Dora Taylor is a Founding Member of Parents Across America and the President of the organization. Ms. Taylor is currently on the Seattle League of Women Voters Education Committee and a featured writer of The Progressive Magazine’s new education section Public School $hakedown.
Dora is also a contributor to two books, Digital Networking for School Reform and Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of Education Reform.
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 graduate of the Seattle Public Schools.
Khem Irby is a leading parent activist/advocate in her NYC hometown, and current residence of Greensboro, NC. Khem was a legal secretary working in NYC for many international corporate law firms. She is married with six children ranging in academic levels from elementary school through recent college graduation. Deeply committed to education, she has given decades of work as a parent advocate and community liaison with Brooklyn Perinatal in partnership with the Administration of Children’s Services. She was the President of the NYC Community Education Council, School District 13, serving over 35 schools covering several neighborhoods in Brooklyn with one of the largest Black communities in the U.S. Khem is a former member of the Independent Commission On Public Education (iCOPE), the Coalition for Public Education (CPE), the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM), a Community Liaison for the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and a Class Size Matters board member. Khem is co-founder & President Emerita of The Mothers’ Agenda NY (The MANY) and an early supporter and member of Parents Across America.
Khem appeared in the film, “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman,” a documentary produced by the Grassroots Education Movement. She is presently assistant teaching in the Greensboro Public School System while still organizing and keeping up with NYC. Khem also conducts parent and teacher support workshops. She is presently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry Leadership with Barclay College.
Re-elected for a new 2-year term
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 the advocacy group MecklenburgACTS.org, and by enrolling her kindergarten-age son in the local high-poverty neighborhood elementary school, Shamrock Gardens.
Pam then ran head-on into the corporate reform movement, which arrived in Charlotte via a new, Broad Foundation-trained superintendent, Peter Gorman. She saw first-hand the problems these strategies were causing for schools such as her son’s, as well as their devastating effects on teachers. She now spend a lot of her time fighting high-stakes testing.
Pamela jumped at the chance to help co-found Parents Across America, and to be part of a national campaign for more rational school policies. It’s been great to work with such dynamic advocates from around the country. She was on the first PAA board, helping to write the bylaws. She is the current PAA Treasurer. Now she’s eager to help find ways to expand PAA’s reach and give it a larger national voice.
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. Next up is a history of West Charlotte High School, a historically black school that became the flagship for Charlotte’s nationally acclaimed busing program, and is now resegregated and struggling. Although her son is now in middle school, she’s still the “butterfly lady” at Shamrock Gardens, and spends a good bit of time with first and fourth graders in the school’s butterfly gardens. You can read some of her reflections on her time at Shamrock on her “Seen from the ‘Rock” blog: http://seenfromtherock.blogspot.com/.
Julie Woestehoff is a co-founder of PAA, PAA Secretary and its interim executive director since January 2015.
Julie worked with the Chicago-based organization Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) for 24 years, and was its executive director from 1995-2014. She is the parent of two Chicago Public School graduates and a veteran elected local school council member.
Julie is regularly interviewed by local and national media outlets for the parents’ perspective on education issues; she has been a guest on the TODAY show and on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and has been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, TIME Magazine and other media outlets.
Julie has written three self-published books; one about creating a powerful parent organization modeled on PURE, one about PURE’s fight against high-stakes testing in Chicago, and a third, co-written with FairTest’s Monty Neill, called “Chicago School Reform: Lessons for the Nation.” She’s published essays in Education Week, Rethinking Schools, and Catalyst. Her chapter, “Just Parents Challenge Mayor Daley, Arne Duncan, and Renaissance 2010,” appears in the book “Educational Courage,” which the Christian Science Monitor named as one of the “15 must-read books about K-12 education in the US” for 2012.
Julie was awarded the 2002 Tobey Prinz Award for Community Organizing by the Rogers Park (Chicago) Community Action Network. 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.
