Employee Spotlight: A Q&A With HCM K-12 Team Director Erica Gray

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Erica Gray leads the public opinion research and content creation for HCM Strategists’ K-12 portfolio. She has spent the last four years deeply engaged in comprehensive research with multiple clients, including Learning Heroes, the Collaborative for Student Success and SAS, to understand mindsets related to expectations for schools, accountability, assessments and student achievement.

Why did you to join HCM?

 I joined HCM because of the great opportunity to get more exposure into the world of education policy, through the wide range of work they do across both the K-12 and postsecondary teams.

 What makes HCM special in your view?

HCM is not what most people think of as a typical “consulting firm” with only a handful of services and areas of expertise offered. Across the firm, and even on my rather small K-12 team, there is such a variety of work and expertise. It makes for a well-rounded experience both for employees and clients. There are team members who are skilled grassroots activists, those who excel in communications and strategy, and others who know the ins and outs of state and federal level policymaking.

What is something unique that you bring to your work with HCM? (I.e., background, experience, unique viewpoint)

Before my career at HCM, I was a special educator for almost a decade. I worked across a variety of schools: alternative schools for adjudicated youths, a rural middle school, and in one of the wealthiest suburban districts in the country. My diverse experiences as an educator gave me a firsthand opportunity to see the inequities that plague all schools in some form, regardless of the geography, demographics, and socioeconomic status. This experience helps me to always think about the impact of the work we do at the school and classroom level.

What inspired you to dedicate your career to education policy?

Every day my experience as an educator inspires me. I am a firm believer that education is the key to personal and economic growth. I stay in touch with many of my former students who have gone on to be successful. However, there are just as many who did not become successful because the system failed them. Those students inspire me, and I feel it is my responsibility to work to ensure that future students have higher quality education and more opportunities.

What inspires you, and why?

 I am inspired by Anyone who can overcome adversity to reach their dreams.

Was there a time you saw your work affect positive change?

 On behalf of Learning Heroes, I have spent much of the past three years understanding how to communicate student and school level performance to parents. As a result, I gained an immense deal of knowledge about what parents want to see in student and school report cards and how to make them meaningful tools for the public. We began working directly with several State Education Agencies, including Texas, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, to help them build parent-friendly school report card.

What do you enjoy outside of work? 

 I enjoy cooking and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so on the weekends, I can often be found whipping up a new recipe. I’m also a wine enthusiast and enjoy exploring Virginia wineries with my husband. I also enjoy being active, whether it’s playing tennis, going for a walk, and often taking spin and barre class.

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