• Authors Deb, Khem, Julie

A Message from PAA President, Khem Irby

Parents Across America Executive Director Julie Woestehoff

is retiring. It will take three of us to take her place:

Khem Irby, Deb Mayer, and Laura Bowman.


Julie Woestehoff and some PAA members host Monty O'Neill of FairTest at the

2017 Network for Public Education conference in Oakland, California.

Dear Friend,

As a friend of Parents Across America (PAA) and/or Chicago's Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), we wanted you to be among the first to know that our interim executive director, Julie Woestehoff, PAA co-founder, and the executive director of PURE for 20 plus years, is taking a well-deserved retirement at the end of this year.

Julie helped establish PURE as a powerhouse parent voice in Chicago, which earned her recognition as one of the 100 most powerful women in the city, along with a Ford Foundation team leadership award and regular appearances on the Today Show, Talk of the Nation, the New York Times and other national media outlets.

Under Julie's administrative leadership, PAA has become one of the most widely respected national, progressive, diverse, grass roots parent groups. We attach a list of our recent accomplishments. This network of local chapters and affiliates operates with very little funding and Julie has worked with little or no pay. We will very much miss her experience, creativity, and untiring passion for this work.

We're also pleased to be able to announce that much of Julie's coordinating work will be carried on by a dynamic and highly-skilled team, PAA President Khem Irby and PAA-Oregon founder Deb Mayer, with the additional assistance of Laura Bowman, leader of PAA-Roanoke Valley (VA). We are so grateful to these leaders for stepping up to help PAA make a smooth transition. We are also working on an intense fundraising effort to raise money to hire a replacement or replacements for Julie.

During this transition to new leadership, we will need the help and support of all of our friends and allies. Below are a few things we know we will need and that you might be able to help supply. Please consider what, if anything, you might be willing to offer to help keep PAA strong, such as:

  • Writing a letter of support for PAA and emailing it to PAA President Khem Irby at khemirby@gmail.com. We can use these letters in our fundraising efforts.

  • Putting in a good word for us with funders/donors you think might be interested in supporting our work, and/or suggesting potential funders to us.

  • Sharing with us the emails of your best media contacts and encouraging them to call on us for quotes and help publicize our press announcements.

  • Adding PAA President Khem Irby (khmeirby@gmail.com), Deb Mayer (deb.mayer1@gmail.com) and other key PAA leaders to your email lists to keep PAA in the loop.

  • Considering a one-year recurring donation to PAA using the Donate button on our home page: www.parentsacrossamerica.org.

  • Subscribing to our newsletter if you are not subscribed already (PAAnews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)and encouraging your membership/networks to do the same.

  • Planning to attend an informal celebration of Julie, PAA and PURE in Indianapolis on Friday, October 19, from 5 to 7:30 pm at Juan Solomon Park, 6100 Grandview Drive (at the start of the NPE conference – let us know if you need a ride!).

We thank you for your support over the years and hope that, with your help, PAA will head into the future even stronger than ever.


Khem D. Irby

PAA President


Julie has kept us busy these past eight years keeping us at the forefront of the education debate of as the public school landscape continues to change.. So much has happened in such a short time! Take a look at some things we've accomplished.

PAA History and Accomplishments

Parents Across America (PAA) was formed in 2010 by a small group of active parent leaders from all backgrounds across the U.S. who shared a concern about the direction of public education policy making, and the fact that the voices of grassroots parents were not being heard as critical policychanges were being made. We developed a “What We Believe” statement, which specifies ouropposition to the corporate education agenda of mass school closings, charter school expansion, high- stakes testing, and attacks on teacher professionalism and student data privacy, strategies that are not based on solid research or supported by most parents, and are harmful to our children, our communities and our democracy.

Our statement of beliefs also details our support for proven, progressive policies and practices such as a child-centered curriculum, a strong parent voice in school decision making, quality multiple assessments, experienced and well-supported teachers, and adequate funding for solid, effective programs such as preschool, increased social services and reduced class size, and for schools overall.

This statement of beliefs has resonated strongly with parents all over the U.S. Parents want to join us, and many have formed new PAA chapters which have empowered them to carry out this vision at the local level. We currently have 50 chapters in 26 states.

In 2017 we carried out our first survey of parents on what's most important in public education, and shared the responses of the 584 parent participants in a webinar, with Congress, and the media. We feel that our survey helps us stay current with public school parent issues and concerns, and keeps our voice authentic.

We have been in the forefront of challengers to the expansion of digital technology in schools which is being driven by corporate interests with little attention paid to the many negative effects on students. Our research work is strengthening parents' efforts to raise questions about the amount, effects, and effectiveness of this growing use of digital devices in schools and was recognized by the Maryland legislature in a proposal to monitor in- school screen time.

Our groundbreaking research on Test Stress found links between the misuse and overuse of standardized tests and increased student test anxiety. Standardized testing has been significantly cut back in most states.

  • We developed an extensive program addressing Race, Poverty and Educational Opportunity by collaborating with well-known educator, Dr. Paul Thomas, prepared parent-friendly materialsexposing the “unlevel playing field” ), sponsored several webinars and workshops, and established a topical online book club.

  • We communicate our concerns and recommendations to Congress and the House and Senate education committees with regular “Parent Voices Education Faxes” sent directly to each member. (Link to sample.)

  • We have challenged efforts of corporate reform to gain ever more access to our children's school and personal data. We worked with our Chicago affiliate to completely stop a contract between the Chicago Board of Education and inBloom, a data gathering firm owned by Rupert Murdoch. Shortly after that, inBloom closed its doors.

  • We have expanded the resources we developed for parents, including new fact sheets on Stand for Children, vouchers, and educational inequities helping expose many of the fallacies of corporate school reform. While the federal government is putting more and more money into charter school expansion, there is growing skepticism from state and local officials.

Our executive director testified before the Nevada legislature about the local school council model, a form of parent-led site-based school management that parents far prefer over the fake “school choice” of charter and voucher proponents, and which is endorsed by PAA(http://parentsacrossamerica.org/parents-rights/). The legislature adopted some of the ideas from that model in the structure they adopted for the Clark County NV school system.

We have presented workshops at national conferences, held three of our own national conferences, offered several webinars including our 2015 and 2017 PAA Week events, and collaborated with many groups including the Network for Public Education, FairTest, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, and Defending the Early Years.

#Juliewoestohoff #KhemIrby #LauraBowman

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