Julie holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MA and ABD from the University of Chicago, where her area of study was medieval Norse literature. She claims that, rather than continue to study Valkyries, she decided it would be more fun to try to become one. She and her husband recently moved to Wyoming and are greatly enjoying the beautiful country.
Current members serving through 2016
Nate is the owner of Wise Energy LLC in Indianapolis, Indiana, which Is a general contractor serving new and existing commercial customers in need of thermal, acoustical, and fire stopping insulation. Wise Energy is a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certified business.
Most recently, Nate was a Project Director for Upward Bound at Indiana University. Upward Bound is a US Department of Education funded program designed to provide college readiness services to high school students that are low-income and potential first generation college graduates. In this position, Nate managed over $5,000, 000 in funding over an 8 year period and, successfully assisted with grant writing responsibilities during federal competitions. The program enrolled approximately 30 students in college annually over an 8 year period. Nate managed 2 statewide Upward Bound Olympiad projects along with other smaller projects.
Nate’s recent Community Involvement includes the Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY), the MCCOY public policy committee, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Tutor Mentor Summit, Indianapolis, 100 Black Men Team Mentoring, Norm Brown Scholar Mentoring, Hoosiers for Public Education, New Mission Missionary Baptist Church, and Parents Across America.
Nate is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Student Affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Anderson University, Anderson, IN, a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Technology from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, and an Associate Degree in Applied Science from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
Deb Mayer attended public schools all her life. Her family moved around a lot, and by the time she was in high school, she had moved 16 times. There was never any question that there would be a public school for her to attend at each destination. She has three sons, each of whom received a great public education. But over the past decade, public schools have come under attack by the millionaires and billionaires who want to privatize them. Deb came to the realization that public schools may become a thing of the past with a jolt.
Deb stumbled into education advocacy when in 2003 she was fired from her teaching job in Bloomington Indiana for making an innocuous statement in support of peace before the war in Iraq began. Blacklisted by the school, she sued for violation of her First Amendment right of free speech and wrongful termination. In Mayer v. Monroe, aka the “Honk for Peace” case, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that teachers have no right of free speech, “ . . . a teacher’s speech is a commodity she sells to the school in exchange for a salary.” It wasn’t until a few years later that Deb would recognize the impact of the strategy behind that ruling.
In 2009, when she realized the real game changer was corporate reform led by the triumvirate of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family, Deb organized a nonprofit, Great Schools for America, focusing on Edwatch, a database identifying anti-public education organizations. A couple of years later, Oregon Save Our Schools (OSOS) galvanized when a group of concerned parents and educators recognized the destructive nature of Stand for Children. Deb is a founding member of OSOS, which became an affiliate of Parents Across America.
Over the past 40 years, Deb’s teaching career has run the gamut from teaching at the poorest school in Indianapolis Public Schools, to putting educational theory into practice at the world renown Key School, to teaching a summer session at Punahou (President Barak Obama’s alma mater), to running a small elite charter — The Island School in Boca Grande, Florida. She also served as an adjunct faculty member of Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) for many years.
In her spare time Deb blogs about education issues and seeks out politicians to champion the cause of public education. She does volunteer grant writing for organizations that directly address issues of equity and poverty. She also moderates Free Speech Nation, Don’t Teach for America, and Key Math Lab PDX.
Steve Norton is a co-founder and Executive Director of Michigan Parents for Schools, a non-profit public interest advocacy group working for excellent community-governed public education in Michigan. MIPFS organizes grassroots lobbying efforts and direct lobbying of state policymakers on education issues; it also works to help parents form local organizations to support their schools and to change the current public discourse about public schools through education efforts.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Steve did his undergraduate work at Yale University and moved to Michigan to pursue graduate study in political science at the University of Michigan. With his wife Lynda, he was partner for over ten years in a business policy consultancy focusing on eastern Europe. He also does communications consulting and web development for small business and nonprofits. Steve lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two children, who attend Ann Arbor Public Schools.