PAA Board of Directors

President Khem IrbyKhem

Mothers Agenda in New York City and PAA-Greensboro in North Carolina

Khem Irby was elected PAA President in September, 2017. She 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.

Zerlina Smith

Co-founder, PAA-Chicago

is a long-time South-Austin (Chicago) resident with ​ deep ties to the local community​ . She has been fighting for justice as an activist her whole life, because she believes that the people should have the power to make decisions for their own communities. Her earliest inspiration was her grandmother, Cora Smith, who organized from CHA public housing to fight for community resources and housing rights. ​ Activism and the fight for justice are her legacy​. A single mother of a 8-year-old, Ms. Smith wears many hats in the community. She relates to the importance and struggle for ​ strong, public schools​ and has been active in the fight for quality education through parent organizing, now Newly Elected Chairman of the Illinois State Green Party, former Chairman of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy LSC , Parent leader of Action Now, Board member of Raise your Hand, Board member and treasurer of the West Side Community stakeholders Federal coalition, Former Chairman of the Head Start Policy Committee for CPS, former Secretary of Columbus Park advisory committee, Chair of the West side Democracy for America accountability Chapter and Former Alderman Candidate for the 29th Ward 2015 race in Chicago IL. Zerlina Smith is the founder of InCrease the Harvest Inc. That Is a
Not-for-Profit and Civic organization. She works part-time in Community Outreach for State Representative Lashawn Ford of the 8th district. She was IL State Coordinator for the Jill Stein presidential campaign. Her activism shines through her work as a leader in her community and throughout the City and State.

NateHarris2012scaledNathan Harris

At-large member, Indianapolis, IN – works with PAA-Indiana

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

Portland Oregon – Co-founder, PAA-Oregon, member, PAA affiliate, Oregon Save Our Schools DebM

Deb 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.


Steven Norton

Ann Arbor, MI – Executive director of PAA affiliate Michigan Parents for Schools

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.