About Us

PUPE profile 2009
(Photo: Philadelphia Inquirer)

Founded in Spring 2006, Parents United for Public Education is a parent-led citywide organization focused on engaging parents with the budget process in order to ensure a baseline level of resources, services, staffing provides every child in every school a stable, quality and nurturing school environment.

Today, the work of Parents United is more important than ever. We provide strong parent voices to challenge perceptions of disengaged parents or “broken” families and school communities. Our parents have testified on budgets and tax policy, we’ve challenged abusive disciplinary practices, improved ethics and transparency, and called for collaborative partnerships with teachers and parents. We’ve secured millions of dollars in funding and made sure public education remains a top priority in Philadelphia and in our state.

In a city segregated by class and race, we’re working to build multiracial coalitions of parents to improve school practices, fight for renewed funding, and build public support for our schools. We’ve shown that an independent, organized and engaged parent body can clarify budget priorities and rebuild a sense of collective responsibility for all our children. We invite all people concerned about Philadelphia’s future to join us in this effort.

It is an honor to be part of Parents United. Being a part of this group has kept me very informed on much of the behind the scenes issues and actions of the Public Education battle. I also feel very empowered. Sometimes I get very discouraged and just want to pack up and leave Philadelphia but being a part of Parents United gives me hope for the future.

Former Parents United Leadership member Sophia Saunders

Leadership Collective

Robin Roberts is the mother of three children in the public schools and is the past president of the C.W. Henry Elementary PTA. She serves on the School Advisory Council for Carver Engineering and Science. She is a frequent spokesperson for Parents United on issues of school funding, supporting the opt-out movement against high stakes testing, and improving school facilities.

Sabra Townsend left the corporate engineering sector after her son (now 21 yrs. old) was born with a physical disability, then later diagnosed with Autism. In addition to consulting in the human services field, Ms. Townsend has presented at numerous conferences on issues affecting people with special needs. She served as group leader on the DPW statewide PA Autism Task Force and works with the city, state and private organizations to improve services for children and youth with special health care needs.

Laurie Mazer is a proud Philadelphia public school parent. She has served on her neighborhood school’s School Advisory Committee (SAC) and as the Treasurer of Friends of Jackson, a fundraising and advocacy group for Jackson E.S. She is current member of the steering committee of the Philadelphia Healthy School Initiative . When not spending time on public education advocacy she works developing of solar energy projects and enjoys biking the streets of Philadelphia with her family.

Zoe Rooney is the parent to two Philadelphia public school students, one of whom is autistic. She is also an educator in the district. She has been an active member of multiple school- and community-based advocacy organizations, and is a frequent voice at Philadelphia Board of Education meetings. She is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board for Integrated Schools, and when not focused on public education issues, she enjoys hiking and crafting.

Past Contributors

Our Founders

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 the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, where she was its first full-time editor.

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 is a founder of Parents United, informed by the experiences of four children in the Philadelphia public schools. He is 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.

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.