The Notebook honored two of its own at its Turning the Page for Change event. Myrtle Naylor, one of the original founders of the Notebook, and Erika Owens, Web Editor of the Notebook's site thenotebook.org, received recognition and awards on Tuesday for the contributions they have made in the fight for better public schools.
The Notebook exists today thanks to the vision and persistence of a small group of Philadelphia education activists who back in 1994 were crazy enough to think that they could launch a citywide quarterly education newspaper with a few thousand dollars.
Myrtle Naylor was a key member of that determined crew from the earliest planning meetings, long before the first edition was actually published in 1994. She had her hand in just about every aspect of the paper, doing whatever needed to be done through 14 years of volunteer service until she stepped down in 2007. During most of these years, the Notebook was hugely dependent on volunteer energy. She had a story in the Notebook’s very first edition (about the demise of the school council at Roxborough High School), and also handed the paper out in schoolyards across the city, took photos, helped out in the office, persuaded funders that the project deserved their support, and more.
Like other Notebook founders, Myrtle was used to doing double – and triple – duty as an education activist, supporting parent organizing through groups like E-quality and the Alliance Organizing Project. Through fighting for a quality education in the schools attended by her own daughter Khia (still a loyal Notebook supporter), Myrtle saw how resistant the school system was to authentic parental involvement and became an articulate advocate for every parent’s right to be respected and to have a real voice in their child’s school.
By the time the Notebook emerged, Myrtle identified as a “former parent,” but her passion was not diminished – she continued to be an unstoppable advocate for better schools for Philadelphia children. She made sure that the Notebook always stayed focused on educational equity – while also making sure that the hard-working Notebook crew maintained their sense of humor and sense of caring for one another.
The Notebook’s absolute commitment to telling it like it is in the Philadelphia schools reflects the influence Myrtle has had on its development. Today we say thank you to Myrtle for her key role in the creation of the Notebook.
Erika Owens was in grade school when the Notebook was first published in 1994. This was not quite before websites were invented, but close. The Notebook back then wasn’t even dreaming of going online.
Today, of course, thenotebook.org is the go-to place for education news and robust discussion of education policy in Philadelphia. And that is in large measure due to Erika.
Erika came to us in 2007, a couple of years out of college, as an interim, part-time business manager. Quickly she showed us she could get things done and landed the permanent job. When she applied for the web editor’s job last year, there was no question she had found her niche.
Those of us who have been around a little longer than she has – and for whom understanding how the web works is something like learning a second language – are in awe of her intuitive knowledge about how to keep our site robust, relevant and cutting-edge. Drupal, Google Analytics, RSS – it’s all Greek to some of us. Under Erika’s leadership, we’ve now got a site that surpassed our vision, and our traffic has almost quadrupled since early 2009. People are telling us that they look forward to Erika’s “Notes from the news” every weekday morning.
Besides her technical skills, Erika also brings a deep knowledge of education and a passionate concern about justice for all students. Raised in Erie, PA, she tutored in the DC public schools while attending George Washington University, she understands first-hand the urban education issues that the Notebook addresses.
Besides making her mark on the Web, Erika is laying down roots in Philadelphia – she recently bought a house in South Philadelphia. We want to take this opportunity to thank Erika for the amazing work she has done for the Notebook in just a short time…and to remind everyone reading this to go to thenotebook.org to see for yourself what she’s done.
A recurring activity at the celebration, guests had the opportunity to pose on the Notebook's cover and see themselves as front page news! Professional photographer C. Kennedy came in to take the photographs, which you can view in the Notebook's Facebook photo album "You're on the Notebook's front page, 2010!"
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