Parents United for Public Education is a citywide group of Philadelphia parents that focuses on budgeting and accountability in order to ensure resources get to the classroom level. We got started in Spring 2006 when a budget crisis forced parents from multiple schools out to school board meetings. We shared common concerns around supporting academically rich environments, equity across populations, and accountability for money spent. Since then, we have engaged an active and diverse group of parents across neighborhoods to successfully advocate for classroom-focused budget priorities and improved funding from local and state agencies, as well as the broader Philadelphia community. Today, the work of Parents United is more important than ever. An independent, organized and engaged parent body has proven we can clarify budget priorities to keep a focus on children and classrooms. We invite all people concerned about Philadelphia’s future to join us in this effort for our public schools.
Helen Gym is the mother of three children in the Philadelphia public schools. As a parent at Powel Elementary School, she and other Powel parents organized around split grades (a practice the District ended in 2007) and support services. She writes commentary for Philly.com and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, where she was its first full-time editor. She is a former school teacher; the former editor of the Notebook; a founder of FACT charter school promoting folk arts and serving a number of immigrant families; and a board member at Asian Americans United and Rethinking Schools.
Alison McDowell is a past president of the Meredith Home and School Association. As a founder she was active around statewide equitable funding, District support for the arts, and a rich academic curriculum.
Aissia Richardson was a founding member of Parents United as past president of the Powel Home and School Association. As a founder, she led the fight for busing and transportation access and helped anchor Parents United’s Healthy Foods Campaign.
Bryan Robinson was a founder of Parents United, informed by the experiences of four children in the Philadelphia public schools. He was an active member of the Germantown Clergy Initiative, which was a leading community partner at the former Germantown High School. As a founder, he focused on safety and climate issues, leadership stability (Germantown High School had seen nine principals over a decade), and investment in neighborhood high schools.
Rev. LeRoi Simmons is a business leader and head of Germantown Clergy Initiative, which led a long term effort to invest in and build the former Germantown High School. GCI was a community partner in overseeing $10 million in Dept. of Labor grants and has been active in safety, mentoring and leadership development at the school. GCI also raised $100,000 to rebuild Germantown High School’s library. Rev. Simmons has been a leading voice around high school reform, particularly academic achievement and equitable funding.
Cecelia Thompson is the mother of a public school student living with autism. She is past Chair of the Philadelphia Right to Education Local Task Force IU 26, a citywide parent-led group representing the interests of special needs children and families attending public and charter schools in the District. The organization has been a vocal advocate for special needs students in all aspects of the District’s policies, particularly the equity and implementation of programs, services and supports for special needs students in district, charter, and management school options.
Gerald Wright is the father of two children in the public schools and past president of John Story Jenks Home and School Association. He is former Chair of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, Inc., a 20-year old organization promoting responsibility for and among families, fathers, and men in Philadelphia. Recently, he helped stop the closure of a local pool due to city budget cuts, saving a swim program for 70 swimmers. As a founding member and spokeperson for Parents United, Gerald has focused on issues such as contracts and procurement, transparency and accountability, and school funding.