PAA Action News
March 13, 2014

Welcome to PAA Action News, the information and action newsletter of Parents Across America.
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PAA Action Alert

Help us welcome our
new Board of Directors!

We are delighted to announce the new Board of Directors for Parents Across America!

PAA has been in a year-long process of filing for our 501c3 and setting up our permanent structure. The election of a 7-member Board of Directors is the next important step. There are four new members and three returning from the original Board. We're eager to move ahead with this wonderful group of public school parent advocates.

Here's a brief introduction to each member. You can find their full bios here on our web site.

New Directors


Dawn Collins, MPA, is from Baton Rouge, LA, and founded PAA-Baton Rouge. She is a current public school parent and a political consultant and community advocate with a diverse background in public service. Dawn was drawn to President Obama's message that community empowerment is a true vehicle of change. She gives data-driven strategic consultation to political campaigns, as well as handles government affairs and training programs for non profit organizations through her consulting business,  Cogent Concepts and Project Management, LLC. 


Nathan Harris is from Indianapolis,IN and works with PAA-Indiana. He is a former public school parent and current public school grandparent. Nate is the owner of Wise Energy LLC. Most recently, Nate was a Project Director for Upward Bound at Indiana University. Nate is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Student Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. He also holds a Master of Business Administration. Nate's recent community involvement includes the Marion County Commission on Youth, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Tutor Mentor Summit, Indianapolis, 100 Black Men Team Mentoring, Norm Brown Scholar Mentoring, Hoosiers for Public Education, and New Mission Missionary Baptist Church,   


Steven Norton is from Ann Arbor, MI and is a co-founder and executive director of PAA affiliate Michigan Parents for Schools, a non-profit public interest advocacy group working for excellent community-governed public education in Michigan. Steve did his undergraduate work at Yale University and moved to Michigan to pursue graduate study in political science at the University of Michigan. He also does communications consulting and web development for small business and nonprofits. Steve is a current public school parent.  


Maria de Lourdes Pérez-Ramírez is from Orlando FL and founded PAA affiliate HispanEduca. Lourdes is a former public school parent and a Bilingual Communications, Education and Translation professional with 28 years experience at the Public Relations agency, nonprofit and corporate arenas. She is a seasoned PR, journalist, and media relations professional, with translation, project management and public speaking experience. She taught at the University of Puerto Rico's Eastern campus Education and Communications departments; she is also a published business journalist (English and Spanish) with expertise in education, pharma, manufacturing, and food beats. Lourdes holds a BA in Education and an MA in Communications and Journalism, and is working towards a graduate degree in Nonprofit Management. Currently she is the founder and president of HispanEduca, an education nonprofit organization whose mission is to make education policy and reform accessible to Hispanic parents, school counselors and teachers, to help them become education policy influencers and shapers.


Returning Directors


Pamela Grundy is from Charlotte, NC. She is a founding member of PAA and co-founder of PAA affiliate MecklenburgACTS. Pamela first started working on educational advocacy about a decade ago, when a court order forced Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to end its busing for desegregation plan, and district schools rapidly resegregated.

Her first focus was on creating equitable opportunities for students at high-poverty schools. She pursued this effort through, and by enrolling her kindergarten-age son in the local high-poverty neighborhood elementary school, Shamrock Gardens. She now spend a lot of her time fighting high-stakes testing. In her spare time, Pamela works as a historian. She's currently working on a new edition of a college textbook on the history of American sports. You can read some of her reflections on education on her Seen from the ˜Rock" blog.


Dora Taylor is from Seattle, WA and founded PAA-Seattle. Dora is a founding member of PAA and the first President of the organization. Ms. Taylor is currently on the League of Women Voters Education Committee and a featured writer of The Progressive Magazine's new education section Public School $hakedown. Besides being editor of the blog Seattle Education, Dora is an Architect and offers Architecture 101 classes to students in grades 3 through high school. Her daughter is a recent graduate of the Seattle Public Schools.


