The William Penn Charter School announced that Karen Warren Coleman — who received her Doctor of Education from Penn in 2015 — will be its first female head of school.
When Coleman assumes her new role on July 1, 2023, she will be the first female leader of the William Penn Charter School since its founding in 1689, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. After not allowing female students to attend past the second grade for the majority of their history, the school graduated its first co-educational senior class in 1992.
Coleman will replace Darryl Ford, who has served in his current position since 2007, as head of school. Penn Charter, founded by William Penn, is believed to be the oldest Quaker school in the United States.
Penn Charter’s Head of School Position Statement says that the role of head of school “demands a high level of cultural competence and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in building relationships with students, faculty, staff, and all community members.”
Coleman has focused on diversity initiatives and aiding underprivileged community members throughout her career.
According to Penn Charter's announcement, her 2015 Penn dissertation was titled “Stories Seldom Told: Low Income, First Generation African-American Male Students at Highly Selective Research Universities” and her master’s, at the University of Vermont, was titled “Education as the Means to Freedom: A Critical Analysis of Oppression.”
Coleman joins Penn Charter after five years as head of school at the Hockaday School in Dallas. During her time there, Hockaday’s enrollment of students of color and diversity on the school’s board increased, and the school’s Institute for Social Impact was established, according to Penn Charter's release.
Before working at Hockaday, Coleman was the vice president for campus and student life at the University of Chicago. She also previously spent nearly a decade at the University of California, Berkeley, and she worked in student affairs at George Washington University, the University of Vermont, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She was also involved in the American College Personnel Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
"In the coming years, I will embrace both leading and learning as I work with Penn Charter's extraordinary faculty and staff to center students in everything we do," Dr. Coleman told the Inquirer in a statement.