IDEA logo

Reinventing Education

strategically, collaboratively, and sustainably

Place-based Organizers

Each place-based team organizes strategically across boundary partners to build relationships and showcase powerful examples of democratic education to influence local and state-wide education conversation, policy and practice.


Darcy Bedortha

Darcy Bedortha, Sr. Fellow - Prineville, OR

Darcy has always believed that change in public education was necessary; that it must be meaningful, relevant and often different for each individual, and that great things are already happening for students, in a variety of ways and in a variety of places. She holds a Masters in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University, a TEFL certificate, and is working towards a Masters in teaching secondary English at Goddard College. She believes that all young people have a voice, and that our job as adults is to help them find, develop and use it with wisdom, empathy and respect. Passionate about issues of environmental wisdom, social justice, diversity, dignity and youth, she has worked in public education, children’s mental health, and with homeless kids. She has served in the non-profit arena addressing issues of poverty and education. Darcy has coached, mentored and advised young people in a variety of extra-curricular projects, is an educator for Trackers PDX and volunteers with the Pangaea Project. She has two fantastic, grown sons of her own who get the credit for why she does what she does. Darcy currently lives in Portland, Oregon.

May Melehan

May Melehan - Portland, OR

May believes that institutions of education provide spaces of opportunity, growth and greater world impact for all students. With a ten year background in education, May began her career working in San Francisco for Making Waves Education Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving youth through programming focused on college readiness and attendance. After graduating from the University of San Francisco with a BA in Psychology and minor in Ethnic Studies, May expanded her role as a tutor by serving Making Waves as a leadership team member and outreach coordinator working with students, families and administrators. In a desire to understand the dynamics of policy, access and success in educational institutions, May relocated to Teachers College in New York City where she obtained her Master’s in Sociology and Education with an emphasis on Educational Policy. Shortly after graduating, May made her way out to the Pacific Northwest where she was acquainted with IDEA. Currently May is bringing her experience towards work in higher education where she works as an Admission Coach. She is dedicated to helping students pave their educational pathways and reaching their full academic potential by honoring rich cultural backgrounds and narratives. In her free time May enjoys playing with her pet turtle Norman, cooking and eating delicious food, and exploring cities.

Tonya Karlowicz - Bend, OR

Tonya has worked in various support staff capacities in both the traditional and public charter school environments for the past twelve years. She is currently the attendance secretary at La Pine High School – a small high school in a rural community. Tonya has a passion for social justice and believes that education is a fundamental necessity to freedom. Tonya leads by example, continuing her own education journey as a non-traditional student at Oregon State University - Cascades, where she is completing a Bachelor Degree in Human Development Family Sciences.

New York City / Northern New Jersey

Dena Lagomarsino

Dena Lagomarsino, Sr. Fellow - Ridgewood, NJ

Dena Lagomarsino is a Language Arts educator in Jersey City, New Jersey, currently teaching regular and advanced placement high school students and running a "Photography and Justice" club. In addition to her role as a full-time teacher and Senior Fellow for IDEA's NYC/NJ Place-Based team, she is on the junior board of Generation Citizen, a non-profit that implements action-civics programs in urban public schools in the northeast. Previously, she taught in South Africa. As her hero Nelson Mandela says, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Ilona Bito

Ilona Bito - Brooklyn, NY

Ilona Bito is an educator, dancer, and activist living in Brooklyn NYC. Since finishing studies in Dance and the Art of Teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in 2011, she has been an early childhood teacher in newly founded democratic schools in NYC- Pono and Freebrook Academy. She first discovered democratic education while pursuing the question for her thesis, "How do we create education in which children have purpose? And the power to participate in and fulfill it?" Ilona has taught dance and creative movement to young children since she was 16, and finds inspiration in this experience to keep her own teaching and dance practice vital. Ilona is also currently an organizer/choreographer with Occupy Dance, a member of the AO Movement Collective, and a dancer in PARK directed by Kathy Westwater. This is her first year as an IDEA organizer.