Julie Woestehoff is from Chicago, IL, co-founded PAA, and is the executive director of PAA affiliate Parents United for Responsible Education. Julie has been with PURE since 1990 and has been its executive director since 1995. She is the parent of two Chicago Public School graduates, a veteran elected local school council member, and writer of the blog, PURE Thoughts. In 2003, along with the rest of the PURE staff, she won the Ford Foundation's Leadership for a Changing World Award, which recognized powerful grass-roots leadership. In 2004, she was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times, and was the only non-educator in their Top Ten Powerful Women in Education.

PAA and PAAers in the News
Helen Gym to speak with Diane Ravitch

PAA founding member Helen Gym, leader of PAA affiliate Philadelphia Parents for Public Education, will be speaking on stage with Diane Ravitch at the annual American Educational Research Association annual meeting to be held April 3-7 in Philadelphia.


From the AERA press release:

Ravitch, Gym Join Impressive Line-up of First Day Speakers

Noted education historian and researcher Diane Ravitch and Philadelphia public education advocate Helen Gym are among a compelling line-up of major speakers at the Annual Meeting, the very first day. In a session titled "Rising to the Challenges of Quality and Equality: The Promise of a Public Pedagogy," Ravitch will speak about the unanticipated consequences of educational innovations, while Gym will discuss what educational research means for the lives of school children in Philadelphia. Ravitch is a research professor of education at New York University and author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. Gym is cofounder of Parents United for Public Education.

Thursday, April 3, 2:15 pm to 3:45 pm 
Convention Center, 100 Level - 121 B

Pam Grundy, Diane Ravitch and Ilina Ewen at NPE conference

PAA members write op eds on testing  

PAA co-founder Pamela Grundy teamed up with Ilina Ewen for an op-ed in the Charlotte News Observer, explaining why their families will refuse to participate in this year's End of Grade testing in North Carolina.

"Study after study has detailed the multifaceted damage caused by high-stakes testing, from the narrowing of school curricula to the elimination of time for art and music to the spread of the mind-numbing strategy of teaching to the test," they wrote. "These studies include strong evidence that the greatest harm has come to special education students and low-income children of color. They make it clear that out-of-control testing has done nothing to improve national achievement levels. Still, the tests keep multiplying, and the stakes keep rising."

PAA affiliate, which Grundy co-chairs, has launched an opt-out support campaign, with information and advice for families who want to opt their children out of this year's state tests, which will be given in late May. This is the first large-scale effort to opt out of/refuse state tests in North Carolina. They will be holding an information meeting on the afternoon of Sunday, March 16, in Charlotte.

For more information, visit, and take a look at their "Opting out" section. If you live in North Carolina, please also sign the opt-out support petition they've put up there.

Another letter challenging the overtesting in our schools was written by PURE's Julie Woestehoff on behalf of the Chicago parent coalition More Than a Score, and published Tuesday in the Chicago Tribune:

We can no longer ignore the overtesting that has reduced much of our children's education to test prep. We call on Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the Chicago Board of Education and ISBE to respect parents' rights to direct our children's education, to treat students who opt out respectfully and ethically, and, most important, to change the fundamental values in this district and this state that continue to prioritize test scores above high-quality education for all our children. We believe that schools are the most important democratic institutions in America, and that our children are our democracy's future.


PURE was also noted for its Chicago opt out activities in Education Week.  
Join us!

If you share
our overall goals of progressive, positive education reform and more parent input in education policy making, we invite you to affiliate with us if you are an existing group, or to form a new PAA chapter. The more of us there are, the stronger our voice will be at every level. Here's how!
PAA Chapter and Affiliate News
Common Core workshops in Seattle

PAA President Dora Taylor has been offering workshops recently on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and on opting out. 

PAA Blog Highlights

Keep up with our blog for more news and commentary on public education from the parents' point of view.

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