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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 (CPS), he became an assistant principal at Arai Middle School.  

Shortly after Arne Duncan was appointed CEO of CPS, he tapped David to be his deputy chief of staff. David remained in this position 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 and internal communications, governmental affairs, community relations, local school council relations, external partnerships and 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 CPS.

David became the executive director of DC School Reform Now in August 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 has won a number of teaching awards. He was named a Golden Apple Finalist in 1999. David is married and has two children in traditional neighborhood schools in DC.

Madeline Karp, Director of Programs and Communications

Madeline earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary, concentrating in both Biology and Religious Studies. In 2013, she moved to Washington, DC as part of the 2013 Corps for Teach for America, where she taught secondary science at Parkdale High School in Prince George’s County. As a science teacher, Madeline sought to emphasize the relevance of science in her student’s everyday lives, honing her skills surrounding culturally responsive teaching.

 During her second year of TFA, she was accepted into the D.C. Region’s Leadership Fellowship, a year-long experience where a diverse cohort of fellows developed personal theories of change and received support to innovate exciting solutions in their classrooms and communities. Realizing that many of her older students were not knowledgeable about the college process, Madeline also focused on instructing her freshman about college readiness, planning backwards from their career dreams to determine their most advantageous high school and college paths. For her older students, she integrated college entrance exam practice questions into their daily lessons, as well as tutoring students one-on-one and as a group. Madeline also co-founded the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance in an effort to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and their allies, as well as to amplify the voices of the student body.

As a history teacher at KIPP DC: College Prep in 2015, she continued to pursue excellence for her students while rigorously involving parents in her classroom, which led to passion for parent outreach and engagement. At this point it became clear to her that strong parent involvement could overwhelming change outcomes for students, positioning them even closer towards a college-bound path.

While teaching, Madeline pursued a master’s degree in education with concentrations in policy and leadership from American University, graduating in 2016. She currently lives in the District with her partner and their two cats.

Kay Starr, Director of Development

Kay Starr served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic, and has a decade of experience working in the nonprofit industry.
She earned her bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University, joining the Peace Corps upon graduation. During her two years of service, Kay worked as a Sustainable Organizational and Community Development Volunteer. She worked closely with Community Based Tourism (CBT) in Karakol town, a local tourism group founded with the help of the Swiss organization Helvetas. CBT's goal is to assist local people in setting up their own small tourism businesses, as a way to encourage tourists to spend their money with locally-based providers instead of large tour companies. For CBT, Kay wrote grants, composed tourism brochures and other material, trained local service providers in everything from English to project organization to cooking. She also worked closely with other non-governmental organizations based in Karakol, such as the UN Development Project, the local American Corner library, and taught English conversation and literature courses at the local university.
Kay returned to the US in 2008 and settled in Washington, DC, first working with Miramed, an organization which assisted Russian orphanages, then joining the Development Department of the Blinded Veterans Association in 2009. Over her seven years with BVA, Kay wrote and managed many grants, including a grant that launched a new Veterans Care Review partnership with the VA to ensure quality of care for blinded veterans throughout the VA system, overhauled BVA's online donation system, and helped launch a new accessible website in 2015.
Kay believes that high quality public education should be available for all students.
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