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Speaker Information
Scott Abernathy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.  In his 2005 book, School Choice and the Future of American Democracy (The University of Michigan Press), Professor Abernathy argues that the privileging of the consumer through the use of private vouchers threatens the expression of democratic citizenship in the larger political realm, particularly in resource-poor communities. His book, No Child Left Behind and the Public Schools (2007, The University of Michigan Press), explores the challenges of measuring educational quality from the top down and considers the possibility of making the law live up to its promises.  Professor Abernathy has worked as a public school teacher in Wisconsin, a street counselor with homeless youths in Boston, and as a volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University in 2002, an M.P.A. in Domestic Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1997, and a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1988.

Colleen Beebe, Director of Education at The Advocates for Human Rights.  Formerly the Executive and Deputy Director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Ms. Beebe is an attorney with expertise in immigration matters, having worked on refugee and immigrant issues for over 20 years as an advocate, paralegal and lawyer. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and cum laude graduate of Hamline University School of Law, she has also been an Adjunct Professor at Hamline University School of Law and the University of Minnesota, where she taught about the inter-American human rights system. Bilingual in Spanish and English and married to an immigrant from Peru, Ms. Beebe has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America. She has worked for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and has volunteered with Fundación Social in Bogotá, Colombia, Comunidad Kairós and Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Paz y Esperanza in Lima and Ayacucho, Peru. Ms. Beebe has also volunteered with the Minnesota Overground Railroad, the Colombia Support Group of Minnesota and is co-founder and board president of Peace and Hope Partnership International, a local human rights non-profit that exists to support the work of faith-based human rights groups in the Americas. She also serves as a board member of the Minnesota Justice Foundation.  Ms. Beebe had received several awards for her service to the community and commitment to human rights and social justice, including:  the Hennepin County Bar Association 2001 Pro Bono Publico Public Sector Award, the 2002 Hamline University School of Law Distinguished Alumna Award, the 2003 Tartan Senior High School Distinguished Alumni Award, and a 2003 The Advocates for Human Rights Volunteer Award.

Anne Carrol, Member of the St. Paul School Board.  Anne Carroll has been a member of the St. Paul School Board since 2000, working relentlessly for top quality education for all our students, responsible education funding, and fair treatment for employees who work with our 42,000 students every school day.  Ms. Carroll has been self-employed since 1985 as a consultant in strategic planning, public involvement, and communications; serving primarily the public and nonprofit sectors.  She serves on the Board of HAIL (Hmong American Institute for Learning.  She also is publisher of Paj Ntaub Voice; Minnesota Thunder PLUS, providing leadership development to urban and immigrant youth; and E-Democracy.Org, committed to e-based community engagement and democracy building.  Ms. Carroll received her Master of Planning in Public Affairs from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and a B.A. in American Studies and English, both from the University of Minnesota; Phi Beta Kappa.

Baris Gumus Dawes, Research Fellow with the Institute on Race and Poverty.  Ms. Gumus-Dawes develops and conducts research projects with the Institute. She joins IRP after having worked with a number of local Twin Cities organizations. She has served as a Policy Analyst for the Minnesota Housing Partnership and worked with Ameregis, Inc. as a Research Associate. In addition, she has served as a Researcher and Assistant Producer for Minnesota Public Radio.  Ms. Gumus-Dawes holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University as well as a Master's degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge.

Amy Goetz, founder of the School Law Center and co-founder of the former Center for Education Law, private firms that focus on education law issues.  Amy is a native to Minnesota and received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Law School.  She has worked in education law since 1995, first as a staff attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center in Minneapolis, then as a complaint investigator at the Minnesota Department of Education, and finally in private practice.  Ms. Goetz has successfully resolved hundreds of student and family claims through formal and informal means, obtaining favorable results that have significantly impacted the lives of children and their families, as well as changing and improving school and legal systems across Minnesota.  She is a popular trainer and teacher having presented numerous seminars on various education law topics to parents, attorneys, judges and other groups, as well as regular lectures in education and law classes in the Twin Cities area.  Before working in education law, Amy worked in legal services offices for nineteen years on issues including family law, child custody, adoption and foster care, housing, and government benefits.  Ms. Goetz is the proud parent of two beautiful children. 

Natela Jorden, Education Coordinator for the This is My Home project with the Human Rights Resource Center.  Natela Jordan has worked in the field of education since 1999.   As Education Coordinator with the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) in Uzbekistan, she coordinated international projects on interactive student-centered methodology, and worked with teachers and school administrators to make this methodology a part of schools’ culture. Natela was a local liaison for such international education programs as Reading and Writing for Critical Thinking, Street Law, and National Council on Economic Education projects. Inspired by the human rights aspect of her work, she graduated from the Central European University (Budapest, Hungary) with an MA degree in Human Rights. She organized international human rights advocacy conferences and coordinated other international human rights education events in Hungary. In 2004 she worked with Freedom House as a human rights trainer. In this capacity she provided training and advice to human rights advocates on local and international human rights documents.

