It was a bittersweet day on Friday, May 31 when Principal Betsy Cardozo greeted the children at New Horizons Elementary School one last time. Cardozo has been principal there for 15 years, but when the students return in August, Dana Pallaria will have taken over leadership of the Wellington school.
Cardozo has been an educator for a total of 41 years, and 39 of them have been in Palm Beach County. She has been an elementary school teacher, a school counselor, assistant principal and principal.
There were a number of things that attracted her to the job, and she enjoyed her many years as principal at New Horizons.
“I have lived in Wellington for 25 years,” Cardozo said. “The opportunity to work in the community where I lived was very attractive. Both of my children went through Wellington’s elementary, middle and high schools. So, I thought it was a chance to give back to the community.”
She is particularly fond of the school’s unique dual-language program.
“I am very proud of the dual-language program that we have here at New Horizons,” Cardozo said. “We are an International Spanish Academy and have been one for 16 years. It actually began the year before I arrived. It was the idea of the former principal, as well as the multicultural department at the school district, but I am very proud that I had an opportunity to grow the program.”
The dual-language program has children learning in both English and Spanish. The children spend half of their day learning in English and half in Spanish. New Horizons is one of five schools in Palm Beach County that have partnerships with the Ministry of Education in Spain. This designates New Horizons as an International Spanish Academy. There are three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school with the distinction. New Horizons was the first elementary school to be part of the academy.
Most of all, Cardozo will miss working with her fellow educators at the school.
“I have worked with a few teachers who were here when I began,” Cardozo said. “There are phenomenal teachers and staff who are amazing and dedicated. What they do for the children and the families are above and beyond.”
Saying goodbye was difficult and emotional.
“Friday was emotional for me,” she said. “That last day of school, it was very emotional saying goodbye. We have an outstanding parent community. The Wellington Village Council and the Wellington Education Committee support the schools in a big way. Each year, we receive a grant to provide additional assistance for our students. Wellington is the only community that I know that does that. They are extremely supportive.”
Nevertheless, Cardozo is looking forward to exciting new adventures.
“I am going to do some traveling,” she said. “Both of my children live out-of-state, so I hope to see them a little bit more. I have my parents living on the west coast, so I would love to spend a little more time with them. Hopefully, I will be volunteering. I don’t know quite what that is going to be yet, but I have a feeling I will volunteer in the schools, the library, at my church, and I am looking forward to that. And maybe, sleeping in a little bit.”
Pallaria will have some big shoes to fill as the new principal.
“I am excited and thrilled to be able to come into a school that has an amazing and beautiful family-oriented atmosphere,” she said. “I have had the luxury of working in a variety of schools for the last 22 years here in Palm Beach County. Fortunately, I have worked with students with special needs and students that speak other languages my entire career. I am super excited to run the dual-language program and the International Spanish Academy, as well as meet the needs of the general population.”
Pallaria most recently served as assistant principal at Grassy Waters Elementary School.
“Right now, New Horizons is ranked three in the nation for the International Spanish Academy. When I take on the principal role, I will have the opportunity to reapply, and my hopes are to bring that to the top ranking in the nation,” she said of her future plans. “Some of the goals for the school is it’s their first time earning the Green School Award this year. I would like to bring New Horizons to a Green School of Excellence, which would include revamping some of the campus and bringing to campus an outdoor classroom and a more advanced garden.”
Pallaria said that her compassion for students and ensuring that each and every child has what they need to be successful is a key trait she brings to New Horizons.
“I don’t only look at elementary school, but I look at graduating and becoming a citizen,” she said. “I have had the ability to work with families from a very rich area to a very poor area. I have worked in the inner-city schools as well as the suburban and rural schools. I definitely have the ability to communicate with a variety of families and their needs and have had success with this in my career.”