Katharine Davis Named 15th President of Central High School

By: By: Sofia Taroncher (283) and Emma Chrismer (283)

In the Spring of the 2021-2022 school year, Katharine Davis was named 15th President of Central High School. Her appointment to the role is momentous as she became the first woman and person of color to lead the almost 200-year-old institution. Davis, a member of 264th class of Central, has been in the Philadelphia School District for five years and, before her appointment to Central, was the Principal of Charles W. Henry Elementary School. We were given an opportunity to sit down with President Davis and ask her a few questions about herself and her plans as principal.

 Before she was a school leader, President Davis was an educator in New York City, more specifically in the Bronx and Manhattan. When she decided to become a principal, Davis moved back to Philly where she became an assistant principal and was able to grow into the leader she is today. 

With a new President comes a looming question from the Central community: what are the policies of the new president? When asked, Ms. Davis explained that they are “definitely still a work in progress.” She emphasized that she is “working very closely with our faculty, parents, as well as with students to understand what the areas for change need to be.” While she is President, Davis very heavily relies on her administration team: “I rarely make decisions alone – it’s always with people’s support and feedback, [the administration] are thinking about policies and practices that are important across our entire school to make things run smoothly and safely.” A lot of the policies Ms. Davis is planning on implementing are not new. In fact, she explains that a reinstitution of old policies such as the “relaunch of dress code, relaunch of open campus policy, relaunch of electronic policies are things that create conditions at our school that allow for success.” Another point greatly emphasized by Davis is the focus on accessibility. More specifically, the “access and opportunities to AP coursework, IB coursework, [and] what does post-graduation planning look like for 11th and 12th graders. Making sure people have opportunities if they want to do dual enrollment, internships, things like that. It’s always about equipping members of our faculty with the tools and resources in order to create opportunities for students.” 

As an alum of Central High School, Davis has a unique view of the school.  She explained that being an alum impacts her position as she is familiar with the structure of our school. “Being an alum helped me transition to the school, I knew what the school building was, I knew how the departments were structured, I know a lot about Central traditions, so I didn’t have to learn. That’s helpful because it’s given me a very tangible starting place, I just have to insert myself back into the culture of the school.” She also believes that having been a student at Central, she has a unique perspective on the issues that should be improved on–  “when we think about the experiences that have happened at our school in the past couple of years, going through covid, thinking about BLM, students demands, improving opportunities for racial equity, having been a student at Central and being a part of the community, gives me a different perspective and understanding about our needs.”

The appointment of President Davis was a historic day for Central. When asked how it felt to be the first woman to lead this school, Davis replied, “anytime you are first it can always feel monumental. There is pressure to succeed but it is also very exciting.” In her opinion, Central has been due for a female president since the school was founded 200 years ago .“Our school has always been celebrated for its diversity, in so many different aspects, but I think me sitting in this seat allows different types of people to feel represented through leadership at our school.”With a new school year underway, there is still time for Davis and Central to grow. “We are not fully back to normal and we still have a lot of work to do, so I encourage students to get involved, continue to use your voice to advocate for yourself and what needs to happen to make our school a better place,” says Davis. With an already successful start to the school year, it is safe to say that President Davis does indeed have Central’s best interests in mind. Welcome back to Central, President Davis, we can’t wait to see what you do!

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