The Coordinating Committee is made up of 13 DSC member groups who oversee the work of the coalition and make internal decisions to ensure that DSC works towards the priorities set by our membership.


A Black Education Network

ALCU of Pennsylvania

Boston-area Youth Organizatng Project

Boston Student Advisory Council

Parents Organizing for Public Education (P.O.P.E.)

Nollie Jenkens Family Center

Sunflower County Parents and Students

Partners for Dignity and Rights

Hannah Ruth Foundation

Hannah Ruth Foundation

Texas Appleseed

United Women in Faith


Program Director

National Coordinator

Administrative Coordinator

Communications Coordinator

Debra Watkins was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pomona, California. After her high school graduation, she studied in France for one year and earned a baccalaureate that enabled her to attend college in that country free of charge. Instead, she returned to the United States and earned a B.A. in English with minors in French and Psychology from Pitzer College in 1976. Debra had spent her entire career of 35 years in the East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) of San Jose before retiring in May 2012. Debra taught high school English for 14 years, then helped start an alternative high school called Pegasus. After eight years at Pegasus, she coordinated Project WORD (Working On Re-defining our Destiny) – a culturally responsive intervention program for African American students.

When Debra established the CAAAE in 2001, she also created the Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program (GSP). Named after an African American scientist who helped pave the way for today’s computers. The GSP is a long-term, youth development STEM initiative for students of African ancestry. In 2017, the CAAAE’s name was changed to A Black Education Network (ABEN) to expand its influence across the country. Debra’s vision is for it to become the go-to organization for Black education in the country just as the CAAAE was in California. Debra has garnered countless awards for her work, serves on local, regional and statewide committees and boards, and has helped raise several millions of dollars for the CAAAE since its inception.

Pheonix is an Afro-Haitian Boston native with 14 years of experience in local and national organizing efforts around juvenile justice and within the youth organizing community. She is currently the interim Director at BYOP (Boston Area Youth Organizing Project). She continues to share her restorative practices and helps support creating safe spaces to address a variety of campaigns and actions that cover the social issues that impact marginalized communities, such as immigration, juvenile justice, gentrification, education reform and more.

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Khem is a wife and mother of six children.  She is an education advocate by any means necessary.  She is a rights holder, not a stakeholder, a solutionary not a complainer.  She has served on many public school leadership teams and other elected parent leadership roles, former charter school parent.  She has served on the board of Class Size Matters, co-founded The Mothers’ Agenda of New York.   Presently she is the Board President of Parents Across America, the Founder/Director of Parents Organized for Public based in Greensboro, NC, and is an elected school board member of Guilford County, NC the third largest school system since 2018.

DaQuann W. Harrison is our youngest Coordinating Committee Member. At just 20 years old, DaQuann is a national youth empowerment speaker and educational advocate, national racial activist, member of the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice, United Nations Youth Delegate, Federal Liaison for the State of Michigan (Dignity in Schools Campaign), and a host of other amazing things. In 2016 DaQuann founded his own organization “DWH Inspires” which uses empowerment practices and community organizing to build a better foundation for the next generation.

Janice M. Harper has been a Community Organizer and Advocate of Nollie Jenkins Family Center (NJFC) since September 2010, working to develop and achieve positive changes in order to lead the community towards effective outcomes by a process that will change lives.  She advocates for students’ educational rights; including families of children with disabilities. She works with young people in an intergenerational model of community and youth organizing that builds trust and confidence; along with youth leadership and development, parent training, policy advocacy, women and girls’ empowerment, environmental justice and the arts, and educating community around positive alternatives to suspensions; such as NJFC’s Scholar of Peace Peer Mediation program.  She also serves on several educational committees, formerly served (2013-2018) as DSC’s Federal Liaison Co-Chair, currently is the Co-Chair of the Supervision & Governance sub-committee, and represents DSC in her role as CC Liaison for P4DR. Her work addresses the Prevention of Schoolhouse 2 Jailhouse (School-to-Prison Pipeline) and other relative educational reform issues to keep students in school, which led to the success of NJFC’s Corporal Punishment Campaign to eliminate corporal punishment in July 2018 and the work is still ongoing. She also provides leadership to educate local and state stakeholders and allies.

Liz is the Co-Executive Director at Partners for Dignity & Rights, the anchor organization for the Dignity in Schools Campaign. She has worked for over a decade with parents, youth, educators and organizers to promote systemic change in public education to guarantee students’ right to dignity and a quality education. She has carried out research projects to document human rights violations in U.S. public schools, and has provided trainings to parents, youth and organizers about how to incorporate human rights standards and strategies into their advocacy. 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.

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Emily Jones is the executive for racial justice at United Methodist Women, a national, faith-based women’s membership organization. She leads United Methodist Women’s campaign to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Prior to her current position, Emily served as the director and lead organizer for the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty. She has also worked as a program manager for an education non-profit and as a lay associate pastor for discipleship at a new church plant in  Chicago, IL. She began her career as a labor organizer with the healthcare employees’ union in Connecticut.

For nearly two decades, Ruth S. Idakula has dedicated her life energy to organizing, education and advocacy for social, racial, and economic justice and equity. Born and raised in Nigeria, Ruth has been a resident of New Orleans for over 23 years. As a proud mother of three sons, she was called into public education organizing, advocacy and policy development by the blatantly racist takeover and privatization of public schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Ruth’s leadership is grounded in sustaining spiritual practices and she serves as a faith leader, religious educator, and facilitator for collective liberation in New Orleans and beyond. 


Natalie joined The Dignity in Schools Campaign as Campaign Coordinator in July of 2012. In her previous roles, she acted as the Campaign Coordinator of New York Neighbors for American Values, a Community Organizer at Voices of Women Organizing Project, and the Education Reform Associate at the New York Immigration Coalition. She received an MSW from the CUNY Hunter School of Social Work-Community Organizing program in 2007, and received a BSW from CUNY Lehman College in 2006. She was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, and has lived in New York since 2004.


Lakita P. Jackson joins DSC as the administrative coordinator, based in our Manhattan office. Lakita has earned her B.F.A. in Musical Theater with a concentration in creative writing from the New School University. Her previous employers include: Harlem Day Charter School, a charter school in East Harlem where she served as a youth development worker for their extended day program, Tremor Video, a digital video technology co. where she was the office manager, and most recently New Visions for Public Schools, working as a program assistant, supporting a network leader and respective children’s first network team in their operational and instructional support of network schools across the five boroughs.

Along with her professional aspirations, Lakita is also a musician who goes by the name, Kita P, performing throughout NYC. She uses her music as a tool for healing, celebration, and to speak truth to power. Music can be heard at


Phone: 212-253-1710 ext. 308

Tafari is a passionate educator, brand strategist, graphic designer & photographer based in Atlanta, GA. He is excited to join the Dignity in Schools Campaign in April 2018 as the Communications Coordinator. Tafari is the owner and operator of The Indigenous Lens, a photography company that works to connect heritage and beauty through the art of visual conversation. Tafari also is a Facilitator-in-Training at AYA Educational Institute, an African-Centered educational and leadership development organization that facilitates a myriad of trainings, workshops and one-on-one sessions designed to heal alienation, heal toxic communication patterns and other wounds born of oppression. Previously, he Co-Directed HABESHA-Baltimore, a Pan-African organization that cultivates leadership in youth and families through practical experiences in cultural education, sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, holistic health, and technology.