Members of our leadership team bring a variety of talents and expertise to the organization.
Scott Nine, Executive Director
A dynamic public speaker and organizer, Scott enjoys teaching and learning about leadership, social justice, community, educational reform, environmental sanity, personal growth, entrepreneurship, and how we get along with one another. Scott has a Masters Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University. He has experience teaching, advising, and creating learning communities for people ages 5 to 95. Raised by two public school educators, Scott fell in love with his partner Hollie while growing up in Apache Junction, Arizona. He is lives in Portland, OR, where Kristofer, KD, and Ellanore teach him new lessons on an almost daily basis.
Contact: snine [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 6
Dana Bennis, Chief Learning Officer
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. He brings to IDEA his commitment to youth engagement and democratic practice, national and international education connections, and his strengths in research, education theory and analysis, and critically listening to the viewpoints of others. Dana lives in Minneapolis, MN, with his partner and fellow educator, Julie Hill.
Contact: dbennis [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 4
Jeanette Miller, Director of Operations
Jeanette is a writer/artist, with a Masters Degree in English from Portland State University and an ongoing interest in Gender and Identity Studies. Jeanette writes a blog of “autobiofictionography,” loosely based on her own life experiences and artistic work. With over ten years of experience in executive administrative and program support, she has worked at small and large, public and private institutions of higher education, such as Western Oregon University, Portland State University, Stanford University, and Santa Clara University. Jeanette became interested in democratic education when she was introduced to the grassroots inception of The Village Free School in Portland, Oregon where she served briefly as a Council Treasurer. Along with her extensive administrative, finance management, and organizational skills, she brings to IDEA her attention to detail, discernment, and tenacity of purpose.
Contact: jmiller [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 7
Jill Ruchala, Interim Director of Development
Jill Ruchala is an education consultant and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. She has learned and taught in the U.S., the Czech Republic, South Korea, Mexico, and on the Thai-Burma border. Jill is especially interested in global education, people’s history, and experiential learning in U.S. classrooms. For the past 4 years, Jill coordinated Global Classrooms Model UN for urban public school students with DC schools through UNA-NCA and then nationally with the UN Foundation.
Jill was in the first cohort of IDEA organizers and has been learning with the IDEA network ever since. She has an M.A. in International Education from George Washington University and a B.A. in Literature from Yale University.
Crystal Mattison, Director of Change Work
Crystal Mattison is a native of Charleston, South Carolina, and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Brevard College, where she majored in Psychology. Before joining the IDEA staff, she worked in academic advising & retention at Bennett College and was an IDEA organizer. Crystal has been deeply involved with the Children’s Defense Fund since 2004 and serves as a board member for the Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro, which hosted the first CDF Freedom School in the city of Greensboro under her guidance. Crystal has a graduate degree in Adult Education with an emphasis on Community Education and Higher Education from North Carolina A&T State University.
Contact: cmattison [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 8
Shawn Strader, Administrative and Development Associate
Shawn grew up in the Phoenix metropolitan area of Arizona, and currently lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He sees his own and IDEA's commitments as resting in social justice, equity, and human rights. Shawn became engaged with IDEA shortly after the 2008 International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) in Vancouver, BC, where Israeli educator, Yaacov Hecht, presented some of the just outcomes found within communities that practice democracy in education. Shawn graduated from Arizona State University in 2008 with a BA in Philosophy, and the focus of his work with IDEA inludes resource curation for the IDEA Library, development and fundraising, a wide array of administrative tasks, co-creating IDEA's path forward, and occasionally serving as a direct assistant to any number of IDEA's directors.
Contact: sstrader [at] democraticeducation.org 1-800-878-5740, ext. 10
Justo Méndez Arámburu is Founder and Executive Director of Nuestra Escuela, with his wife and Deputy Director, Ana Yris Guzmán Torres. Justo has a Magna Cum Laude Bachelor Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico; Masters Degree in Social Planning and is completing another Master Degree in Non Profit Organizations Administration from the University of the Sacred Heart. Justo’s been awarded the Educator of the Year Recognition by the Legislature of Puerto Rico and the Sor Isolina Ferré Medal to Excellence in Service to Others. His vision was fundamental in developing the public policy that stands for holistic educational services to youth at risk in Puerto Rico. He was promoter of the Alliance for Alternative Education of Puerto Rico and has been able to build a strong network that supports alternative and democratic education all across the country.
Ramon E. Daubon is the Vice President for External Affairs at the Inter American Foundation and an Associate at the Charles Kettering Foundation. He serves on boards and in advisory roles to the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, the Esquel Group Foundation, SAPIENTIS in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). He has been Executive Director of the Caribbean Environment and Development Institute in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID for its Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Representative of the Ford Foundation for the Andean and Southern Cone Countries of South America, and Vice President of the National Puerto Rican Coalition. He has been a consultant for the National Hispanic Housing Council, Partners of the Americas, and Casals & Associates. A native of Puerto Rico, he has published extensively on topics about Latin America and the Caribbean and the connection of economic and social development with democracy and the culture of civic engagement.
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 doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), a consultant for the Mexican Ministry of Education, and a visiting scholar at the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His academic work explores the relationship between individuals and institutions while seeking to understand and promote educational change as a social movement. As an educator and an activist, he has worked for over a decade to promote grassroots educational change initiatives in Mexican public schools serving historically marginalized communities. He was the director of Convivencia Educativa, A.C., an organization that catalyzed the transformation of instructional practice from the inside out in hundreds of schools in Mexico and inspired the development of a nationwide policy that seeks to radically transform instructional practice in 9000 schools across the country. He was a tri-chair of the Seventh Annual Alumni of Color Conference at HGSE, and the co-founder and co-director of two student organizations at Harvard: the Latin American and Caribbean Education Network (LACE), and Radical Educators.
