Meet the Staff

Parents United staff are available to answer questions and help you plan local efforts:  (651) 999-7391


Laura ED 2014Laura Kelly Lovdahl, Executive Director

Laura joined Parents United in the fall of 2014 and became Executive Director on January 1, 2015. As a previous beneficiary of the resources Parents United offers, she represents the power of grassroots advocacy that is possible! Laura has been involved in education issues from early childhood through college as a parent volunteer, levy campaign chairperson, district task force member and a trustee for the College of Saint Benedict. “I focus on nurturing relationships with parent groups throughout Minnesota, expanding our outreach to parents of pre-kindergarten children and reaching out to those communities who feel under-represented in conversation about education at the Legislature.”


Mary Cecconi  - Large  Mary Cecconi, Legislative Director

Mary’s political acumen, contacts in the education field, and understanding of education policy issues have helped parents and community members across the state get past the myths to the realities of declining funding in the context of increasing costs and expectations. She has worked as a champion for children as a teacher, school board member, parent volunteer, levy campaign chair, statewide legislative committee member and volunteer parent lobbyist. “We’re all hot wired to advocate for our kids, and when we see the need, we advocate for all kids!”


Hobbie - Ann - Large Ann Hobbie, Program Manager

Ann taught fifth and sixth grade in the Roseville Public Schools before leaving full-time classroom work to start a family. She has continued to perform a variety of consulting work in curriculum design and teacher supervision since then, as well as being a substitute teacher and active parent volunteer in the Saint Paul Public Schools. “We all need to see the big picture of Minnesota’s public schools – it’s not just about the schools our children attend – and we can’t give up when things are complex. We need to work together to voice our concerns and try to find solutions.”


Shawna - LargeShawna Hedlund, Communications Manager

In her early career, Shawna taught at a high school for students at risk of failure that trained young educators in innovative teaching methods that embraced the whole student. She then pursued a Master’s in Public Health and has worked in school based clinics, program management and civic engagement. “I am deeply concerned about the factors outside of school that lead students to succeed or fail. I strongly believe MN public schools better serve kids and communities when we integrate cultural, family and health factors into how we provide education.”


LisaVphotoLisa Venkatrathnam, Office Manager

Lisa has worked in a variety of capacities within and alongside nonprofit organizations.  She and her husband have a long-standing commitment to public education, and their two children are both students in Minneapolis Public Schools. “Throughout our children’s schooling, we’ve seen many positive changes as a result of informed, organized and involved parents. I’m excited to be part of an organization that helps equip parents to more intentionally shape the educational experience of children throughout Minnesota.”