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It was a tough year for students and parents at Lincoln High.

Despite multiple attempts to rebrand and restructure the school, it has yet to find a solution to low enrollment, sputtering test scores and waves of violence.

But through it all, a committed core of parents hasn’t wavered in its support for the school’s students. Within that core, Cindy Barros, president of Lincoln’s newly founded parent teacher organization, has taken a leading role rallying parents and advocating for students.

When, over the summer, the Superintendent Cindy Marten moved to appoint a new principal who parents didn’t want, it was Barros who raised questions and slowed down the process until the school could find the right leader.

At the start of the school year, when the school police officers union criticized the district for letting a student – who, last year, was involved in a high-profile fight – return to school, it was Barros who told the police officers they were out of line.

And when district officials swiftly and unilaterally gutted a program that allowed students to take courses for college credit, it was Barros who told district officials they were wrong.

“At this point, I see that there appears to be a decisive, systematic plan to humiliate and destroy Lincoln High School students and the community. There’s still a thousand questions unanswered. Parents do not know, and that’s wrong,” Barros said at a school board meeting.

Barros is still fighting for improvements, but progress is slow. Still, she’s cautiously hopeful.

“More staff are beginning to recognize (the PTO). We are being included. Some or our parents are turning out regularly to support students. Those things are encouraging. We’re making baby steps. And I think we’re making more progress than we ever have,” she said.

Barros’ consistent advocacy has revealed systemic problems that undermine efforts to turn around Lincoln. And if the school is to improve, the district and school leaders have to find a way to work more closely with parents and members of the Lincoln community. Starting, perhaps, with Barros and the PTO.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Mario Koran

Mario was formerly an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about schools, children and people on the margins of San Diego.

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