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National Search Yields Outstanding Leader for St. Mark School

When Antwan Allen stepped down as principal of St. Mark the Evangelist school earlier this year, the Partnership launched an intensive, nationwide search for an outstanding leader. After interviewing dozens of candidates with experience in Catholic, charter, and traditional public schools, the Partnership was thrilled to hire its top candidate, Aaron Dukes.

Mr. Dukes is an Alabama native and a graduate of Alabama State University. He began his career as a classroom teacher, and was twice voted runner-up for the Alabama state Teacher of the Year award.

More recently, Aaron served as assistant principal of the Congress Heights campus in the Center City Public Charter Schools (CCPCS) network in Washington, D.C. The Center City Public Charter Schools are a network of urban schools that were, until recently, Catholic schools affiliated with the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. Today, each Center City school retains strong connections with its parish and works to infuse Catholic identity in the form of “wraparound” activities that happen after the school day. Aaron noted, “My time with Center City truly prepared me for what leadership looks like in an urban school setting. I look forward to putting those insights and skills to work at St. Mark. ” Impressively, Aaron was part of the leadership team that transformed the Congress Heights campus from a “Tier 3” school—the lowest rating assigned by the D.C. Charter Board—to a top-rated “Tier 1” school. Furthermore, the Congress Heights school was the first public charter school in D.C. to make the transition from Tier 3 to Tier 1.

“When I interviewed and met Aaron,” Kathleen Porter-Magee said, “it was so apparent he would be a perfect fit for St. Mark. His insights and instincts into the potential of the school were in sync with what I see and know can happen for our students, teachers, and community. He gets Catholic education and high expectations. It’s a big win for the school and the network.”

Assuming the leadership of a school is a major decision and can be a life-changing event. School principals affect the futures of so many – an entire student body, parent group, and community at large. But as Aaron considered the St. Mark opportunity, it was the school community that ultimately won him over. Walking through our classrooms and church, meeting our teachers, and receiving warm greetings from our students, Aaron knew that there was something special about St. Mark. And though New York has always held an allure for Aaron, he was specifically drawn to the work of the Partnership Schools. “I love the idea of working in a small school setting with a great community feel, and St. Mark had that walking in the door! Being part of the Partnership is huge bonus. Having a cohort of five other leaders and the resources provided means I will have all I need to do a great job.”

Aaron candidly acknowledges that there will be an adjustment period for everyone, but his hopes and dreams for how to move the school forward are what excite him. “It is my hope that St. Mark continues to shine brightly for all students in Harlem. I know that great schools start with great leaders — I am humbled and blessed to have been given this task.”

The Partnership is excited to welcome Aaron to the school and to the entire community.