”

Though it has been a few decades since Casteel has had a permanent place in the classroom, she said that is where her heart has always been.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher—I never had plans to be an administrator,” she said. “I, to this day, still miss being around the kids. I’ve been around so long that now I’ve had students tell me that their grandparents had me in school.”

But Casteel has tight ties to her schools, particularly the one named after her—Casteel High School, the district’s newest school that opened in 2015 and graduated its first class this year.

“It’s surreal,” Casteel said. “It’s such an honor that the board wanted to do that. ... Now when I go to campus the students want to take pictures with me.”

The superintendent said there are many things she has been proud of in her time with the district, including the amount of growth the district has seen and “outstanding” student performance to name a few—but she said there are even more things she is looking forward to in the coming years. She said she is grateful she has worked for school boards that have been “so focused on children” and have had the ability to disagree respectfully—but more importantly, she said she is glad she gets to stick around.

“Chandler schools are like my family,” she said. “I married my husband in April 1971 and got my job in July of ‘71, so the three of us have been together for quite some time. We love it here.”