About the HSA

We are parents and guardians of students in Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School committed to working together to strengthen our school community and enrich our children’s education.  Together with our school’s teachers, staff, and other community partners, we play a large role in the success of our school.

Over the past few years, our Home and School Association has:

  • Raised money to offset the costs of field trips, school supplies, and events
  • Paid for a new playground, benches, and picnic tables
  • Coordinated annual events including book fairs, the holiday shop, teacher appreciation luncheons, and Fun and Fit Day
  • Won grants to green our school campus and to install a kiln in our art room
  • Established community partnerships with local universities and other organizations
  • Run parent-led after-school clubs
  • Coordinated parent volunteering in the classroom

Please join us.  All parents, guardians, and community members are welcome.

Every parent and guardian is encouraged to attend meetings, volunteer, and become a dues-paying, voting member of the Home and School Association.  Dues are $5.00 per year, enabling you to vote for officers and on actions taken by the HSA.  Every parent and guardian is encouraged to attend meetings, but only paid members can vote.  Teachers and staff can also join.

2018/2019 Schoolyear Officers are:

  • Dan McGurk, Co-President
  • Gina Birkmire, Co-President
  • Alyssa Butler, Co-Vice President
  • Elyse Castillo, Co-Vice President
  • Stefanie Tuleya, Corresponding/Recording Secretary
  • Elizabeth Colella, Treasurer
  • Margaret Neary, Co-Fundraising Coordinator
  • Ashley Rummelt, Volunteer Coordinator
  • Kellie Ryan, Activities Coordinator


About the HSA

Dan McGurk: Still “new” to Philadelphia and the school district, I started my child (Molly-5th Grade) at Cook-Wissahickon with the knowledge that they had a great Kindergarten teacher. I knew nothing about how the school system worked, but have come away more impressed every year. I am heavily involved with the musical and choir as I love seeing the sense of accomplishment and pride the children have when they are apart of something great.
I hope to show other parents that there’s a place for them in their child’s school, if they’re willing.  At Cook-Wissahickon we are fortunate to have resources that other city schools do not. However, the system is fickle and we can easily lose those resources if we don’t nurture our school. Seeing as how I have another 11 years to go as a parent of a Cook-Wiss kid, I hope to get input from a wide-selection of parents along the way to ensure that it’s not just an amazing experience for some kids, but all kids at Cook-Wissahickon.
We’ve been in Philly 9 years now. I’m originally from Pittsburgh and moved here after a short 6 years in Baltimore.
During the week, I write auto estimates for a major insurance carrier.

Gina Birkmire: Most Cook-Wiss students and families know me as Ms. Gina, but I’ve also been a parent, volunteer, and HSA member and officer at Cook-Wissahickon for a long time. My two older kids, David (now 22) and Angelina (now 19), started at CW in 5th and 3rd grades in 2007. I currently have a 7th grader, Aaron, and a 5th grader, Payton. I started working as “Ms. Gina” four years ago.

Elyse Castillo: I’m so thankful to have a neighborhood school that meets my children’s educational goals, but what I love most about Cook is the people. I always tell locals who are curious about the school that while I think the school has an impressive amount of resources, it’s the students, parents, teachers, and administration that really make the school culture unique and irreplaceable.
While on the HSA board, I hope to increase parent involvement, serve as a resource for prospective and incoming families, and improve student life for our children.

Alyssa Butler: I love Cook-Wissahickon because of the great staff, involved parents, and all of the lovely children my child has met this year! There is a lot of passion for students to learn, succeed and have fun by both the parents and the staff at Cook-Wissahickon.
I hope to accomplish more great families to come and experience our gem of a school!

Elisabeth Colella: Hello! Weather you know me as Elisabeth or Biz, I am a longtime parent at Cook-Wissahickon. My oldest, who started at Cook in 1st grade, is now a freshman at Temple University. I have seven children—all of whom have attended Cook. Currently I have a 1st grader and kindergartener. My husband Tony, who is the manager of Wawa in Roxborough, and I moved to Wissahickon 14 years ago. While there isn’t always much faith in the Philadelphia School District, my husband and I couldn’t be any prouder to tell people that our kids attend Cook-Wissahickon. Cook-Wissahickon has been an incredible school for my children providing them with the foundation they needed to receive a great education. Currently, 6 of my children are in different Philadelphia public schools. Besides my K and 1st grader, I have a freshman at GAMP, a 7th grader at SLA Middle School, and two 5th graders at Masterman. When families and schools come together it provides a great education for the children! Looking forward to another great year!

Margaret Neary. Born and raised in Philadelphia, a graduate of Northeast High School, and a substitute teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, I suppose I entered motherhood with every intention of sending my children to public school. I feel lucky to have such an amazing public school in our neighborhood and I am committed to helping support the school by serving as the Fundraising point person for the HSA. Last year, I also volunteered in my son’s kindergarten classroom when possible and really enjoyed that experience. I have a younger son who will be attending Cook in a few years as well so I plan to be involved for many years to come

Ashley Rummelt: I was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California where I spent my childhood outdoors and in the best natural classrooms given to us. I’ve lived in 7 different states since I was 17 but eventually found my place in Philadelphia in late 2014 after being honorably discharged from the Army as an Intelligence Analyst. Before moving my children here I spent hours looking into the best public schools Philadelphia has to offer and came across Cook-Wiss to take the trophy for us. The conservation and amount of activities this school provides for their students is amazing. Last year I was heavily involved in the school musical and it brought me so much joy to see the kids grow into their parts and to have been able to put together all their costumes! I feel like that opportunity helped me gain confidence to become the volunteer coordinator and make sure we are always fully staffed by our wonderful parents of Cook-Wiss to help all these activities and events pull through for the kids!

Kellie Ryan: I’m originally from Southern Cali, but also with roots in FL and MD, I finally found my home in Philly upon attending La Salle University in 2003. At La Salle, I met my husband, Matthew, through the crew team. Eventually, Matt and I married in 2011 and bought our forever home in Manayunk in April of 2011. We both decided that we wanted to raise our family near the city so they could experience the same love and passion for it that we have. Braedan who is currently in first grade at Cook, was born in 2012 and in 2014, our second son, Zachary was born. As a family, we love exploring new places and have no shame in getting messy—whether it’s in the Wissahickon creek or jumping in the ocean with all our clothes on. Never stop exploring is not only my and Matt’s alma mater’s catch phrase but also our families. We are so thrilled to explore all that Cook has to offer and I am excited to take an active role in the community as the Activities Co-Coordinator and 5k Race Director.