Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Breaking the Ice: Building private support for early education

[email protected]//August 22, 2016

Breaking the Ice: Building private support for early education

[email protected]//August 22, 2016

Editor’s note: Breaking the Ice helps reserved Minnesotans learn more about their colleagues and their lives beyond their jobs.

Name: Ericca Maas

Title: Executive director, Parent Aware for School Readiness

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry marketing, University of Northern Iowa; Master of Public Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Ericca Maas was completing a chemistry marketing degree when she discovered the field of public policy. Or, as she describes it, “the thing that I loved thinking about the most.”

That led to her getting a master’s degree in public policy, which led her to work in early childhood education. That set the stage for her to become, in 2011, the founding director of Parent Aware for School Readiness.

The independent, business-led nonprofit supports the Parent Aware Ratings, which offer tools and information to help parents find highly rated child care and early education programs for children up to age 5, Maas said.

“We’re really interested in the bottom line of how does Minnesota do a better job of connecting children from low-income families with high-quality early education opportunities,” Maas said.

The organization has raised $6 million in private money to promote statewide expansion of the Parent Aware Ratings and an early learning scholarship program that helps low-income children access highly rated programs.

“It’s a hot issue right now at the Capitol,” Maas said. “There’s a lot of attention and emphasis on not whether to make investments but how to make the investments.”

Maas previously worked for the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation, a private-sector effort that raised $20 million to run a pilot program of the Parent Aware Ratings and scholarship program.

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Simply start a conversation. I’m not a particularly extroverted person, so I guess I can seem maybe closed off. But I do like to chitchat with people about things related to work or not related to work.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. In addition to working on early childhood education, I’m a parent to three little kids myself. On my nightstand is “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and a book called “Bye-Bye Binky.” I do spend most of my alone reading time catching up on national, international and local news.

Q. What is a pet peeve of yours?

A. Home-related, crayons in pockets. That falls into the catch-all category of unnecessary messes. There’s nothing quite like opening the dryer and seeing red crayon everywhere. On the work-related front it’s the same thing — unnecessary messes because of miscommunication or not thinking things through ahead of time.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what’s something you always take them to see or do?

A. I grew up in a tiny town of a thousand people in southern Minnesota (Medford). When I go there to visit my family or other people come … I like to drive around in the countryside. I grew up in the country and like to pretend I know how to identify healthy corn crops and other things. Mostly it’s just looking around at wide-open spaces and remembering what it was like to be a kid there.

Q. What’s the last arts or cultural event you attended?

A. We go to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and also the Guthrie. The last thing was the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and Christian Zacharias, this amazing pianist, was playing Chopin.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. My main meal during the day is breakfast. I love to start the day eating breakfast at a restaurant by myself at a leisurely place. That’s where I get a lot of my thinking done. It’s a way to make a good transition from a hectic morning at home … to the workday.

Q. Very few people know that you?

A. I was a national champion and All-American rugby player (at the University of Northern Iowa) and continued to play for many years after for a women’s club team in the Twin Cities.

Q. What do you miss most with the Capitol under renovation?

A. Just being able to work in a place that’s so beautiful and inspiring. When you’re there it reminds you that your work is participating in democracy and representing something more than yourself.

Top News

See All Top News

Legal calendar

Click here to see upcoming Minnesota events

Expert Testimony

See All Expert Testimony