PAA Founders

Natalie Beyer has three children in the public schools in Durham NC, where she was recently elected to the school board. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Behavioral Science from Rice University and a Master’s of Healthcare Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has served as PTA President at two DPS schools and is the ministry leader for Youth and Family at her church. She is also one of the founders of Durham Allies for Responsive Education (DARE), an organization dedicated to building support for and enhancing the quality of education in the Durham public schools. Email Natalie


Caroline Grannan has been a San Francisco public school parent, volunteer and advocate since 1996. She has served on the boards of her childrenís schools’ PTAs, the San Francisco PTA and Parents for Public Schools-San Francisco. In 2001, when the San Francisco Board of Education was embroiled in conflict with the for-profit charter operator Edison Schools, Caroline and a fellow parent started an information project that researched Edison and became a widely used resource. Since then, in newspapers and in blogs, she has critiqued groundbreaking research revealing the high attrition rates at KIPP charter schools, a finding that was later confirmed in academic studies. She has also successfully advocated for improving school food in San Francisco and statewide. Caroline is a former newspaper editor, and is currently the communications coordinator for San Francisco’s Summer Learning Network, which connects summer youth programs with enrichment resources to fight summer learning loss. Email Caroline


Helen Gym is a Philadelphia public school parent and writer and founder of Parents United for Public Education, which seeks classroom-centered investments in education budgets. She is a board member of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, where she contributes online commentary. She helped found the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philadelphia Chinatown and was named the Philadelphia Inquirer Citizen of the Year for 2007 for education activism.

Leonie Haimson is a long time parent activist and the Executive Director of Class Size Matters since 2000, a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving smaller classes in New York City and in the nation as a whole. She co-founded the NYC Public School Parent blog in 2007 and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.  She won the John Dewey award from the United Federation of Teachers for her work on class size in 2007, and was recognized as a “NYC Family hero” by NY Family magazine in 2008. After collaborating on issues such as mayoral control with Julie Woestehoff of PURE in Chicago, they spearheaded a letter, signed by from parent activists across the nation to Congress and President Obama, about why parent decision-making and class size reduction should be incorporated in their reform agenda. They also wrote an article for Education Week about how the US Department of Education under Arne Duncan has ignored parent voices. Email Leonie

Andrea Mérida has lived nearly all of her life in Southwest Denver. Following high school, she enlisted in the Army and after an honorable discharge, went on to receive a business degree. She later studied music at Metropolitan State College of Denver. A single mother since the age of 23, Andrea works as a freelance web designer, social media consultant and volunteers her time to helps legal residents prepare their citizenship applications. A newly-elected member of the Denver Board of Education, she serves as the board liaison to the District School Improvement and Accountability Council (DSIAC), a delegate to the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), a member of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), on the Education Leadership’s task force on the common core standards (NELI), as well as a member of the ARC of Colorado advisory board. She is also a founding member of Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education (DeFENSE), which works for collaborative, stakeholder education reform. Her main priorities are to open a conduit to the community through collaborative decision-making, end bullying that causes unsafe school environments for LGBT and other students, transform education for English-language learners and ensure that public school parents, teachers and support staff have a say in how Denver’s children are educated. Andrea is at, on Twitter @andreamerida, or on Facebook at Email Andrea

Pamela Grundy lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the mother of a fourth grader at Shamrock Gardens Elementary, where in 2009-10 the student body was 89 percent poor and 94 percent nonwhite. She holds a BA in history from Yale University and a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her graduate and postgraduate work has been supported by fellowships from the Spencer Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and her writings on history, education and society have received national awards from the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the History of Education Society and the Oral History Association. She is a founding member of Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools (Mecklenburg Acts), a four-year-old grassroots coalition of parents, citizens and organizations working to build community commitment to equity and excellence in all of Mecklenburg County’s public schools. She also blogs at Email Pamela

Sharon Higgins has been a public school parent in Oakland, California since 1993, where she has watched her daughters’ schools cope with NCLB’s stigmatizing label of ‘failing’ for many years. In addition, her school district was subjected to six years of the ‘business model’ of education reform as implemented by graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy during a state takeover. These two negative experiences provoked Sharon’s involvement in education issues. Previously, she worked as a critical care nurse, stay-at-home mom, and parent coordinator at her local middle school. Today, Sharon volunteers at school, serves on a district-level committee, conducts independent research about school issues, and blogs at the Perimeter Primate, Charter School Scandals, and The Broad Report. Email Sharon


Karen Miller is a long time PTA volunteer, and the former legislative chair of the Austin (Texas) Council of PTAs.  In that position, she worked to retain class size caps, preK and full day K funding, first established by Texas’ landmark school reform bill in 1984.  She is still actively advocating to preserve these programs currently.  For many years, she was the Regional PTA chair in Gulf Coast area, Houston League of Women Voters Education Chair, Texas League of Women Voters School Finance Chair and Texas PTA legislative chair for four years.  She serves on a legislative advisory committee in her school district, Cypress Fairbanks, the third largest in the state.  She has also done  research for the anti-voucher group Texas Coalition for Public Schools and the Texas Freedom Network, an organization fighting for religious freedom, civil liberties and stronger public schools.

