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October 26, 2023

Duke’s dream as new district HR director

Karen+Duke+is+Coppell+ISD%E2%80%99s+new+executive+director+of+human+resources.+Duke+has+led+human+resource+teams+at+various+school+districts+for+the+past+17+years%2C+and+started+working+for+CISD+on+Feb.+12%2C+replacing+Kelly+Mires.
Ishana Sharma
Karen Duke is Coppell ISD’s new executive director of human resources. Duke has led human resource teams at various school districts for the past 17 years, and started working for CISD on Feb. 12, replacing Kelly Mires.

As they get closer and closer to high school, middle schoolers are often confronted with the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

In response, they might say “I don’t know yet.” However, that was not the case for middle school Karen Duke. Instead, she would proudly say, “A teacher.”

When previous executive director Kelly Mires accepted the chief human resources officer position at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, there was a space in the HR department for CISD. Duke, working at Region 10 Education Service Center, applied for the job.

On Jan. 22, Duke was named Coppell ISD executive director of human resources. Her first day on the job was Feb. 12.

”Specifically because of the timing of this open position, we felt like we needed someone who could hit the ground running,” CISD HR specialist Michelle Minnick said. “[We wanted] someone who has served in this world before or in similar capacity.”

The district’s HR executive director is tasked with managing operations and helping guide district staff.

“We talked to principals, department directors and supervisors,” CISD administrative services assistant supervisor Kristen Eichel said. “They all said they needed someone who was approachable, knew all the components of HR and loved students, teachers and the school environment.”

Duke met these qualifications. Following her childhood dream career, Duke initially started in education as a biology and anatomy/physiology teacher as well as a basketball, cross country and tennis coach at Crandall High School in Crandall ISD.

“I knew in eighth grade what I wanted to do,” Duke said. “I wanted to be a teacher and make a difference in students’ lives.”

As time went on, Duke climbed the administrative ladder. After being an assistant principal at Boswell High School in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Duke entered the world of human resources where she has remained for the past 17 years, serving in multiple districts and regional headquarters.

“Human resources is kind of like a puzzle,” Duke said. “Each campus has a different need to be met and you have to find those specific needs.”

Duke worked for five years in the Region 10 Education Service Center’s Human Resources department which supports its region school districts with HR tasks such as the hiring process and training of new staff members. However, her heart was elsewhere. 

“She wanted to work with students, teachers and staff,” Eichel said. “Duke just has a love for education and doing what’s right for students.”

After taking on the work of overseeing school districts, Duke missed being a part of one. She wanted to feel a connection that comes with being in a school district. Thus, she applied for CISD’s executive HR director position which she learned about through a network of colleagues.

Duke made it through an application process that dwindled from a pool of 50 potential candidates to a pool of about half the size, and further narrowed down to five finalists. Then, on Jan. 18, Duke interviewed for a final time with the CISD HR department. 

 

“Because I was a part of the interview committee, I had the benefit of hearing all the applicants that we selected for that interview,” Minnick said. “Because of her background, her skillset, her experience and her passion, she rose to the top of the applicant pool.”

In the month since Duke was admitted into office, she has attended meetings, solved time-sensitive issues and has embodied her role as the executive director of human resources.

“Our district just called out to her,” Minnick said. “This is where she wanted to be.”

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About the Contributors
Aasritha Yanamala
Aasritha Yanamala, Staff Writer
Aasritha Yanamala is a sophomore and first year staff writer  on The Sidekick.
Ishana Sharma
Ishana Sharma, Staff Writer
Ishana is a junior and second-year staff writer for The Sidekick. She was born in Bangalore, India. In her free time she enjoys reading, baking, watching TV shows and hanging out with friends and family. She has been playing the piano since she was seven. She has a mixed breed dog named Snowie who was adopted in 2017. Her way to de-stress is by going on long walks with her dog while listening to music. Her favorite TV shows are Friends and Outer Banks. She could read and re-read the Harry Potter book series and never gets bored of it because it is an escape from reality, and prefers the books over the movies any day. Her favorite drink is iced coffee, and her favorite foods are Thai food, tacos and anything chocolate. Her favorite candies are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Twix. She would go to the beach everyday if she could because she finds the ocean waves calming and peaceful. You can reach out to her through her email at [email protected] or on Instagram at @.ishana_sharma.

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