DC School Reform Now is educating, organizing and advocating to build support for public education strategies that prepare kids to become college and career ready.


David Pickens, Executive Director

David Pickens is a former military officer who started his career in education via an alternative certification program. After spending nine years as an award winning middle school teacher at Price School in Chicago Public Schools, he became an Assistant Principal at Arai Middle School.  

Shortly after Arne Duncan was appointed CEO, he tapped David to be his Deputy Chief of Staff. David remained as Duncan’s Deputy Chief of Staff for two years until Duncan created the position of Deputy to the CEO. In that position, David became Senior Advisor and System-Wide Manager to the CEO and was responsible for a wide array of high profile departments and initiatives. Departments included system-wide external communications, internal communications, governmental affairs, community relations, local school council relations, external partnerships and external resources. Initiatives included school closings, consolidations, turnarounds and relocation, the Violence Reduction Initiative and the creation of the automated Board Report Process for the entire district. A few months after President Obama appointed Arne Duncan U.S. Secretary of Education, David was appointed Chief of Staff to the Chicago Board of Education. In that capacity he was the highest ranking employee in the Chicago Board of Education and one of only two direct reports to the Chicago Board of Trustees, with the other being the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.

David became the Executive Director of DC School Reform Now in August of 2010.  He attended Michigan State University, University of Illinois in Chicago and holds a master's degree in education and a principal’s certification from Roosevelt University in Chicago and University of Illinois in Chicago, respectively. David has served on a number of boards and won a number of teaching awards. He was named a Golden Apple Finalist in 1999. David is married and has two children in elementary school.

Emerald Becker, Director of Communications

Emerald Becker is a communications professional and former AmeriCorps VISTA dedicated to promoting quality education and lasting education reform.

A former preschool teacher, Emerald earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and moved to Washington, DC, to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. In this position, she engaged communities from various DC Wards to strengthen Higher Achievement, an academic enrichment program for urban middle school students. The highlight of this experience was providing her students with opportunities to voice their opinions about public education policy that directly affected them.

After her service, Emerald pursued her master’s degree from American University in international education to explore innovative approaches to education in other countries. During her master’s studies, Emerald worked as a Researcher for the Flamboyan Foundation in which she studied family engagement initiatives in three DC schools. She also worked as an Education Blogger for Change.org to promote reader activism through social media.

Most recently, Emerald worked as a Communications Consultant for Collaborative Communications Group. In this role, Emerald redeveloped a website on afterschool and expanded learning, wrote marketing materials for the Urban Teacher Center and led the development of publications for the 2012 National Charter Schools Conference.

Emerald joined DC School Reform Now in July 2012.

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