Barnett is the founder and Executive Director of the twenty-five-old Healthy Schools Network, Inc, a 501c3 not-for-profit which framed a new agenda in environmental health and the conditions of school facilities in the early 1990’s. She has led collaborative policy work at home in New York State and City and fostered similar coalitions in dozens of states and localities. Under her leadership, the organization secured new laws and funds to improve New York City schools (the nation’s single largest district) and state schools (the nation’s third largest K-12 education system). It also shaped and won new authorizations and funds for US EPA and Education to address the conditions of schools and children’s environmental health. The Network has won awards for its innovative child-focused environmental health communication tools and advocacy for healthier and greener schools, which has helped transform parent/community anger into constructive coalition forces in communities nationwide.
Prior to founding the Network, Barnett worked professionally in several fields that have significantly influenced her capacity as a researcher, organizer, and advocate. She has been on the ground floor of political polling and projecting election night winners; reported for TIME Magazine for five years; expanded comprehensive mental health services serving a rural, low-income population and high-risk children; and advanced successful new solutions to persistent rural poverty in a remote region of northern New York State. Barnett and the organization she founded have won multiple state and national awards.