Erika Sanzi (moderator)

Senior Writer, Senior Visiting Fellow, Education Post, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Speaking at

Clive Packer

Manager, Radio Access Network Development

Mona Davids

President, New York City Parents Union

Robert Pondiscio

Senior Fellow at Fordham Institute

Gwen Samuel

Founder, Connecticut Parents Union


Parent Advocacy Panel

Erika Sanzi will moderate a parent panel in which we, as parents, discuss the challenges we face as advocates not only for our children but for all children. We now that there can be great power when pushing from the outside. We also know that finding the right school for your child is never about politics. The question is, how can we best use our voices to bring about needed change and to help other parents to find the confidence to do the same.

The panelists are Clive Packer, Mona Davids, Robert Pondiscio and Erika Sanzi. Each panelist brings to the table a different experience and lens through which they view the K-12 system. We have engaged in the old worn out debates on Twitter and Facebook but know that true change and understanding rarely emerge from online sparring. We aren’t looking to blame or point fingers but we are looking to start a conversation about how parents can really be “at the table” and part of discussions and decisions on the front end rather than on the back end when things are, predictably, not working out the way the powers that be had hoped. We are in this whole school thing for the long haul. We organize our lives around our children’s schooling. We need to be at the table.


Erika Sanzi spent a decade as a teacher and school dean before becoming a full-time education advocate. She also served a term as an elected school committee member. Her love for writing coupled with her willingness to take on people in power has led her to spend much of her time responding to status-quo protectors inclined to put adult interests ahead of kids. She is particularly focused on inequities in the system, persistent but surmountable achievement gaps, and what she sees as a culture of low expectations that disproportionately impacts low-income students and students of color. She calls Rhode Island home with her husband, three school aged sons, and two very fluffy dogs.

Clive Packer is a satellite communications engineer from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and the parent of two school aged children. He has been advocating for evidence based reform in the Ontario education system for several years, particularly in the area of math curriculum and teaching approaches. He has appeared multiple times on Canadian radio and television in pursuit of this goal. Clive was born and educated in the U.K. and is a graduate of Cranfield University.

Mona Davids is the proud mother of two children who have both attended district and charter schools. Mona is the Lead Plaintiff in the historic lawsuit, Davids v. New York (2014), which seeks to reform New York State’s teacher dismissal statutes and modernize the teaching profession to ensure that our education system is performance based and not quality blind. Mona has successfully led advocacy campaigns to reform New York State Education Law to hold both district and charter schools accountable to parents and taxpayers.

A passionate supporter of Parent Empowerment and School Choice, Mona supports a parent’s right to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs.

In addition to his work at Fordham, Robert Pondiscio writes and speaks extensively on education and education-reform issues, with emphases on literacy, curriculum, teaching, and urban education. After twenty years in journalism, including senior positions at TIME and BusinessWeek, Robert became a fifth-grade teacher at a struggling South Bronx public school in 2002. He subsequently served as vice president for the Core Knowledge Foundation. Robert’s articles and op-ed columns on education have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the NY Daily News, and Education Next, among others. A frequent speaker on education issues, he has appeared on Fox News Channel, CNN, and elsewhere.


Ms. Samuel is a mom of children that attend Connecticut public schools. Ms. Samuel is an equity in education and social justice advocate. Ms. Samuel leads the “Urban Experience in Family And Community Engagement” workshop series, providing educators with solution-oriented strategies for building sustainable relationships with historically marginalized parents and families. In her advocacy role, Ms. Samuel has championed two historical parent empowerment bills that became law in Connecticut and testified before Congress. Her work in education has been highlighted by Parenting Magazine, Parade Magazine, and NBC’s Education Nation, among others.