By Kevin Deutsch
Somerset Parkland Academy Principal Geyler Castro has been reassigned from her position amid a high-profile guns scandal at the charter school—despite the objections of hundreds of parents who support her.
Castro’s reassignment, effective August 31, comes nearly three months after two guns and two ammunition cartridges in her possession were carried out of her vehicle in the school parking lot and into a conference room at the academy at 8401 N. University Dr.
Authorities have not said publicly whether criminal charges are being considered in the guns case. According to state law, it is a felony to bring a firearm into a school in Florida.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share that as of August 31, 2022, I will be on administrative reassignment,” Castro wrote in an August 30 letter addressed to parents and obtained by Parkland Talk.
“We want to assure you that the school’s vision and mission will remain intact, and our priorities will always be our students,” Castro wrote, assuring parents that Somerset is “committed to communication and transparency with its families.”
Meg Campbell, formerly Somerset’s assistant principal, will fill the top job on an interim basis, the letter states.
Somerset Parkland Academy is part of a nonprofit network of charter schools with over 18,000 students, from kindergarten through 12th grade, in Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
A petition launched on Change.org Wednesday calling for Castro’s reinstatement as Somerset’s principal had already garnered more than 380 signatures.
“Our wonderful Principal…has been reassigned to administrative duties due to [the guns] incident,” the petition states.
“Somerset [officials] have decided to put her on administrative duties from home until further notice. We would like them to know that we stand with Mrs. Castro and believe she is innocent and deserves to be our principal.”
“Mrs. Castro is loved by all that meet her…We all feel good knowing how safe our children are when she’s on campus, and that has not changed. Please help us get our fierce leader back by signing this petition and letting the [board of directors] know that our views of her have remained the same.”
Somerset’s board of directors did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday, and it was unclear what duties Castro would carry out in her new assignment.
Odyssa Billings, whose three children have attended Somerset since its opening in 2020, called Castro’s reassignment at this stage of the school year “disruptive.”
“I respect the process, but it’s confusing that a decision wasn’t made before the school year began,” said Billings. “As a parent, I have a vested interest in the school and support Mrs. Castro and the SPA school family.”
“We were led to believe the matter was resolved,” she added.
In addition to Castro, the firearms incident at Somerset involved a school support staff member formerly married to Castro’s father—a man to who one of the guns apparently belonged, law enforcement records show.
Late Wednesday, the executive director of Florida Charter School Alliance, Lynn Norman-Teck, emailed Parkland Talk and said she was “responding on behalf of the Somerset Academy board.”
“On August 28th, 2022, Principal Castro requested a reassignment of her administrative duties while she handled personal matters,” wrote Norman-Teck, who formerly served as press secretary for the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office and media relations manager for Miami-Dade County government.
It was not immediately clear why no members of the Somerset board responded. But the Florida Charter School Alliance, which advocates for the charter school movement in Florida, states on its website that it “quickly respond[s] to negative news stories” and “assist[s] member schools with crisis management and media relations issues.”
Norman-Teck’s statement did not address Parkland Talk‘s questions for the Somerset board, including whether it had found any improprieties related to Castro’s conduct.
Castro is not the first person to lose her position amid the guns scandal.
Eleven days after the guns were found, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony fired Captain Craig Calavetta, the BSO Parkland district chief, saying Calavetta had “deliberately” provided “false information to administration.”
Tony did not say whether the false information concerned the firearms investigation at the school. Both BSO and the school have said little about the incident.
The two firearms were concealed in a black bag and discovered by the school’s activities director, Kaitlene Alonso, inside school conference room 100C. The weapons were a black Beretta 380 Cal semi-automatic pistol and a silver Jimenez Arms 380 Cal semi-automatic pistol, according to an incident report obtained through a public records request.
Two loaded ammunition magazines were also found, records show. Authorities have not said whether the guns were loaded with those magazines at the time.
Inside the conference room, support staff worker Odalys Suarez, 63, recognized the bag as her ex-husband’s gun bag and notified the administration, according to the incident report. The conference room was then evacuated.
After further investigation by BSO, a school resource officer met with Castro, 39, “who advised that one of the firearms belonged to her and the other one was her father’s, Gil Suarez.”
Castro said she had “put both firearms in her vehicle and was trying to take them to the post office to be secured in a safety box.”
“She had boxes in her vehicle with graduation supplies, which different staff members helped unload from her vehicle,” deputies wrote in the incident report. “Mrs. Castro is unsure if a staff member accidentally brought the firearm(s) into the school in a box while unloading the graduation supplies.”
The report states that Castro has a concealed weapons permit that expires on January 25, 2024.
Both firearms were placed into safekeeping by BSO.
- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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