Aug2010I’m a mother, a teacher, a parent of three children in our public schools, and a big believer that quality schools can transform our neighborhoods, our communities, and our city.

My parents didn’t have much, so I depended on the public spaces of my community. I learned to read at the public library, swam and did sports at my public rec center, rode my bike through the public parks, and of course, attended public school. These spaces gave me the kind of opportunities I would have never had otherwise and instilled in me a lasting commitment to the common good and the importance of caring for one another, especially our most vulnerable, through the public spaces of our communities and neighborhoods.

That’s why I’ve been so fired up when public spaces go into decline: When a neighborhood park which should provide recreation and relaxation becomes an abandoned eyesore. When a public school closes down. When our streets feel unsafe rather than vibrant. When we lose a sense of connectedness to one another.

City Hall press conferenceIn the poorest large city in the U.S., we cannot afford to walk away from our collective responsibilities. All of my work around strengthening communities and championing education has been about building up the public spaces of our city. I came to Philadelphia almost 30 years ago, stayed, raised a family and started my teaching career at Lowell Elementary School in Olney. Since then, I have helped build institutions and organizations that empower people and families across the city whose voices need to be heard: I am a founder of a citywide education newspaper, a charter school serving immigrant students and families, and a parents organization that has raised up parent voices and won millions of dollars in new revenue for Philadelphia schools. I’ve helped transform a troubled school culture and climate at South Philadelphia High School, and I’ve won million of dollars in new school funding from the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

6A lot of candidates will talk to you about education, but few can match my record or experience. I’ve worked for over two decades alongside parents and students and workers to keep the fight alive for our schools and communities. I will address poverty in this city with compassion and attention to equity and results. I understand the connection between democratic governance, ethics and good decision-making. I’m an outsider but one with the skills and experience to secure policy wins that benefit all, not a privileged few. I connect the energy and creativity of newer residents with the lived realities and struggles of the majority of residents, and I am working for a city that is inclusive, interconnected, and seeks racial and economic justice. I’m not afraid to ruffle a few feathers along the way. When it comes to the people and families of this city, Philadelphia needs a champion in their corner.

That’s why I’m running for City Council at large. I am Philadelphia’s fighter for parents and working families, a vibrant and sustainable public school system and quality neighborhoods for all.

Let’s make a better Philadelphia together.

Helen Gym,

Democrat for City Council At-Large