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.

Emerald Becker, Director of Communications

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

A former preschool teacher, Emerald earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, and moved to Washington, DC in 2008 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 in international education from American University 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 public schools. She also worked as an education Blogger for Change.org to promote reader activism through social media.

Prior to joining DCSRN, Emerald worked as a communications consultant for Collaborative Communications Group. Notable projects that Emerald led include redeveloping a website on afterschool and expanded learning for the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Networks, writing marketing materials for Urban Teacher Center and developing the publications for the 2012 National Charter Schools Conference. Emerald joined DCSRN in July 2012 and is thrilled to be focused on local DC education once again.

Maria Davis, Director of Development

Maria Davis is a fundraising professional who comes to DCSRN with an extensive development background.

As a director of development for almost three years at the American Heart Association (AHA), Maria led the AHA Heart Walk corporate fundraising campaign, which doubled in both attendance and funding under her leadership. After moving to DC in the fall of 2013, Maria’s AHA role shifted to working with DMV schools to promote health and fitness through the Youth Market initiatives. Managing over 100 school sites, she engaged with teachers, students and parents, helping depict the critical need for consistent, high quality schools in the DC area. She has won multiple awards for her efforts including two Outstanding Fundraising Performance Awards and one for the lowest school site attrition in the Mid Atlantic Affiliate.

Prior to this role, Maria coordinated international service trips for groups around the Southeast while working for the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission. During this time she traveled extensively internationally and also spent a summer living in Panamá, teaching English and working with students in a local preschool.

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where she majored in Religious Studies and Anthropology. She and her husband enjoy living in the Petworth neighborhood of the District. Maria joined DCSRN in January 2015.

Stay Connected

Sign up for the latest news and updates from DC School Reform Now.

Get Informed

Learn how federal education policy affects your child's school and your child's education.


Support DC School Reform Now. Contribute today.

Tell a Friend

Spread the word about DC School Reform Now.

Contact Us

You've got questions. We've got answers. Contact us.