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.
Kirsten Olson is an educational activist, writer, teacher, and Chief Listening Officer at Old Sow Consulting in Brookline, Massachusetts. She works with public, private and alternative schools on issues of school culture, leadership development, and creating more engaging learning environments for everyone in school. She is the author of Wounded By School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up To Old School Culture, which was one of the bestselling books at Teachers College Press last year, and Schools As Colonizers, about the radical school writers of the 1960s. Kirsten has been a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kennedy School at Harvard University, and the Massachusetts Center for Charter Public School Excellence. She received a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was an English major at Vassar College. She is interested in bringing educators and critics together to create momentum for educational change. Kirsten's group blog on educational transformation, Cooperative Catalyst, is a place where teachers and administrators are gathering to talk about educational shift.
Stephanie Rogen is a consultant, coach and facilitator to educational and not-for profit leadership. As President and Founder of Greenwich Leadership Partners, her clients include the leadership of nationally recognized independent schools (Blair Academy, the Latin School of Chicago, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Newark Academy), public high schools, universities, a national leadership education organization (The White House Project), several educational foundations and a variety of social service agencies. Prior to focusing in not for profit, Ms. Rogen consulted to a diversity of major investment and commercial banks as well as several closely held businesses. Ms. Rogen is an active volunteer in her community and local schools. She also designs curriculum and leads workshops for students and young women in leadership. She is a trained facilitator of bereavement groups and works with parents who have lost a child. Ms. Rogen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with a minor in Organizational Behavior from Brown University and a Masters of Education in Administration and Policy from Harvard University. She was born in Oslo, Norway and lived in Norway and England before moving to the United States.
Natalia Rosado 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.
Staff members Dana Bennis and Scott Nine are also members of the Board.
Chris Balme is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Spark, a nationally-recognized dropout prevention program (www.sparkprogram.org). Chris holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business, and has taught with the Breakthrough Collaborative and in the Philadelphia public schools. In recognition of his accomplishments at Spark, Chris was honored with the Bay Area's Jefferson Award for Public Service, the New Leaders Council “Top 40 under 40” Leaders Award, the Draper Richards Fellowship, and the Ashoka Fellowship, a global award that recognizes the most innovative non-profits in the world.
Jonah Canner is a co-founder of IDEA. He is the Founder/Educational Director of the Fertile Grounds Project, a non-profit organization that provides New York City youth with educational programming that reaches beyond the classroom. Jonah was a founding teacher at the Community School for Social Justice in the Bronx and received his Masters in Education from the New School University in New York.
A lifelong advocate for youth engagement, Adam Fletcher has been working with schools, district and state education-serving organizations and student-serving nonprofits for more than fifteen years. He founded The Free Child Project, which connects young people and adults to the tools, training, and technical assistance they need to change the world, and Sound Out, which facilitates training for students, professional development, consulting, and other services for K-12 schools and organizations. In addition to blogging, Fletcher has written more than two dozen publications on topics related to youth voice.
Sarah Silbert Hinawi is the Executive Director of the Saul Silbert Charitable Trust and The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Social Innovation. Her career has been driven by a desire to help others find a personal connection to learning and a life path in line with their passions, interests, and beliefs. This vision started during her undergraduate years at Oberlin College, sustained through her early work life in the publishing industry as an Acquisitions Editor at Random House, and led her to a Masters of Education in Counseling from Boston University. Subsequently, she has been instrumental in the growth and success of a number of student-centered non-profit programs, including the Columbia University TeenScreen Program, and LitWorld. She established her expertise in both college and career planning and non-profit management and administration in helping to develop and run the College Board’s widely used college-planning curriculum, CollegeEd. In addition to running SSCT and The Purple Crayon, Sarah currently serves as a strategic planning consultant to several non-profit organizations.
Connie Krosney was a founding Core Faculty member of the Vermont College of Norwich University Master of Education Program, which is now the Vermont M.Ed. of Union Institute & University (1999-2010). Previously, she was graduate faculty and Coordinator of Graduate Teacher Licensure at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, VT(1992-1999). She received her Doctor of Education from the University of Vermont, focusing on Social Foundations of Education and Applied Ethics. She is a passionate advocate for public schools, teachers, and students, as part of her commitment to work towards a more just and compassionate world. She continues to teach part-time in Social Foundations of Education at the University of Vermont, and is an educational consultant to public schools and teachers.
Patricia Langer is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources at NBCUniversal. She is responsible for human resources globally for the company, including compensation, staffing, benefits, labor relations, organizational development and learning. Previously, she served on the Lifetime executive team as an HR and legal advisor to senior leaders. She has also held positions at Pan American World Airways; Webster & Sheffield; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Patricia volunteers with the Taproot Foundation as a pro-bono HR consultant and is a National Advisory Committee Member for the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows Program. She lives in Greater New York City, NY.
Greg Smith is a professor of Education at Lewis and Clark College and author of Place-Based Education in the Global Age: Local Diversity and many other compelling works. He is a friend to Grace Lee Boggs, Parker Palmer, and others. Beyond the campus, he serves on the board of the Rural School and Community Trust, a national organization that has been an active sponsor of place-based educational reforms throughout the United States. He is also a member of the National Education Policy Center based at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Lauren Veasey is National Network Coordinator for Quality Education as a Constitutional Right (QECR). QECR seeks to get a conversation moving among and across stakeholder groups in today’s educational landscape, prioritizing the voices of students, parents and teachers in helping to initiate a national dialogue about high quality education as a fundamental right, protected by the constitution, for all of America’s children.