Catherine Collins knows a good resource when she sees one.
Collins, a reference librarian at Drexel Library at St. Joseph’s University, has been reading the Notebook for nearly seven years and became a member two years ago. She has been active in District issues for many years, but she said it was her support of Helen Gym’s successful City Council campaign that pushed her toward membership.
“Public school families were behind [Gym’s] candidacy, and I felt like I wanted to do more for the Notebook, which I feel is a supporter of our public schools,” said Collins.
Collins, 51, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in English and history, then earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas in 1992. Afterward, she began a career in public policy analysis, working for the state government.
But Collins soon moved with her husband, Kevin Grauke, to Buffalo, N.Y. Unable to find work that aligned with her career interests, she decided to go back to school. She studied government documents at State University of New York – Buffalo and pursued a master’s degree in library sciences.
“I found that everything I loved about public policy work – the research, the digging around for info, the public service aspect – was reflected in a library sciences position,” Collins said.
She and her husband moved to Philadelphia in 2004. She began working at St. Joseph’s University in 2009, once her son began school.
Collins said that she uses the Notebook for a Facebook forum that she launched nine years ago.
She is co-founder and moderator of the Mount Airy Parents Network Annual School Discussion Group. The group is open to Mount Airy Parents Network members through March 2017 this school year, and it introduces a weekly discussion topic. Popular discussions center on particular schools, and parents of current students are invited to answer questions ranging from homework load, to disciplinary action, to helping others make informed decisions about where to send their children. After a summer break, new members are welcomed when the school year starts.
“When my kids started in public schools nine years ago, I didn’t know many people who were sending their kids to their catchment school,” said Collins, whose son and daughter attended C.W. Henry Elementary School, then Masterman for middle school.
“Now, I would say, of the people in our discussion group, maybe half, or even two-thirds, is where the interest is really in the public neighborhood schools,” she said.
To help parents make informed decisions about where to send their children to school, Collins said that at the beginning of each school year, participants spend a couple of weeks talking about “good, reliable resources” they can use.
“The Notebook is the very first item on my list,” she said.
Although the Notebook’s original reporting is her favorite aspect of the print editions, Collins said the annual fall guide to high schools has been indispensable for her daughter, who is applying to high schools this year.
“I like that I’m not getting anybody’s particular spin or opinion,” she said. “I don’t feel like certain schools are shortchanged in favor of others. They’re just providing the facts.”
Collins also uses the Notebook’s website, where she said that she “obsessively” checks for District news.
“The care that goes into the Notebook, it’s the sort of thing I would refer students to who are doing research,” Collins said.
“The Notebook is a reliable resource.”
To learn more about becoming a member, go to thenotebook.org/membership.