Esther Ohito

Esther Ohito - New York, NY

Esther Ohito moonlights as an aspiring world voyager, a sometime writer, and a wistful movie buff. She is a doctoral student in the department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously, Esther served as a coach for novice teachers, an instructor for pre-service teachers, and a diversity support coordinator at The University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program. This followed a stint as an intermediate and middle school language arts teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, and a professional development provider for various education-oriented organizations. Esther received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Hampton University, and her Master of Arts in Teaching from National-Louis University through the Academy for Urban School Leadership. Her professional and personal work is rooted in her love for children and learning, her conviction that learning is a prerequisite to healing, and her belief healing is synonymous with liberation.

Jeffrey J. Palladino - NY

Jeff Palladino has been working in the NYC Department of Education (DOE) since 1997 in many capacities. In 1997, he started working as a Substance Abuse Prevention Intervention Specialist ( SAPIS) for District 2 in Manhattan. He entered the One Year Residency program at NYU in 1999 and graduated from the Silver School of School Work in the year 2000. He worked as a School Social Worker in District 2 and at a 8 plus program in Harlem during the next three years. In 2003, he was part of a team of educators that opened up The Bronx Guild: A BIg Picture Learning school in the Soundview area of The Bronx. In 2003, he received his NYS Administration license and became the Co-director and Assistant Principal at The Bronx Guild. In 2011, he became an Assistant Principal at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the South Bronx.

Puerto Rico

Josué McGrath Rosario

Josué McGrath Rosario, Sr. Fellow - Caguas, Puerto Rico

Josué has worked for Nuestra Escuela for seven years in a variety of roles, beginning with Social Studies teacher. In 2011 he became Programs Coordinator. He is currently developing three initiatives: the Caguas Education City Initiative, Editorial Estrella, and Pedagogy of Hope (read more about these initiatives in this feature on Josué). Josué has two Bachelors degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, one in Media & Public Communication, and one in Education. Josué lives in Caguas with his partner, Jessica, and two sons.

Natalia Rosado

Natalia Rosado, Sr. Fellow - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Natalia 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. She currently works part-time at Nuestra Escuelita, Nuestra Escuela's day care center and preschool for young children. 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.


Sarah Bertucci

Sarah Bertucci, Sr. Fellow - Burlington, VT

Sarah Bertucci is the mother of four year-old, Mica, and one year-old, Joseph. She lives with her children and her partner, Jason, in Burlington, VT. She works for the Burlington-Winooski Partnership for Change, an initiative committed to transforming school to meet the needs of all students. Her focus area is Personalized, Proficiency-Based Learning. She is committed to this work so that her children, and all children, go to schools where they are honored and loved. Her favorite course she ever taught was a service-learning course that took students to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, focusing on themes of community, race, and privilege. She has a background in personalized learning through her work at Big Picture schools where students design their own curriculum around their passions. She has a Master's degree from Skidmore College with a focus on Empowering Students in Secondary Math and Science, and a Bachelor's in Geosciences from Princeton University.

Greg Young

Greg Young, Sr. Fellow - Morrisville, VT

Greg Young is an educator with 10+ years of experience in both traditional and non-traditional public high schools. He has worked as a high school science teacher in NH, and also as an advisor at the Met School in Providence, RI. He has also been the VT State Liaison for the New England Secondary Schools Consortium, as well as an instructional coach in Big Picture Learning schools in VT and around the country. Greg holds a masters degree in Ecological Teaching and Learning from Lesley University, and is working on a PhD in Education from the University of Rhode Island.

Sarah Kadden

Sarah Kadden - Burlington, VT

Sarah Kadden is an educator and professional development provider for Shelburne Farms and their Sustainable Schools Project, where she works with school folks, students, and community members to use sustainability as an integrating concept for school transformation; including curriculum, community connections, collaboration, and campus ecology. Her time is split between working with adults and working with children, but it’s no secret that she has a preference for the children. Her work centers on the ideas of play, equity and justice/anti-racism, transformation, collaboration and voice. She’s often preoccupied by dancing, the outdoors, glitter, and road trips, the ocean and her home state of Connecticut.

Kaitlin Moran

Kaitlin Moran - Burlington, VT

Kaitlin Moran is a teacher leader with expertise in working in alternative education settings. She earned a BA from Boston University in International Relations and a MAT from Brown University. She spent two incredible years working at Phoenix Charter Academy in Chelsea, MA teaching academically rigorous Humanities to students aged 14-22 with historic academic under-performance. While at Phoenix, Kaitlin also founded a Student Events Committee, an Academic Congress, and began a Mentoring Program for aspiring teachers. Missing the Green Mountains, Kaitlin returned to her home state of Vermont and is currently the Pre-Technical Outreach Instructor at the Barre Technical Center. Her program aims to help students develop their leadership skills while doing their part to develop their community.

