Heidi Ramirez, known here as an outspoken former School Reform Commission member, now works more than 800 miles away as the chief academic officer for the Milwaukee Public Schools.
But her move there in 2010 – after five years in Philadelphia – has not stopped her from reading, using, and supporting the Notebook.
Ramirez said it has value across the nation because there are few "real-time" resources that address urban education with any depth. So she reads it to understand issues and trends in city schools. The district she works in serves nearly 80,000 students – a high-poverty population with mostly students of color.
"A lot of cities don't have another source of information about a district other than a major newspaper that is obviously focused on a bigger story," she said.
The Notebook might not cover everything, she added, but it guides readers on "where to look further – what to question."
Ramirez, 37, started reading the Notebook while working as the director of Temple University's Urban Education Collaborative. There, she helped train and support teachers and principals within the District.
"As someone who was new to the city and who was interested in supporting public education, [the Notebook] was a great resource for me to get to know the local context," she said.
Its investigative reporting filled a void within the conversation about public education, she added.
"I think it's essential: being aware of the players and their work, and how each of us can contribute to it, hold folks accountable for it, support it, and question it."
To support the Notebook financially, Ramirez joined as a member in 2010. Since then she has kept up her membership from afar.
While in Philadelphia, Ramirez also served briefly on the Notebook's leadership board in 2007, but she stepped down in 2008 when Gov. Ed Rendell named her to the SRC.
She was a commissioner during the administration of then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Ramirez was known for being an accessible and vocal SRC member, often butting heads with Ackerman on a variety of issues.
But after serving on the five-member panel for 17 months, Ramirez resigned from the SRC. The following spring, she took the number two job in Milwaukee.
Her longtime concern for educational equity reflects her own experience. The sixth of eight children in a single-parent household, Ramirez grew up in upstate New York.
"Statistically, about 10 out of every 100 Latino kindergartners go on to college," Ramirez said, "So I never ever expected to be someone who would go on to Harvard or to have a Ph.D. from Stanford."
Ramirez credits her mother and teachers, who directed her into pre-college programs as early as 8th grade. She advises parents to take control of the process towards higher education by "working with their schools, reaching out to counselors, developing relationships, identifying resources, and taking advantage of them."
The Notebook's annual Fall Guide to High Schools is just such a resource, which parents can use to prepare their children, she observed.
"The Notebook really helps create these opportunities for folks to learn, go deeper, and figure out how we can do this for more kids."
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