Representative Carlos Mariani, Executive Director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership, Inc., (MMEP) a collaboration of public and private educational institutions, and communities of color whose mission is to increase the success of students of color.  He was also elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1990, representing St. Paul district 65B.  He is currently the Chair of  Representative.  Representative Mariani has been active in a number of community-based organizations in the area of education, social services, health care and housing. He has served on the boards of the St. Paul Children’s Initiative, the MN Council on Economic Education, and the West Side Health Clinic. He is a founding member of The St. Paul Foundation’s “El Fondo” Endowment Committee and currently serves on the Board of Rainbow Research.  He received his B.A. in History from Macalaster College and was also a Mondale Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey Institute.  He has received Macalester College’s Alumni Distinguished Citizen Award.

Joe Nathan, Senior Fellow, director of the Center for School Change, which seeks to help transform public education and to produce significant improvements in student achievement.  The Center has received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Annenberg, Blandin, and Frey foundations. Current projects include work with governors in six states and with schools in a number of communities to help increase achievement and the percentage of students who graduate ready to do college level work. Nathan has been a public school teacher and administrator and coordinated the National Governors Association education reform project, Time for Results. His specialty areas include parent and community involvement, school choice, charter schools, and youth community service.  Nathan has testified before twenty state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. He regularly publishes commentaries in major U.S. newspapers and has appeared on several hundred radio and television programs. The American School Boards Journal named his most recent book, Charter Schools: Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education, one of the seven best books written about education in 1997.  Nathan holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Minnesota.

Kathleen O'Donnell, Program Manager of Destination 2010.  Ms. O'Donnell has made the work of cultivating partnerships across home, school, and community on behalf of youth and in support of their achievement and healthy development her mission.  Graduating from the University of MN with a Masters Degree in Family Social Science and a licensed parent educator, she has worked tirelessly with parents, schools, and community members to overcome barriers and to work collectively in the best interest of "the children we share." She has worked in homes, schools, school district administration, and community settings.  Ms. O'Donnell has been at The Minneapolis Foundation leading the Destination 2010 initiative since 2001, and before that worked for both Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools.  Her work at the foundation provides her with the opportunity to work both directly with students and their families, as well as on systems issues that affect all youth.

Todd Otis, President of Ready 4 K.  Mr. Otis received his B.A. from Harvard in 1967 and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal from 1967 to 1969.  Upon completion of service he attended Columbia University to complete a Masters in Journalism.  His professional career began in Minneapolis in the fields of public relations and community affairs, where his work staffing the Minnesota Legislature eventually led him to run for public office.  From 1979 to 1990 Mr. Otis served in the Minnesota House of Representatives before being appointed  State DFL Party Chair from 1990 to 1993.  After leaving public office he worked as a public affairs consultant on issues related to the environment, energy and early childhood education until 2001, when Mr. Otis accepted his current position with Ready 4 K. 

Elizabeth Sullivan, Education Program Director at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.  Ms. Sullivan works with parents and advocates to promote policy change in public education to guarantee students’ right to dignity and a quality education.  She carries out research projects to document human rights violations in U.S. public schools and provides trainings to parents, youth and organizers about how to incorporate human rights standards and strategies into their advocacy.  She recently authored the report Deprived of Dignity: Degrading Treatment and Abusive Discipline in New York City and Los Angeles Public Schools.  She has worked as a consultant with Human Rights Education Associates and as Project Coordinator at the Center for Economic and Social Rights, where she authored the report Civil Society and School Accountability: A Human Rights Approach to Parent and Community Participation in NYC Schools.  She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard University.

Ladan Yusuf, Executive Director of Crossing Barriers, a grassroots program which develops  the leadership skills of immigrant youth, students and activists to improve education, other systems and themselves in the Twin Cities.  Ladan has been working in the area of community development, international development and public policy for international and national non-profits since 1994.   Ms. Yusuf managed community development and cultural exchange education programs for Operation Crossroads Africa in New York City; served as Special Projects Manager for Equality Now, an International Women’s Rights organization; managed and evaluated programs that addressed the barriers to education faced by African girls for international Global Ministries in New York City; and conducted her graduate thesis on the barriers to education for girls in Africa.   She has developed workshops for Refugee Women’s Network a national program that works to develop the leadership skills for immigrant and refugee women activists and community workers that serve new arrivals.   She has also facilitated workshops for the Anti-Defamation League youth program, for NYC’s public schools on anti-bias education, and served as a Program Evaluator for human services and self-sufficiency projects.  Ms. Yusuf also worked with the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia.  Ms. Yusuf was born in Somalia, moved to the U. S at the age of 11 and grew up in Washington, D.C.  She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University and B.A in International Development/Development Economics from Saint Mary University.