Mark Mishler has been a public school parent and education activist in Albany, NY, since 1994.  He has two children, one a graduate of the Albany public schools, the other currently enrolled in the public school system. Mark recently served three years as president of the city-wide PTA in Albany, which is a small district with a high poverty rate, and more charter schools per capita than any other district in the state.  The proliferation of charter schools in Albany has had a negative effect on the public schools, in terms of finances and other factors. Mark’s work has included lobbying the State government, writing letters and op-eds in the local paper, and, while City PTA president, blogging about charter schools and other education issues on the Albany PTA Blog at the Times Union website. He is also a well-known local civil rights and criminal defense lawyer involved in issues of police brutality and civilian oversight for more than twenty-five years. Email Mark

Sue Peters is a journalist, communications strategist and former Seattle School Board Director whose children have attended Seattle Public Schools (SPS). A longtime progressive activist in San Francisco and Seattle, her focus turned to public education in 2008 when the Seattle School District threatened to close her son’s high-achieving and high-needs elementary school for questionable reasons. She joined a coalition of parents that successfully fought to keep the school open and became a member of ESP Vision (Educators, Students and Parents for a Better Vision for Seattle Schools), a citywide organization founded to oppose the district’s school closure policies. ESP staged protests, rallies and mounted an aggressive online campaign, bringing to public attention numerous problems with the district’s leadership. In 2009, Sue and fellow SPS parent Dora Taylor co-founded the Seattle Education 2010 blog, which aimed to elucidate and critique the policies of the Seattle school system, the Duncan and now DeVos administrations, and national public education trends. In 2013 Sue ran for Seattle School Board. Despite being outspent by $250,000 to $41,000 (the most expensive school board race in WA State history) and attacked in multiple negative mailers by a PAC that was funded by corporate and education privatizing interests, like Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), and an opponent backed by the CEOs of the Gates Foundation and Microsoft, Sue’s grassroots progressive campaign won decisively by 10 points (55-44%). Sue served on the Seattle School Board from 2013-17, attaining various leadership positions, culminating in vice president and president. She spearheaded groundbreaking efforts to change school start times for adolescent students (Later School Start Times Really Do Work To Help Teens Get More Sleep : Shots – Health News : NPR;  No, teenagers are not lazy for sleeping in — and a new Seattle school policy is helping them get the shut-eye they need | The Seattle Times), led efforts to adopt more accessible and sound curricular materials for math, worked to protect student data privacy and immigrant students, authored resolutions and policy opposing excessive testing and charter schools, and initiated an audit of  the central administration. (My Farewell Statement from the Dais.)  In 2017, Sue chose not to seek reelection. She has an M.A. in journalism from Stanford University, and her writing on education, the arts and politics have been published in various local and national publications. For more info, visit: Sue Peters — Seattle School Board & Beyond   &  Email Sue

Bill Ring is Director of TransParent®, a grassroots education advocacy, leadership development and training organization for California public school parents. Both of his children are products of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and he has coordinated with parent leaders statewide in addressing the State Board of Education on the need to strengthen oversight and effectiveness of School Site Councils and overhaul school improvement and shared decision-making processes. A long-time activist for parents’ rights, he was a plaintiff in the successful lawsuit to overturn AB 1381, the legislation giving the Mayor of Los Angeles control over L.A. public schools in 2006. ( has served on the City of Los Angeles’ Board of Education’s Budget and Finance Committee, LAUSD’sTeacher Effectiveness Task Force,  the Transparent Budget Advisory Committee, the Superintendent’s Composite Assessment Team (CAT), the Parent Engagement Leadership Task Force, and has been Chairperson of the Parent Engagement Policy Development Committee of the LAUSD Parent Collaborative. Email Bill

Rita Solnet is a parent of a son who graduated from south Florida public schools in 2008.  She has been an education activist in Palm Beach County and in Tallahassee for over a decade, and often acts as the intermediary to the business community.  After having worked in IBM Corporation over 23 years, she founded her own corporate training and organizational consulting firm ten years ago.  She has held numerous leadership positions within Palm Beach County School District, the 11th largest district in the nation, was PTA President for four years, School Advisory Council Board Member for 8 years, District Business Partner liaison, and currently serves as Chair of the Boca Raton High School Advisory Council.  She belongs to the West Boca Chamber of Commerce and is member of the ALS Foundation.  Her letter to Sec. Duncan protesting his “Race to the Top” grant program was recently reprinted in the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet and has begun blogging atHuffington Post.  Along with Sue Magers, she has formed Parents Across America, Florida.

me2Dora Taylor is a parent of a student who graduated from public school in Seattle, Washington in 2011 and is an architect, teacher and an advocate for public education.  In response to school closures in the Seattle Public School system, Dora and her co-editor, Sue Peters, started the blog Seattle Education 2010 to report on and analyze education issues, and to protect the Seattle public school system from the corporate model and privatization efforts of the Gates Foundation headquartered in Seattle.  More recently, she has blogged for Huffington Post to highlight effective education reforms, and formed Parents Across America, Seattle with Sue Peters.

Julie Woestehoff has been with the Chicago non-profit organization Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) for 20 years, 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, which covers key education issues. Julie is a frequent speaker on topics of parent involvement, site-based management, and student testing, is regularly interviewed on national and local news, and was named one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004.  In 2003 along with the rest of the PURE staff, she won the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award, recognizing powerful grass-roots leadership.  She also has a regular column in the blog Chicago Examiner and the Huffington Post. Email Julie