Testimony of Shakeda Gaines to the Board of Education, October 18, 2018


Good Evening members of the Board of Education. My name is Shakeda Gaines. I am the President of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, a single mother of 4 children in the district, a parent who has been fighting for the rights of parents, guardians, grandparents, teachers, and more importantly students for over 10 years.

I am here today to speak with you concerning the need for a policy for parent organizations and/or groups.

Currently, the School District of Philadelphia accepts funds, countless volunteer hours, and support from our member Home and School Associations and other parent groups across the city. This supports before and after-school programming, employment of staff, school equipment and materials, third-party supportive services, and day to day needs of our schools, teachers, and students.

Even after all of the fundraising, all the volunteer hours, all the savings to the school district, all the support that parents give daily, an HSA is threatened with disassociation if they question SDP staff about their very own schools’ health or take a stand strong for the cause of our children’s education.

In my opinion, HSAs should be respected and considered a treasure to the district as they are vital to helping the district meet their Title 1 requirements for parent engagement, and they support the district’s mandate to help engage parents and build capacity for parent engagement. Without a parent organization policy, it is unclear to how and to what extent the district works with HSAs to ensure there is a respectful, two-way relationship that goes beyond accepting funds.

There is, however, the threat of retaliation against parents who are part of our membership.

Should they work part-time for the district, their employment is threatened if don’t agree with the administration on issues and many times their children are punished unnecessarily and/or their children’s educational experience is hindered.

For HSAs as a whole, they are threatened with disbandment when they question or demand quality education for all students, safe and healthy school environments, and improvement of practices that do not meet the required standards.

I implore you to develop a Parent Organization policy that is fair and just to all!