Peter McConville - Burlington, VT

Diop Mohamed - Burlington, VT

Leo O'Reilly - South Burlington, VT


Ofir Germanic, Sr. Fellow - Minneapolis, MN

Ofir Germanic is a youth worker with more than 20 years of experience that includes working with detached youth and street gangs in Tel Aviv area. He was the founder and director of a youth music club in the city of Holon in Israel; director of a nonprofit youth organization that focused on working with disadvantage communities in Israel; and head of the youth department in a national agency for road safety. His work crosses into education with leadership experiences in the Israeli Democratic Education Institute and in the kibbutz education system in the south of Israel. ofir was part of an international initiative "youth work in contested spaces" - working with youth in different part of the world including northern Ireland, Jordan, Palestine, and the Basque country. In the last two years ofir was working as teaching assistant in the youth studies department at the college of education and human behavior at the University of Minnesota. ofir is currently working as a community educator in the University of Minnesota "Learning Dreams program" and as a youth workers mentor for City of Saint Paul Parks and Recs department. He graduated from the youth development leadership program at the University of Minnesota.

David Bly

David Bly - Northfield, MN

David Bly taught in Minnesota Public schools for 30 years, most of those years working with students with severe emotional and learning disabilities. He also participated in a leadership role in the Minnesota Alternative School movement. He served a number of years as Lead Teacher at the Northfield Alternative Learning Center, where he worked with students who needed a different approach to succeed in school. David has learned a great deal from his students about overcoming obstacles and the courage it takes to move forward in life. David served two terms in the Minnesota State Legislature 2007 to 2010 and is in the process of running for the newly formed House District he lives in. He has a B.A. from St. Olaf College, Northfield, and an M.A. from University of St. Mary's, Minneapolis. David has two adult children, Gareth and Julia.

Genta Hayes

Genta Hayes - Minneapolis, MN

Genta Hayes is a native of Kansas City, Missouri who has rendered service in the field of Youth Development since 2002. She is currently an M.ed candidate for Youth Development Leadership program at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities and serves as a National Child Policy Training for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program® in which she trains teaching interns, educational administrators, and clergymen how to facilitate and Integrated Reading Curriculum for summer and after-schools programs. Genta began serving and mentoring youths upon completing high school as an after-school program tutor and assistant basketball coach. After teaching cultural art for three years at a charter school in Kansas City she decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in History from Grambling State University. While attending GSU Genta interned with CDF Freedom Schools as a teaching intern and mentor intern. She co-piloted an after-school tutoring program for the laboratory schools at GSU to aid elementary and middle school students in preparation for the Louisiana Standardized Exams. During the summer of 2012 Genta also co-piloted a freedom school in North Minneapolis for children of color from low-income families. Genta lives by the philosophy that all children are capable of learning and teaching, and it is this philosophy that drives her to advocate and serve on behalf of youth.

Steven Martinez Grande - Minneapolis, MN


Paul Perry

Paul Perry, Sr. Fellow - Boston, MA

Paul Perry is the Senior Organizing Fellow for the Greater Boston Place-Based Organizing Team. He is in the second year of the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Paul was most recently a Harvard Presidential Public Service Fellow working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to improve their professional development program and school leadership pipeline. Prior to Harvard, Paul earned his Master of Public Policy degree at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. In California, he worked on numerous policy projects ranging from mentoring student teachers in city schools, consulting for nonprofit education start-ups, reforming juvenile justice policies, and improving case management systems in urban school districts. Before Berkeley, Paul gained his teaching experience as a middle school English and Social Studies at Anna Howard Shaw Middle School in Philadelphia. At Shaw, he founded the school’s first debate team that achieved success in citywide competition, reached significant academic gains with his students in the classroom, and served as a bridge between the faculty and administration as a building representative for the local teachers union. While teaching, Paul earned his Master of Education degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to teaching, Paul mentored youth in Washington DC through an after-school tutoring program and also worked in the US Senate, the Center for American Progress, and the NAACP Washington Bureau. Paul is a graduate of American University.