Our Senior Leadership Team is deeply committed to the success of every Capital City student. Get to know our leaders below. Please reach out if you have any questions about Capital City.
Karen Dresden is the Head of School and co-founder of Capital City Public Charter School, a diverse, high performing PK-12 school of choice in Washington, DC. She is passionate about achieving academic justice for historically marginalized students and developing all students’ capacity to be leaders and changemakers.
Karen has been an educator for three decades, working first as a teacher in DC Public Schools before becoming the founding principal of Capital City in 2000. Karen was involved in all aspects of the school’s start-up as a PK-8 school. She also led the development of Capital City’s high school program in 2008 which now boasts over 600 graduates, a 100% college acceptance rate, and a college graduation rate for first generation students that exceeds the national average.
Under Karen’s leadership, Capital City has been a model for school reform. The school implements the EL Education model, a hands-on approach that supports students in meeting rigorous academic and character standards. The school has been featured in national case studies and opens its doors to hundreds of visitors annually. The school was honored by two separate visits during the Obama administration. President Obama described Capital City as, “an example of how all schools should be.”
Karen has her M.Ed from Harvard University in Educational Leadership. She also has her M.S. Ed. in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University. She was a member of the Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2015.
Outside of school, Karen enjoys hiking, swimming, biking, vegetarian cooking, traveling and spending time with her son, Darian.
Chip joined Capital City in April 2011 as the Upper School's Technology Integration Specialist. He has a Master of Science in Library Science, a Certificate in Educational Technology Leadership from George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland College Park.
Before coming to Capital City, Chip was the Instructional Multimedia Coordinator and Web Editor at the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC for six years. Prior to that, he worked as a library assistant in Montgomery County Public Schools for three years.
Chip is a 2016 Citybridge Education Innovation Fellow, a yearlong program that introduces teacher leaders to the most promising practices in personalized learning,
As part of the library team, Chip, including High School Librarian & Technology Teacher, Kishanna Harley, and former Library Assistant, Brandy Goffigan, designed and prepared Capital City’s winning CTE Makeover Challenge application for a makerspace that will be a hub of experiential learning in the school’s third-floor computer lab starting October 2016.
Chip enjoys reading, watching movies, playing video games, and spending much of his time in front of a glowing screen.
Dominique joined Capital City in September 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical & Computational Sciences from Stanford University.
She brings with her over a decade of work experience that ranges from Direct Marketing at a non-profit, teaching high school math, and working in Development and Communications at a D.C. think tank.
In her free time, Dominique loves to watch and to perform dances (tap in particular) and she enjoys reading, watching TV, and spending time with her niece and nephew.
Laina Cox is a 21-year veteran in the field of education having served as a teacher, administrator, school designer, principal and most recently in 2022, a School Ambassador Fellow for the United States Department of Education, selected as one of only six in the country.
In 2012, she was the founding principal for the Middle School Campus at Capital City Public Charter School, a PreK3-12th grade award winning and model EL Education School, in Washington DC. She remained principal here for 10 years. She returned to Capital City in February 2023 as the Chief of Staff and the Head of School Elect.
Laina received her B.A. in Psychology from Spelman College and an Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University. She began her career in Boston Public Schools, first as a teacher and later as an Assistant Principal. She worked as a School Designer for EL Education for two years prior to becoming a principal. Laina was a Ted Sizer Principal Fellow through the Coalition of Essential Schools, the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Fellow Award for Hopkins School, her high school alma mater in New Haven, CT., has served as a member of the Leadership Advisory Board for EL Education, the Trinity University Coalition on Education, and the Principal’s Advisory Committee for the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent’s. Laina has also spoken on a number of panels (Aspen Institute, Educator Writers Association) has been featured in a number of articles, podcasts, and videos (The 2021 Year in Review for the U.S. Department of Education, EL Education,The Hechinger Report, The 180 Podcast & The State of Our Union Podcast) and featured in the book Unconscious Bias in Schools: A Developmental Approach to Exploring Race & Racism. In addition to these panel presentations and features, Laina has presented at many national conferences (EL Education, Deeper Learning, Amplify Conference for Educators of Color) and represented EL Education and Capital City PCS internationally at the iOnTheFuture Conference in Sydney, Australia.
In 2018, Laina was the recipient of the Silverberg Leadership Award for EL Education, awarded annually to one exemplary school leader in the nation who raises student achievement through deep implementation of EL Education practices. And in 2022, she was named the Principal of the Year for One World Education, a Washington, DC curriculum program. Laina is a member of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, where she founded the Blueprint Conference for Middle and High School Girls and currently chairs the mentor program for her local chapter.
She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the proud wife of Winston, and Mommy to Jaida (13) and Solomon (10).
Míchelle joined Capital City in July 2019 as our Lower School Principal. She holds a Master in Education and Human Development from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Illinois State University, where she graduated summa cum laude.
With 9 years of experience teaching and leading in public schools, Míchelle joins Capital City with a deep expertise in elementary education and an unwavering commitment to educational equity. Prior to Capital City, Míchelle taught in bilingual immersion programs in Illinois and Washington, DC and was both an Assistant Principal and Principal at Mundo Verde Public Charter School. She has received training in Responsive Classrooms, Leading Educators, and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She was awarded the "Those Who Excel Award for Early Career Educators" from the Illinois State Board of Education in 2013.
Míchelle is fluent in Spanish. She enjoys silly jokes and loves Beyoncé. She is honored to serve as the Lower School Principal and be able to build strong, lasting relationships with students, staff, and families.
Justin joined Capital City in August 2016. He holds a Master of Science in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently work on his EdD with a concentration in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Walden University.
Prior to his current position, he served as the Middle School Instructional Coach & Curriculum Coordinator and taught 7th grade science. He has previously taught science at Lee High School in Florida and at Yeshiva of Greater Washington. He also worked as a Teach for America Corps Member and later as a Corps Member Advisor.
Justin is the 2020 DC Teacher of the Year. At Capital City, he has been a member of the Equity Core Committee, MS Instructional Leadership Team, and MS Science Department Lead. He is also on the clinical faculty for Urban Teachers at Johns Hopkins University.
Justin speaks Spanish and enjoys running, swimming, traveling, shopping, and being adventurous in his free time.
Pam first joined Capital City in October 2012 as the Development Associate. She holds a Master in International Development from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and a dual Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from Wright State University, where she graduated summa cum laude.
Prior to Capital City, Pam worked for Liberty's Promise, a nonprofit that serves immigrant youth, and oversaw two after-school programs while working on the organization's development and outreach initiatives. She has also served on their Board of Directors. She is currently the President of SW Community Gardens in DC.
Her hobbies include running, cycling, and promoting the great state of Ohio. She is fluent in Spanish.
Wanda joined Capital City in 2004. Prior to becoming Director of Special Populations, she was the Director of Student Services at the Upper School and taught 1st, 2nd and 5th grades at the Lower School campus.
Wanda holds a Master of Arts in Special Education from Catholic University of America and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of the District of Columbia. She also studied nursing at Howard University.
Wanda has over 18 years of experience working in the education field. Prior to Capital City, Wanda taught for four years at Watkins Elementary in Washington, DC. Wanda has been a member of Capital City’s Instructional Leadership Team and has participated on Diversity and Equity Core Committees for the last three years. She was trained at Capital City as a Critical Friends Group Facilitator.
Wanda is currently an Adjunct Special Education Professor at University of Maryland College Park.
Wanda is originally from Charleston, South Carolina and in her free time she loves traveling with her family.
Belicia joined Capital City in 2010 initially as the Instructional Coach and Curriculum Coordinator. She holds a Master in Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Hampton University.
In 2013, Belicia was nationally endorsed as a New Leaders Aspiring Principal. Belicia was named the High School Principal in 2013 after serving as Principal-in-Residence and the retirement of her mentor and founding High School Principal Kathy Byrd.
With over 17 years of experience teaching and leading in schools, this work is her true calling. She has held positions including Grade Dean, Math Instructor and Director of High School Research Program at Georgetown Day School; Admissions Associate, Division III Team Leader, and Math Teacher at Wildwood Secondary School. Additionally, she was a Pre-College Math Instructor at Stanford University.
At Capital City, Belicia has been pivotal in the development of our Tier 1-high school program which goes beyond general DC requirements for graduates. This progress includes a rigorous Senior Expedition course and presentation and the growth of our Advanced Placement (AP) Program.
In 2018, according to Niche.com, under her leadership, the High School was named one of the top HS in Washington, DC for students. In 2016, Capital City PCS was named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School with her high school students and Environmental Science teachers completing a strong application.
Belicia is originally from South Carolina. She is currently learning Spanish and in her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, reading, listening to music, and collecting elephant statues from her travels.
Favorite quote: "To whom much is given, much is required."
Emily joined Capital City as a Business Associate in March 2013 and began to manage the Human Resources department in July 2015. She began the role of Chief Operating Officer in March 2023. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the George Washington University.
Prior to Capital City, Emily worked as the Business Operations Manager for DC Sail, a non-profit community development and outreach organization that provides maritime education to youth and adults through sailing.
Her hobbies include reading, traveling, and taking local art classes.