Panelists

Debbie Almontaser

Debbie Almontaser, is the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. As a 20-year veteran of the NYC public school system, she taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity advisor. Currently, Ms. Almontaser is a doctoral student at Fordham University's Graduate School of Education in the Urban School Leadership Program and the Board Chairperson of the Muslim Consultative Network (www.mcnny.org). In 2005, Ms. Almontaser spearheaded the inauguration of Arab Heritage Week in New York City. She is also the "go to" person on cultural and religious diversity issues for Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, the New York Police Department, and New York City Council members. Ms. Almontaser is a founding board member of The Dialogue Project, Brooklyn Borough President's New Diversity Task Force, board advisor for the Same Difference Interfaith Alliance, and a member of the board of directors of Women in Islam. She is also a cofounder of Brooklyn Bridges, the September 11th Curriculum Project, and We Are All Brooklyn.

Zakiyah Ansari

Zakiyah Ansari resides in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the mother of eight children, all of whom have or are currently attending NYC public schools. She currently works as an organizer on a joint project of the NYS Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ). She has participated in numerous panel discussions around the country about the importance and need for parent and community involvement in the movement for educational justice.

Lorenzo Krakowsky

Lorenzo Krakowsky is the Dean of Students at the Fieldston School, where he also teaches history and French. He is the founder and former director of two academic enrichment programs for disadvantaged students from the Bronx. He has also initiated and run a number of projects that focus on promoting student activism and engagement in political and social issues. Mr. Krakowsky has a B.A. in History from Vassar College and an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Bank Street College.

Joseph Michael Valente

Dr. Joseph Michael Valente is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Pennsylvania State University. He is also affiliate faculty in the Disability Studies and Comparative & International Education programs. Dr. Valente is the author of the autobiographical-novel and auto-ethnography, "d/Deaf and d/Dumb: A Portrait of a Deaf Kid as a Young Superhero." Currently Dr. Valente is the co-Principal Investigator of the video ethnography project, "Kindergartens for the Deaf in Three Countries: Japan, France, and the United States," funded by the Spencer Foundation. To learn more about his work, please see http://joevalente.net.

Frank Pignatelli

Frank Pignatelli is an instructor and advisor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Bank Street College of Education. His current research interests center on school change, moral accountability and site-based, activist research. Prior to this, he was a teacher and educational administrator in the New York City Public Schools with experience on the school, district and citywide levels.