MN Biz Leaders to Launch Education Advocacy Group

Vallay Varro-along with a long roster of local business leaders-will head MinnCAN, which will launch in St. Paul early next year.

Vallay Varro-education policy director for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and a member of St. Paul's school board-will lead a new education reform advocacy group.

The Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now (MinnCAN), which will launch in St. Paul in early 2011, will run advocacy campaigns aimed at increasing choice, accountability, and flexibility in education. The group will be funded by individual donors and foundation support, and the members of its founding board hail from prominent Minnesota businesses.

MinnCAN is part of a growing national network of state education campaigns called the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN). Minnesota is the network's second state campaign after Rhode Island.

The St. Paul nonprofit will have a staff of three, including executive director Varro. Besides recruiting her team members, Varro will be in charge of advocating policy changes, statewide fundraising, and raising awareness about the need for education reform based on Minnesota-specific research. Varro will resign from both of her current posts in December, and MinnCAN will announce its 2011 legislative policy agenda in January.

As education policy director for Coleman, Varro developed the mayor's education policy agenda and raised over $22 million dollars of public and private funds to support education programs. She worked to secure public and private support for after-school programs, college access programs, and circulator buses to improve access to resources for youth in St. Paul.

Prior to joining the city in 2006, Varro served as a program manager at the Minnesota Literacy Council, director of the AmeriCorps Minnesota Reading Corps, and a classroom teacher at the University of Saint Catherine Pre-K Education Center. She holds a masters degree in education from the University of Minnesota.

Members of MinnCAN's board include:

Sarah Caruso, president and CEO, Greater Twin Cities United Way; Rob Clark, senior director of media relations, Medtronic, Inc.; Alex Cirillo, former vice president, 3M Company; Michael Ciresi, partner, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; Gary Cunningham, chief program officer, Northwest Area Foundation; Vernae Hasbargen, Minnesota Rural Education Association; Virginia Hubbard, president, Hubbard Radio; Father Michael O'Connell, Church of the Ascension; Tim Penny, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation; Tad Piper, former CEO, Piper Jaffray; former Governor Al Quie; Carleen Rhodes, The Saint Paul Foundation; Sondra Samuels, Peace Foundation; John Stanoch, president of Minnesota operations, Qwest Communications International, Inc.; and Sandy Vargas, The Minneapolis Foundation.