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April 2011 Vol. 18. No. 5 Focus on Speaking Out, Not Dropping Out

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Profile of Karren Dunkley, Notebook member

Providing resources to parents and fulfilling a civic duty

By by Michele Aweeky on Apr 1, 2011 02:44 PM
Photo: Michele Aweeky

Karen Dunkley reviews the Notebook's February edition about school closings. Her job involves helping parents learn more about key education issues like those covered in the bi-monthly publication.

Karren Dunkley is chief deputy of the District's Office of Parent, Family, Community Engagement and Faith-Based Partnerships – and a self-proclaimed avid Notebook reader.

Just three years ago, Dunkley was a teaching assistant at Teachers College, Columbia University, and she had no idea the Notebook even existed.

"I discovered it in 2008 when I first started here," Dunkley said.

"The parents I met were always saying things like, 'I read this in the Notebook.' I found a copy in the lobby here at the School District headquarters and I fell in love with it."

Dunkley found the Notebook useful in keeping up on important education issues.

But she wanted to do more than just read it. She wanted to help it survive and grow, so in 2010 she became a member.

"I think that an informed and educated citizen is one who can think critically to make the most meaningful contribution to the society in which they live," she said. "I think I have a civic duty to support the Notebook not only in words, but also in deeds."

Dunkley, 37, grew up in Jamaica, moving to the United States right before college. She completed undergraduate and master's degrees in education and political science at St. John's University in New York City and then pursed a master's degree in education policy at Teachers College.

While at Columbia, Dunkley's professor was Arlene Ackerman, now District superintendent.

Dunkley recalls that Ackerman wanted to "get out of the theory and into the practice." Dunkley was also excited about urban education reform, so when Ackerman invited her to come along with her to Philadelphia, she accepted.

"Academia has a place in urban school reform, but reform can only happen through implementation and activation," she said. "I love the children, parents, and community in Philadelphia and would make the decision to come again,"

Dunkley said that she uses the Notebook as a tool to facilitate discussion of important issues in leadership team meetings.

She encourages parents to read it too. "There is a trust, and in our community it's hard to build that trust. They see the Notebook as a trustworthy source."

On a daily basis, Dunkley responds to the needs of District parents, handling questions about academic concerns or how to get involved with School Advisory Councils. Her office's overall goal is to work with parents to ensure equity, access, and educational excellence, while supporting the academic and personal success of their children.

Dunkley said her entire department looks forward to each edition of the Notebook.

"My only suggestion is that it might be wonderful to print in Chinese," she said, noting that this is the second largest group of English language learners, after Spanish.

She'd like to help expand the Notebook's membership so there will be adequate funding to print more frequently.

"In a time when we have frivolous journalism that panders to what is hot and what is sensational, we need the Notebook to continue to do the good, hard work of true, investigative reporting."

About the Author

Michele Aweeky is a junior at Temple University and a Notebook intern.

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