No one likes to read
hit pieces that attack the work and the integrity of the people we care about and it is especially annoying when the attack dogs get their facts wrong and leave out important and relevant information. At the same time, however, these ad hominem pieces are a sign that something is getting under the writer’s skin. Someone is rocking the boat. And in the fight for parents and kids, that is a sign of success.
Keri Rodrigues is the founder and executive director of Massachusetts Parents United (MPU) and her new organization has a few of the status-quo folks miffed. I suppose any organization with a C3 and C4 designation that has thousands of parent members from all over the state would make any professor who is also a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) a little queasy.
Don’t Mess with the Mom-in-Chief
Keri Rodrigues is who she is and she’s not about to be bullied by anybody. She is a former foster kid from Somerville. She is the mother of three young boys, including one with special needs. She is a proud Democrat dedicated to social justice and her party at the state and national level; she is currently a member of the Democratic State Committee and the Ethnic Committee of the Democratic National Committee. She’s also a proud member of Democrats for Education Reform who believes that her party needs to be a lot better when it comes to public education. Keri was an SEIU organizer for eight years all over the country and spent the first year of her youngest son’s life organizing home care workers in Vermont. More recently, she did an 11 month stint at Families for Excellent Schools as state director in the lead up to the question of a
cap on charter schools on the Massachusetts ballot last year. And now she is the "Mom-in-Chief" and executive director of Massachusetts Parents United, an organization she founded based on the belief that ordinary parents are not being heard or even included in hugely important conversations that involve their children. She decided, based on her experience, that there wasn’t an organization doing an effective enough job actually “speaking parent” and in order to make a real difference for kids, she wanted that to change. And even after just a few short months, MPU is making a difference.
Keri came to believe in education reform because of her own personal experience as a mother of a child who had a terrible kindergarten experience. He was suspended from school more than 25 times during that first year of school and the school’s inability or unwillingness to meet his needs drove her into education advocacy. Yes, a former union organizer decided that she would battle anyone and everything who stood in the way of children getting the schools they deserve, including unions. And her commitment has been unwavering ever since. I am not a Democrat. I don’t even live in Massachusetts, though I did for almost 25 years. I came to know Keri precisely because of her work in education advocacy and on behalf of parents without the means to access different and better educational options for their kids. I consider her a partner in this work. And a friend. So while Mr. Professor tries to impugn Keri’s integrity by writing a hit piece about an organization about which he knows nothing, neither she nor her parent leaders or members are deterred. I suppose he didn’t ask any of them why they chose to join since there isn’t an MPU chapter in his stomping ground of Cambridge. And for the record, professor, Keri and her team are proud to be funded by the Walton Family Foundation. You see, sir, most MPU members are also Walmart shoppers. You probably wouldn’t understand.
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting ...