Shelli Kurth, a former teacher and an Ocean Beach parent, embraced the role of classroom mom when her children entered elementary school. She helped run the PTA, joined district committees and volunteered in classrooms. Then she started to notice a disturbing trend.

“In one classroom, students were doing exorbitant amounts of writing and real-time work, really digging deep and thinking big. And in another classroom, they were filling out worksheets with one answer,” Kurth says. “Kids coming from one classroom had whole different level of preparation than kids from another classroom.”

To address the disparity, she helped establish a foundation that united parents, teachers and principals to help schools in the Point Loma area. Slowly, she watched her children’s elementary transform into a school that attracted students from outside her community. “I knew,” she says, “that we could shift schools by shifting parents.”

Kurth and other parents have now taken an even bigger step toward education excellence. They’ve created United Parents for Education, or UPforEd, an organization that empowers parents in the San Diego Unified School District.

The organization began with a steering committee of 15. Founding UPforEd members, Kurth and parent Teresa Drew first talked about the idea on the playground at Ocean Beach Elementary School.

Shelli Kurth and Teresa Drew

UPforEd bases its mission on:

Parent Empowerment

UPforEd does this by empowering parents to become active change agents in their children’s schools. Studies show that active parent involvement results in:

-Higher test scores and grades

-Better school attendance

-Higher motivation and self-esteem

-Less violent behavior

-Decreased drug and alcohol abuse

How does UPforEd do this?

-They provide ongoing information to members through our website, emails and social media

-They regularly attend San Diego Unified school board meetings and inform the parent base of outcomes

-They convene parents for innovative educational conversations around relevant topics

-They build coalitions with other community and educational organizations around educational issues

-They build teams of engaged parents to strategize and mobilize to improve their schools and the district

-They leverage the above actions to change school and district practices and policies

-And they do this in both English and Spanish—making sure all parents have a chance to be change agents.

What can you do to get involved?

-Sign up for the UPforEd mailing list to stay apprised of upcoming events and information.

-Donate to UPforEd

-Sign the petition in support of “Four the Kids,” a historic coalition of parent leaders driving change to the teacher contract.

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