Parent leaders graduate ready to make an impact for children


After 20 weeks of intensive classes, the second cohort of Parents Who Lead is graduating from a nationally renowned parent leadership program in Jacksonville.

While the formal training is ending, the impact is just beginning. The 18 parents who have completed the program are now leading community projects to serve children in our community.

“Parent leadership is critical to the success of our schools,” said Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, which helped launch the program in partnership with Duval County Public Schools, the Jacksonville Public Library and the Kids Hope Alliance. “That’s why JPEF is proud to support parents alongside school leaders and teachers in our public schools to help improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children.”

The program, known as Parents Who Lead, is the first of its kind in Jacksonville. It’s based on the model of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI), created in Connecticut. A rigorous evaluation has shown that the model increases parents’ leadership skills and creates successful collaborations between different organizations. Graduates of the program have gone to serve in public office and several community projects have made significant changes in cities across the country. In Jacksonville, parents have led projects to educate parents about individualized education plans, rallied support for a half-penny sales tax for Duval County Public Schools, and fundraised for Duval County Public Schools staff to receive training on implicit bias that is now being spread across the district.

As part of the community projects, several parents in the Jacksonville program have worked in partnership with Duval County Public Schools and other local organizations to strengthen and improve programs that are impacting children in our city. Projects include informing teachers about children’s individualized education plans through FOCUS, the parent portal used by Duval County Public Schools, broadening the reach of DCPS’s Parent Academy by publishing content online, a food bank at a local elementary school and a tutoring program for high school students to benefit elementary school students.

The following parents are graduating from the program.


Kewal Bhardwaj

Amy M. Boyle

Shanna Carter

Manjula Chandran

Dominic R. Cummings

Myisha De Nose

Nina Frank

Latrica Gills

Jillian Gishler

Monika Gupta

April Lloyd

Maria Lowney

Carla Mercer

Courtney Taylor

Latoya Taylor-White

Cyrus Tookes

Monique N. Tookes

Fuada Velic





of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.