Keeping Our Eye On: Erika Berry
by Stephen McDill
Published: April 12,2013
Name: Erika Berry
Position: Advocacy Coordinator
Company: Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools
Talk to Erika Berry for long and the conversation will wind its way around to education policy.
“As technology continues to advance and our marketplace becomes more global, public education is going to have to innovate so that every student graduates as a 21st century careerist,” Berry says.
The Brandon native speaks from experience having been a product of Rankin County public schools and a math teacher for Teach For America in Charlotte, N.C. She also helped canvass for various charter schools in Nashville, Tenn., and was a Citizen Schools teacher in Charlotte where she taught healthy eating practices to middle schoolers.
As advocacy coordinator for the Mississippi Coalition for Public Charter Schools, Berry was at the center of the controversial public charter school debate at the State Capitol this past session. The debate led to the passing of a charter school bill as part of a larger education reform package that will be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant later this year.
With a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Mississippi, a master’s in public policy from Vanderbilt University and graduate work experience at the Tennessee Department of Education, Berry was a frequent champion for charter schools on radio, social media and in local newspapers.
“Our public schools cannot continue to do the same thing we’ve been doing for the past several decades and expect all of our children to compete nationally or internationally,” she says. “Kids in Mississippi are just as capable of success as kids in Massachusetts or Finland.”
In her free time Berry enjoys traveling, visiting friends and being anywhere outside especially close to the water.
Best thing about Mississippi: “No matter where I’ve lived or traveled, I would meet an immediate friend and a fellow Mississippian. This state really is an overgrown small town.”
Best Mississippi event: Springtime in Natchez and fall in Oxford
Favorite Mississippi food: The vegetable casserole at Ajax Diner in Oxford
First job ever: Lifeguard
Favorite TV Show: “Law & Order SVU” and “Downton Abbey”
Favorite Movie: “Crash”
Favorite Music: Van Morrison, Motown
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