An important update from Karen Dresden

Dear Capital City Community Members,

I am writing to share some personal news with you. I have made the decision that school year 2022-2023 will be my last as Head of School at Capital City. While my departure is over a year away, it is important for me to make and announce this decision with plenty of time for our Board and community to prepare for a smooth transition.  
What initially drew me to Capital City as the founding principal in 2000 was the opportunity to innovate in support of equitable outcomes and opportunities for a diverse population of students; and this has kept me excited about the work and continues to motivate me today. Additionally, our incredible community that is caring, collaborative, and supportive of one another has sustained me for more than two decades. The other thing I have loved about my role and this school is that I am always learning and growing and that also remains true today.

This was not an easy decision and there really is no big reason other than it feels like after 23 years that it will be the right time for both me and the school.  As a school leader, it is a responsibility and opportunity that you own 24 hours a day/365 days a year. I have loved and embraced this, but I will also be ready to step back, reflect, and recharge. I don’t know what my next steps will be, but I know I want to continue to work and collaborate for educational equity and opportunity for DC students. I also look forward to spending more time with family and friends.
Capital City is a strong and sustaining organization that has been anchored by our mission and buoyed by the incredible talents and commitment of staff, leaders, trustees, families, and partners. We are at an important juncture as we look to restore and re-imagine education after a two-year pandemic. I am excited for the opportunities that a new leader working in partnership with our community will bring.

While I will retire as Head of School, I will forever remain connected to and invested in the success of Capital City. I commit to offering my long-term support in the ways that are best for the school. Also, I will continue to be a Capital City parent until my son, Darian, graduates in 2027.  
My departure is 15 months away and there is still so much important work to do! I look forward to engaging with stakeholders to collaboratively develop a three-year strategic plan for Capital City that will provide an initial roadmap for our next leader. I also am committed to the work we are doing to prioritize community building and connection as we emerge from the pandemic, and I look forward to many opportunities for connection in the months ahead.

With Gratitude and Love,  

Dear Capital City Community,

Karen Dresden recently informed the Board of Trustees that the 2022-2023 school year will be her last as our Head of School. I am writing on behalf of Capital City’s Board to offer our gratitude to Karen and to inform the Capital City community of the process we will take to recruit the next Head of School.
For the last 30 years Karen has worked tirelessly to improve education quality and equity in learning outcomes for children and youth in the District of Columbia. As a founding principal of Capital City in 2000, Karen is the only head of school that many of our current and past students and parents have known, her name synonymous with the school’s mission and culture. Karen’s leadership has embodied our core values including creativity, a love of learning, commitment to community and a deep rooted sense of personal and civic responsibility.

Karen’s focus and dedication to the students, staff, administration and broader community associated with Capital City has been admirable and deeply appreciated. And over the next year and a half there will be many moments to reflect upon and celebrate Karen’s substantial and formative contributions to Capital City.  

The Board is grateful to Karen for providing us with ample time to conduct the search for the next Head of School. This allows us to approach the search process thoughtfully and with the full and consistent involvement of the Capital City community, including students, staff and teachers, and parents.  A smooth and effective leadership transition will not be possible without inputs from all of you, to reflect on the culture and values of Capital City and the educational goals we wish to set for our students. Our search will be grounded in Capital City’s strengths and traditions, as well as our ambitions for the future.  

The transition from Karen’s longtime leadership to a new Head of School may cause some uncertainty but the Board has developed a process anchored in best practices and centers stakeholder engagement and equity.
The Board of Trustees has formed a search committee, which I will chair, composed of a diverse subset of the Board including a parent Trustee. An immediate priority of the Search Committee will be to identify an experienced search firm that understands Capital City, our community and our academic and equity priorities. Once selected, the firm will work closely with us to engage and communicate with all stakeholders.
We seek to have our next Head of School selected by the beginning of 2023. I will be sharing a more detailed timeline over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, you can send an email to

On behalf of the Board, we look forward to working with you to celebrate Karen and recruit Capital City’s next leader.

Dr. Nitika Tolani
Chair, Board of Trustees for Capital City Public Charter School
Chair, Head of School Search Committee