Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Parent Empowerment Network, Year-End Update

Note: It’s not too late to make one last 2008 tax-deductible contribution to your favorite, outspoken nonprofit organization. Your help is needed, today! If you like what you read below and believe there is a need for PEN’s voice, please send your check of $10, $25, $100 or more to:

Parent Empowerment Network

PO Box 494

Spanaway, WA 98387

or contribute through PayPal at

Dear Members and Friends of PEN,

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season with family and friends and looking forward to the New Year, as I am.

I would like to take this time to thank many, many of you for your support throughout the past year-- support through time spent emailing and talking to public officials about WASL issues and helping parents in your areas and support through monetary contributions. It has been a good year in many ways and also a difficult year for many of our families, as they faced the WASL graduation requirement for the first time. Many students in the Class of 2008 are still struggling because of this “burden of proof” that was unfairly placed on them alone.

In the next few weeks, I will be putting together a more complete list of 2008 activities and accomplishments, but here are a few highlights of PEN services and activities of the past year:

· PEN has had the honor of working with brave and bold teacher Carl Chew, who not only refused to be part of the atrocity against children that is WASL, but also proved himself a willing and articulate spokesperson for our cause. Media coverage of Carl’s refusal to administer WASL was intense, to say the least. Through his calm, professional demeanor and profound empathy for and understanding of children and their needs, Carl played a significant role in awakening the public, particularly the voting public, to the harm and failures of WASL. Thank you, Mr. Chew, our “folk hero”! Carl and I presented a session on WASL activism at the Rethinking Schools Social Justice conference in Seattle, in October. Carl was one of the first teachers to endorse my campaign for State Superintendent, way back when... We hope to soon have some of Mr. Chew’s anti-WASL artwork on our Mothers Against WASL website.

· The Mothers Against WASL Yahoo listserv is available to the public and has 327 current members. Parents often join to ask questions regarding WASL or other education issues. The discussion gets quite lively, at times. Several of our PEN leaders keep themselves current on WASL issues, through careful study of state documents and communication with the State Superintendent’s Office, and generously give of their time responding to questions with the most up-to-date information and resources available.

· Our buttons have become quite popular, nationwide. In September, I was contacted by a teacher in Los Angeles who had just come across and read my book (Not With Our Kids You Don’t!). He was interested in the “Choose the Best Answer: Teach/Test” button and ended up ordering 500. The Los Angeles Teacher’s Union then ordered 5,000 more. Needless to say, this gave our expense fund a boost for a month or two. (The 5,000 were a rush order, which I completed in a week with my husband lending a hand putting the stickers on the backs.) Rachel DeBellis has been our faithful button maker since PEN began, and I want to thank her for her hundreds of hours and generous funding of button materials and postage for the past four years. Thank you, Rachel!

· PEN’s reputation as an independent voice for parents has brought invitations and opportunities to speak to a wide variety of groups and individuals. In the past few months, these have included the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, in Olympia, El Centro de la Raza, in Seattle, and, most recently, a teacher from Egypt and a principal from United Arab Emirates, through the US Dept. of State International Visitor Leadership Program.

Parent Empowerment Network remains alive, well and active. We continuously study (and offer input on) state and national developments, through the news media and also through many contacts and relationships with organizations, parents, educators, and researchers throughout the nation. Several parts of President Elect Obama’s education platform are promising. However, his recent decision to appoint Arne Duncan of Chicago as Secretary of Education is of concern and is being discussed thoroughly, throughout the education community. Our Chicago colleague George Schmidt, editor of Substance has written extensively, over the past several years, of Arne Duncan’s actions there.

Some of you may be aware that I took a leave of absence from PEN to work on the campaign for State Superintendent, early in the year. This race was nothing if not eventful, and I believe we have had a very positive outcome in the election of Randy Dorn to this position. PEN leadership has maintained open communication with Mr. Dorn throughout his brief and successful campaign and during this post election transition period.

With PEN’s help, I am very hopeful that (at the least) the WASL system under which our children and families have been suffering will be transformed to a much more reasonable "accountability system." As we work to inform legislators, keep an eye on our brand new State Superintendent and provide him the best information available, and gather more support for true improvements for all students, I count on all of us to continue to help individual families with current WASL issues. PEN will continue, through Mothers Against WASL, to encourage and assist parents in opting their children out of the WASL as long as this harmful test is in existence.

On a personal note, I have just completed my bachelor’s degree in Business/Public Administration, through University of Phoenix. This has been an intense journey through online classes, since I began my first college class, in January 2005. My next personal education plan is to apply to Gonzaga University's Master’s in Leadership and Communication program, which is also an online program and will allow me to continue my full-time work as Director of PEN.

It is my great pleasure to work with all of you as we fight for educational justice and improvement for all young people. I end this update with a wish for a Happy New Year to all of you and an excerpt from a poem (translated from the Spanish), originally sent to me from teacher activists in Morelos, Mexico. Thank you, again, for your support of the children and families of our state.


Juanita Doyon, Director

Parent Empowerment Network

It is forbidden

It is forbidden to cry without learning,

to wake up one day not knowing what to do,


to be afraid of your memories.

It is forbidden not to smile at problems,

not to fight for what you want,

to abandon everything because of fear,


not to transform your dreams into reality.

It is forbidden not to try to understand people,

to think their lives are more valuable than yours,

not knowing that each one has his own pathway and destiny.

It is forbidden not to create your history,

not to have a moment for the people who need you,

not to understand that whatever life gives to you, it takes it away as well.

It is forbidden not to search for your happiness,

not to live your life with a positive attitude,

not to think that we can be better,

not to feel that without you, this world wouldn't be the same.

Pablo Neruda


Parent Empowerment Network is a nonprofit, public charity continuing to fight the good fight thanks to tax deductible contributions from good people like you. Please consider becoming a member or making a contribution today.
Parent Empowerment Network
PO Box 494
Spanaway, WA 98387

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