Leaders Impacting Change
October 13, 2017

Some of Many Most Valuable Players Across the Network

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country.


Below are the nominations for Most Valuable Player—(1) A team member of a PIE Network state-based member organization who has gone above and beyond to support advocates across state lines, or (2) team member of a PIE Network national partner who has been exceptionally helpful to state-based advocates above and beyond that of their job description to move an issue forward.

Most Valuable Player Top Nominees

Ben Boer

Deputy Director, Advance Illinois

Ben Boer, deputy director of Advance Illinois was a brilliant and steady force in the funding reform ever since its earliest days. Ben served as both chief wonk and youthful Yoda to so many in Springfield, school management, and partner groups. He is the epitome of civility and charity, and like a marathon runner, pored over funding model after funding model. When not solving the funding crisis in Illinois, he is an essential voice at the Illinois policy table on ESSA, workforce readiness, and so much more. Furthermore, his contributions don’t just stop at the Illinois border. Ben regularly collaborates with stakeholders in other states.

Claire Voorhees

National Policy Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education

Over the past year, Claire has provided direct technical expertise to partners in roughly 25 states and Washington, D.C. on ESSA implementation.  She’s been a consistent go-to partner for just about any reform-oriented effort I know of for ESSA implementation.  Examples: she was a reviewer for The Collaborative for Student Success, Bellwether Education Partners review team, she presented to Pennsylvania’s Joint House and Senate ESSA Committee, presented at multiple U.S. Chamber convenings on ESSA, she presented on accountability under ESSA at the Education Commission of the States’ conference, she spoke on the role of charters under ESSA at the NCSL’s legislative institute, she led ExcelinEd’s five ESSA webinars which had 207 attendees from 25 states, she participated in at least one PIE Network webinar on ESSA, she presented at other state-specific convenings for partners in Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, and I’m sure I’m missing a few presentations.  Claire wrote or co-wrote most of ExcelinEd’s ESSA resources, including four policy playbooks our #AskExcelinEd e-blast series, resources that we distribute to 453 partners in 43 states and Washington, D.C.  Claire is our ESSA liaison with all the other ESSA partners, and she’s maintained a consistent code of always being positive and respecting the in-state definition of success, a must-have for partner organizations.  And Claire has been a consistent presence in DC too when EdTrust, CCSSO, 50CAN and other organizations need her expertise.

Daniel Zavala

Director of Policy and Government Relations, League of Education Voters

During this past year, Daniel has tirelessly worked with partner organizations across Washington state and across the country to advance equity in education. Through developing policy and lobbying legislators and influencers, Daniel was a major contributor to Washington state’s Campaign for Student Success, which successfully advocated for a solution to the Supreme Court’s McCleary education funding decision, and to the Cradle Through College Coalition (C2C) that pushed on the need to fund the education continuum. During this time, Daniel also assisted TenneseeCAN with their work.

Daria Hall

Vice President for Partnerships and Engagement, The Education Trust

Daria Hall is Vice President for Government Affairs for The Education Trust. True to name, she is a “trusted” expert on federal education policy, serving as a thought partner, liaison, critic, and cheerleader for state-based groups. Over the past year, she has provided particularly helpful support as advocacy organizations work to influence their state’s federal ESSA plans. She is always willing to hop on the phone, send helpful resources, and regularly travel to states to meet with leaders, advocacy partners, and others who will be influential in the crafting of state plans. She serves as a wealth of knowledge and common sense and, from NCLB waivers years ago to ESSA plans over the last 12 months, Daria hasn’t been afraid to push states to think more boldly and aggressively as they advocate for change. She’s deeply rooted in equity and excellence, and many states have her to thank for the work they’ve done to improve their ESSA plans.

Diane Hopkins,

Vice President, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education

Over the last year, Diane has led a group of PIE Network members from the Southeast to look deeper into the education challenges that are unique to the South. Diane had a vision for how to capitalize on the PIE Network relationships to address a regional challenge, and she has worked to secure funding and execute a plan that would address education inequities in Southern states.  Diane has engaged PIE Network members from the Southeast, PIE Network staff, and other national education partners to create a report about equity in education in the South, which will be released in 2018.

Jen Walmer

State Director, Democrats for Education Reform Colorado

Colorado passed one of the nation’s most impressive policy changes this year by equalizing funding for local charter school students. Jen went above and beyond to make this policy a reality, putting in countless hours and overcoming incredible barriers. She worked closely with a diverse coalition of advocates, but it would not have passed without her. In a year where status quo forces aggressively attacked charter schools, a large number of Democrats in Colorado’s state legislature voted for one of the most impactful charter policies in decades. The tipping point for the bill was Jen’s ability to utilize personal relationships, political savvy, and policy vision focused on kids, not systems. She is breaking new ground on political advocacy as well, showing that status quo forces don’t have to control the conversation among Democrats.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2017 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 26.

    PIE Network

    PIE Network supports and promotes a network of education advocacy organizations working to improve K-12 education in their states so that every student graduates world-ready.

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