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Saying farewell to a valuable organization is never easy. But the mothers and fathers behind United Parents for Education, San Diego’s pioneering education advocacy organization, know they are leaving a remarkable legacy.
Before UPforEd was born three years ago, many parents in the San Diego Unified School District didn’t know how to speak up for their children. Some felt intimidated or didn’t know how to navigate the system.
“We gave hope to a large number of parents who were invisible and disenfranchised,” said co-founder Shelli Kurth, an Ocean Beach Elementary School parent. “We created a conversation, and people will remember there was a voice with an alternative view.”
UPforEd has closed because of lack of funding to continue its operations.
UPforEd’s supporters are deeply disappointed considering the remarkable strides that the organization has made during its brief history. But they’re proud of UPforEd’s many accomplishments:
• Organizing parents for action at individual school sites and in the district at large.
• Holding free workshops for parents on a variety of education-related topics from understanding parent rights to translating “Edu-speak,” the arcane language used in the education world.
• Creating an online “Parent Toolbox” to teach parents about everything from school district employee contracts and teacher credentials to district budgeting and school bonds.
• Communicating with the public about important education issues through the media and social networks.
• Weighing in on contract negotiations with teachers by disseminating four important values known as “Four The Kids.”
• Supporting education-focused legislation in Sacramento.
Most importantly, UPforEd gave parents the know-how and the courage to speak up.
“Many parents didn’t know they could ask questions or even understood which questions to ask,” said UPforEd’s operations manager David Yeager. “We now have parents who are starting to speak up, and they know they have support behind them.”
UPforEd’s mission —a great school in every neighborhood— is still far from being reality. Plenty of challenges remain in SDUSD, and Kurth says parents will still need to stay strong in the face of a system that doesn’t necessarily value their opinions.
“I’m really proud of the collaborations we’ve made and the influence that we’ve had locally and nationally,” said Kurth. “In addition to laying the groundwork for an independent parent voice, we’ve contributed to a national conversation about the future of education.”
As for the future, UPforEd’s parent activists will continue to speak up and encourage other parents to join them.
“We’ve laid the groundwork,” said Kurth. “And I hope parents continue to stay strong and united. We must succeed because the future of our city, state and nation are at stake.”