Erica Berry has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a law degree and master’s degree in public health, but she says that her heart has always been in education policy.
So when the Prince George’s County Board of Education advertised for an executive director who would help it craft and review policy, collaborate with the new schools chief and help develop ways to improve parental involvement in the school system, Berry decided to apply.
She figured her own educational background, work experience and passion to improve the educational system would be a perfect fit for the district.
“She has a cross-section of skills, knowledge and experience,” Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said. “She has the right package. All around, we’re very happy with the selection.”
Berry becomes the school board’s first executive director in more than six years. Eubanks said the elected board — which was reestablished in 2006 after the appointed board was dissolved — opted not to hire an executive director during budget cuts.
The board decided to bring on an executive director to provide the board “with a more consistent presence in the board office . . . to help it operate more efficiently,” Eubanks said.
Berry, who attended Duke University and George Washington University, is a native of Northeast Washington and now lives in Upper Marlboro, Md.
She comes to Prince George’s from D.C. Public Schools, where she served as the manager of academic policy. In that role, she said she worked on policies that dealt with dual enrollment, promotion and retention, and exchange students.
She later became the interim director of the Office of College and Career Readiness, where she worked on credit recovery, counseling, and academic planning and scheduling.
“I enjoyed my role in that position . . . but it was more on the program-management and operations side,” Berry said. “My heart lies in policy.”
Prior to her work at DCPS, Berry spent 13 years at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she served as the director of the Division of Health Care for Low Income Populations.
Berry, who attended the Sidwell Friends School for middle school on a partial scholarship, said she has seen firsthand how education can make a difference in a person’s life.
Berry said she knows that the school system’s transition to having more government oversight has been difficult for the board, the schools chief and the community. She looks forward to helping “bring everyone back to the main focus, mission and objective.”
She wants to send the message that improving schools is not just a school-system issue but a county issue.
“Education is really the beginning of making [students] strong, productive citizens of our county,” Berry said.