San Diego Parent Summit Engages Families in Improving Public Education

July 1, 2011

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By Lisa Berlanga, Regional Director of the Greater San Diego Region

San Diego's parent community is fed up. They are tired of the budget cuts affecting the quality of their children's education. They are tired of not having input regarding what programs should be cut and which ones should be given priority. They are watching the public schools that they have supported for years, who served their students well with low class sizes, opportunities for choice, arts, music, second language programs and the like, now all being taken away. They are frustrated by the teacher's union's unwillingness to negotiate pay or benefits and the decisions that are made in the best interest of adults rather than children. They are tired of seeing the best teachers pink slipped every year and teachers who have seniority saved without regard for their performance. They are tired of it all and they are doing something about it.

Voice of Our Kids and Parents for Quality Education, two local parent groups, hosted a parent summit in San Diego on June 25. The summit was an opportunity to hear a panel of educational leaders address the question, "how do we improve public education?" A panel moderated by local reporter Rory Devine included Assemblymembers Fletcher and Block in addition to local principals, professors and CCSA staff. Each panel member gave three ideas for reform and these ideas were recorded and will be disseminated to participants. Another participant, Former Senator Gloria Romero, inspired and fired up parents with her keynote speech about how zip codes should not dictate the quality of education a child receives.

After lunch, parents had the opportunity to discuss some of the issues and hear from the local parent groups about ways to stay informed and get involved. Parents for Quality Education gave parents a list of local legislators, how to contact them and discussed the best ways to reach out. The PTA talked about how to get the community organized, and Up for Ed talked about how they want San Diego Unified Parents to unite and be heard and ultimately affect the decisions being made in the district.

This was a rare opportunity for parents in public education to get together. Parents in attendance were both charter parents and traditional public school parents. All parents have a stake in public education and want to see the quality remain or improve. The parent groups hosting the event encouraged participants to get on their websites and sign up for membership to their various organizations, so participants can receive up-to-date and relevant information. These websites provide information, training opportunities as well as calls to action. Organizers also plan to have a follow up summit in the fall to continue the momentum created.

Parent Voices are powerful, and at CCSA, we are trying to harness the collective energy from parents and get them informed and motivated to act. CCSA's parent organization, Families That Can, seeks to unite parents around issues that affect charter schools. Whether charter issues or issues that affect the traditional public schools, parent voices are powerful and make a difference. Legislators are much more receptive to parents who express their authentic concerns, issues and ideas much more than polished lobbyist or an advocate. Parent stories and voices are powerful and together we must learn to use them to our advantage to improve public education.

San Diego Parents are no longer waiting for the decision makers to reach out to them or hoping that they will make the decision that is in the best interest of their child. They are uniting. They are becoming informed and taking action. They will be heard. It will be exciting in the next few months to see the impact that parents with have on San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).

For more information on any of the parent organizations that participated, visit their websites:

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