Albert Sykes, Executive Director
Albert has a powerful personal story, one that is rooted in the struggles and search for quality education through community organizing and youth advocacy. The proud father of three sons, Albert grew up in the Shady Oaks community around the corner from where NAACP member and civil rights activist Medgar Evers lived and died. Evers has been one of Sykes’ guiding lights in doing the work needed to move Mississippi and our nation forward. Becoming a student of the Algebra Project and a mentee of Bob Moses brought Evers into Sykes’ life, and made his sacrifices tangible to the then teenager. Through this experience, Sykes gained much firsthand knowledge and understanding of Black Mississippi’s struggle for justice, equity, and full citizenship.
Contact: asykes [at] democraticeducation.org
Dana Bennis, Director of Learning
Dana has been deeply involved in the growing network of democratic education practitioners and supporters since 2001, dedicating his time to researching, teaching, and advocating for education that respects young people to be meaningfully involved in their learning. He has taught in democratic, progressive, and conventional school settings and earned a Masters Degree in Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University. Dana has published essays in various education journals, and collaborates with others locally, nationally, and internationally to advance democratic education. Dana lives in Minneapolis with his partner and fellow educator, Julie Hill, and their son Myles.
Contact: dbennis [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 4
As the Director of Leadership Programs for the Institute of Educational Leadership, Kwesi directs several projects that are designed to create and sustain strategic linkages between early childhood education opportunities and community schools. Kwesi has years of experience working with local communities and state agencies to improve cross-sector collaboration and service delivery systems supporting children, youth and families. He has provided technical assistance and training to a range of government agencies, schools, districts, and organizations in projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Working with young people is also a personal passion for Kwesi. He has been recognized as the Big Brother of the Year in the District of Columbia; and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capitol Area, serving for 7 years as VP for Program Services. He holds an MSW degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work where he was a Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Fellow.
Robert Davis has spent his career in the Financial Services sector. He is the Founder and CEO of The Bridge Companies. This organization was created to take advantage of the reformation of the mortgage industry and to add valuable services to owners of distressed US residential mortgage products. He was a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley and Head of US Retail Residential Mortgage Lending at Morgan Stanley Home Loans. Prior to 2007, Mr. Davis was an EVP at Fifth Third Bank (Home Equity of America), where he was responsible for expanding the production its Wholesale Prime HELOC business. Earlier, he was an EVP at Countrywide Funding. Mr. Davis also served as President and CEO of ContiMortgage, servicing a $13B portfolio while originating about $12.0B in mortgages per year. Mr. Davis was also an EVP of NationsCredit Financial Services (currently Bank of America).
Melia Dicker, a writer and educator who has worked with students of all ages, is a founder of IDEA and partner/owner at Creative Distillery. She co-founded Spark, a nonprofit organization empowering youth through leadership development and apprenticeships in their dream jobs. Melia blogs at Reschool Yourself, having spent a year retracing her steps through education from kindergarten through college. She has a degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University and is an alumna and board member of AmeriCorps' Public Allies. Melia brings to the IDEA team her experience in starting and managing a nonprofit organization, bridging differences between alternative and traditional educators, and using personal narrative to introduce democratic education to mainstream audiences.
Santiago Rincón-Gallardo is a Banting postdoctoral fellow at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His work seeks to understand how and under what conditions effective pedagogy can be disseminated on a large scale in educational systems. In his current role as lead researcher of Michael Fullan's consulting team, he is involved in multiple projects in the US, Canada, and Latin America, documenting good work underway and providing focused recommendations to enhance system coherence and to develop and circulate professional capital across educational systems. As an educator and organizer, Santiago worked for over a decade to promote grassroots educational change initiatives in Mexican public schools serving historically marginalized communities. He was the director of a small NGO that catalyzed a movement to turn conventional classrooms into tutorial networks in hundreds of public schools in Mexico. This model later inspired the creation of a national program to expand tutorial networks to nine thousand schools across the country. He holds an Ed.D on Education Policy, Leadership and Instructional Practice from Harvard University. His work has been published in the Harvard Educational Review, Revista DIDAC and in two books (of which is a coauthor) by Siglo XXI Editores.
Natalia Rosado Cofresí is in her second year of college at UPR (University of Puerto Rico), studying sociology. She participated in a summer leadership program directed by Justo Mendez and Ana Yris Guzman for two years. Since then, she has worked on various activities with Nuestra Escuela, Inc. and the Alliance for Alternative Education in Puerto Rico. Consequently, she was president of a youth organization called Juventud Estrella (Youth Star), which is dedicated to community service and social activism. In the not-so-distant future she will start working in Nuestra Escuela. Natalia was also part of the Executive Committee of the IV International Congress of Children and Adolescent's Rights. She is a passionate ballet dancer, movie and book junkie, always seeking spiritual harmony. Most importantly, she has a love for education and social justice that enables students to create their own path towards their own bright future.
Leroy N. Shingoitewa is a member and former Chairman of the Hopi Indian Tribe. He studied for his PhD in Education Leadership ABD at Pennsylvania State University. He has many years experience as a Teacher and School Administrator, Education Consultant/Trainer and in Tribe Management. Mr. Shingoitewa established First Tribal Grant School on Hopi Reservation in 1985, received the 1000 Point of Light Award under President George W Bush Sr. He is presently retired and involved in community activities including State of Arizona Advisory Board.
Jenerra Williams is entering her 15th year at Mission Hill School and currently teaches first/second grade. Before working at MHS, Jenerra had a variety of jobs, including working at Northeastern University at the John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute. It is there that her love of teaching and connecting with students was discovered. While obtaining her M.Ed. through Northeastern, Jenerra was placed as a student intern at Mission Hill School. Her passion for teaching and making meaningful connections combined with the school's philosophy and approach to learning was a perfect fit. Her work at Mission Hill has taken her across the country and internationally as well. From the hallways of the Capitol building to schools in The Netherlands, sharing the work of MHS and what "good education" looks like has been an important part of her work as a teacher. Some organizations she is connected to outside of MHS are IDEA, the Ashoka Foundation, and Center for Teaching Quality.
Carlos Moreno is a Native New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx and came to Rhode Island to attend Johnson & Wales University, where he studied marketing and business administration. After graduating from college, and several years of working in the corporate and non-profit sectors, Carlos decided to bring his passion for helping youth to the forefront and entered the classroom as an educator. Carlos joined The Met School in 2002. In 2006, after successfully graduating his cohort of students and receiving his Master's Degree in Educational Leadership, Moreno was promoted to principal of The Met - Unity school. In 2008, his leadership as an administrator led The Met to promote Carlos to the newly created position of Director of Principal Support & Development. In that role, Carlos coached, supported and evaluated the leaders of The Met schools in Rhode Island. In 2009, Carlos decided to move closer to his family and his hometown when he accepted a position with Big Picture Learning as the Director of School Reform & Innovation - New Jersey. Carlos now directs and connects the multiple school-based national initiatives for Big Picture Learning as the National Director of School Network Support & Innovation.
Scott Nine is a freelance consultant working on educational and social change projects. He served as IDEA's Executive Director from 2010 to 2014. Scott’s focus is on the intersections of place and community-based education, movement building, systems entrepreneurship, action research, and public narrative. He earned a Masters in Social Work from Arizona State University in 2002 where he focused his learning on program planning, non-profit administration, and community organizing. He has experience teaching 7th graders, directing state university housing programs, working with seniors, and supporting social work, educational, and community organizations. Scott lives in Portland, Oregon, where his three children teach him on a daily basis.