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Reinventing Education

strategically, collaboratively, and sustainably

IDEC 2013 Organizers

Design a learning space for IDEC 2013 that makes the most of the opportunity to convene people across the U.S. with international youth leaders, educators, and organizers

Meet our IDEC 2013 organizers:

Jayeesha Dutta

Jayeesha Dutta, Sr. Fellow - New Orleans, LA

Jayeesha Dutta is a tri-coastal Bengali-American educator, "artivist," writer, researcher and travel adventurer. Born in the deep south (Mobile, AL), raised back East (New York, NY), and aged out West (Oakland, CA), she has come full circle to make roots in the Big Easy (New Orleans, LA). She serves as Chief of Staff at the Service Employees International Union Local21LA, currently conducting participatory action research and cultural organizing campaigns around bettering working conditions and facilities for school service workers and public employees in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge metropolitan areas. She is also co-founder of Mind Power Collective, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to building creative community spaces and resources for educators. Jayeesha has worked with KidSmART and Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, the Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership and the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, now known as The National Equity Project. She received a Bachelor of Science in Labor Relations from Cornell University and conducted graduate studies in Equity and Social Justice in Education at San Francisco State University.

Monika Hardy

Monika Hardy - Loveland, CO

Monika is working on setting people free, especially from the current law/definition of public education. She believes that the human spirit is our greatest resource and that we already have all we need. She is passionate about creating spaces of permission where people have nothing to prove, we will see this breathtaking potential that we are currently holding back. Monika currently facilitates a district innovation lab in Loveland, CO, which is experimenting with these ideas.

Melissa Palma

Melissa Palma - Ann Arbor, MI

Melissa Palma has been an educator for 13 years, a parent for 8 years, and Co-founder, Director, and Advisor at Little Lake Learning Community for the past 3 years. At the Little Lake Learning Community, children freely explore interests, engage and take ownership in meaningful real world activities and participate in a democratic community. Melissa is an organizer for the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) conference in Boulder, August 4-8th, 2013.

Waahida Mbatha

Waahida Mbatha - Washington, DC

Waahida Mbatha is an avid believer that an empowering pedagogy steeped in social justice is one of the key elements necessary to breaking the cycle of poverty. In 2011, Waahida co-founded the Khulula Foundation which aims to cultivate a cadre of change agents from economically disenfranchised communities by equipping them with the tools necessary to transform their lives and their communities. Waahida is extremely passionate and outspoken about social justice issues and has been a contributing writer for Rethinking Schools, a progressive United States publication that promotes equity in education. Waahida has also been featured on panel discussions around culturally relevant education and in 2012 gave a talk at TEDxBraamfontein on the importance of an education steeped in social justice. In 2012, Waahida co-founded the Change Agents Network, a platform for social leaders to engage and share ideas on effective methods of influencing the socio-economic advancement of humanity. In 2012, Waahida was granted a license to organize TEDxAlexandra which will take place in 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to establishing the Khulula Foundation, Waahida worked for seven years as a middle school humanities teacher and as an after school programme coordinator, most recently at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC. Waahida holds a Masters of Science in Education Policy and Community Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she was an Advanced Opportunity Fellow and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Berea College in Education.

Kacie Stillings Marler

Kacie Stillings Marler

Kacie holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of New Orleans and has been working in New Orleans’ nonprofit sector since 2007. She currently works as Director of Development for Positive Vibrations Foundation, which awards nationwide fellowship grants to aspiring teenage musicians who want to spend a month in New Orleans developing their skills under the guidance of professional musicians. This year, Kacie is just embarking on her journey into democratic education by joining the team of Mind Power Collective, which provides creative spaces and resources in celebration and appreciation of progressive educators to build community and inform action. Kacie is also dance teacher, concentrating in ballet and working with children ranging from preschool through high school.

Vicente Rosario Meléndez

Vicente Rosario Meléndez - Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vicente Rosario was born and raised in Vieques, a small Island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. For more than 15 years, he has served the Vieques community both as a private businessman and a public educator. Vicente and his wife, Lizzie, a social worker for many years, have dedicated their lives to developing educational programs for every citizen of this island community. In 2000, together with other community leaders, Vicente established The Biobay Conservation Group, a non-profit organization to create awareness for the care and preservation of Vieques’ natural resources, which include the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Their vision was “Conservation through Education.” Vicente has served as the Director of Cultural Affairs for the Municipality of Vieques and as the Mayor’s Special Assistant. As part of their community outreach, he and his wife directed the Community Library of Esperanza and developed many outreach programs for the children and youth. In 2007, he co-founded The Vieques Observatory Project, Inc., with the goal to build an astronomical observatory and science education center on the Island. In 2011, Vicente joined forces with Nuestra Escuela, an organization that promotes alternative education for young people who want to graduate from high school and pursue their educational dreams. He has taught science, mathematics and English, while developing many innovative activities for the young people in his care. Vicente says that being a teacher at Nuestra Escuela has changed his life, and inspires him daily with new ideas and opportunities for community education and outreach in Vieques, in Puerto Rico, and beyond.

Katherine Boss - Manchester, NH

Home schooled in the 1970s, Kathy knows first hand that there is more than one answer to what it means to educate--there are as many answers as people. After working for many years in development, community relations and nonprofit management, Kathy returned to university to pursue and complete teacher training in the hopes of becoming a change agent for education. She is especially concerned with the rights of young people to be seen, heard, and respected. She is now the Director of Community and Resource Development at High Mowing School in NH where she also teaches creative writing and yoga.