Public education activist Helen Gym to run for City Council

Public education activist Helen Gym to run for City Council
Charles Mostoller

“Run Helen Run!” “Run Helen Run!”

Students, parents, family, and fellow activists chanted inside The Ethical Society Building in Rittenhouse Square on Monday afternoon as Helen Gym announced she’s running in the Democratic City Council at-large primary on May 20.

“People sometimes ask me if I’m angry,” joked the former Olney elementary school teacher. “And I always tell them, ‘I am. And aren’t you?’”

Gym, 47, who last year Philadelphia Magazine named one of the 75 most influential people in Philadelphia, has spent more than 20 years championing social causes. She co-founded Parents United for Public Education, a citywide coalition of parents focused on school budgets and funding to improve public school performance, and launched The Philadelphia Public School Notebook — an independent, nonprofit news service covering the city’s public school district.

Also a board member of the Asian Americans United, Gym vowed to make her parents, Korean immigrants, proud.

“We’re rejecting a punishing narrative of blame and failure,” Gym said. “From the bottom of my heart, things are going to change, starting today.”

Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, hosted the rally as colleagues, pastors, and a former student spoke in support of Gym, before her three children introduced her to the crowd.

“I was so committed to coming today that when my cab got stuck in traffic, I told the driver to let me out, I’ll walk,” said Rev. Mark Tyler, Senior Pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Gym moved to Philly almost 30 years ago to attend the University of Pennsylvania.

She will be running for Councilman Jim Kenney’s former seat which was rendered empty after Kenney announced his resignation on Jan. 20 in order to run for mayor.