After 12 fulfilling and exhilarating years of developing and leading this wonderful organization, I am passing the torch to new leadership. My last day in the office was Friday, October 23. What a privilege it has been to serve my community in this way! I am grateful for this opportunity of a lifetime and for the support of so many to make this idea into a thriving and impactful organization.
In 1998, when I was enrolling my first-born daughter in OUSD I witnessed first hand the inequities in our education system. This lit a spark inside me, which was kindled into a flame in 2002, when I had the opportunity to bring together pioneers in parent organizing and leadership development, Parent Voices, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, Parent Services Project and Partners for Immigrant Leadership and Action. Together, we built a vision for a network for parent leadership and action. In 2004, with the support of Lina Avidan and the Zellerbach Family Foundation and many volunteers, I launched Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network — PLAN. We faced tumultuous times — No Child Left Behind, funding cuts and state takeovers of local school districts — which further degraded the educational experience of students from low-income communities of color. In response, PLAN organized and trained hundreds of parents from all over the greater bay area, from Solano County to Watsonville to fight for expanded parent voice, equitable funding and access to quality education for all students.
In 2009, after 9-year state takeover of OUSD ended with the hiring of Oakland’s first independent Superintendent, Tony Smith, PLAN launched its first campaign — Oakland Families LEAD. We began the campaign with a simple statement — “You can’t build community schools without the community!” — and concluded with a big victory — Standards for Meaningful Family Engagement in OUSD. adopted in June 2012.
The following year, PLAN fought alongside a strong coalition of community and policy allies for the passage of Local Control Funding Formula, the most significant school finance reform in 40 years. As a result of this structural change, California students with the greatest need receive more resources and parents and students have a greater voice in deciding how the funds are to be spent.
Now, we have a real opportunity to build community schools in Oakland, in partnership with students and their families. On the ground in East Oakland, PLAN is building core teams of families who are working in partnership with principals, staff and teachers to push beyond the boundaries of traditional family involvement. Our goal is to shift the culture of schools so that every family feels welcomed and valued as a participant in all aspects of the school, and all students have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.
Today, PLAN is a nationally recognized leader known for our innovative work to engage and empower families of color as leaders in their children’s education and in school transformation. Together we have accomplished so much, and yet we are just beginning to see the potential of this work to truly transform education so that every child can get an excellent education.
We have a talented staff and committed board of directors to lead the next chapter of PLAN’s work.
I am humbled by the many parents who have invested so much in our programs, whose transformation and leadership I have witnessed over the years and to all of you who have supported our work. I am grateful to the funders and donors who share our vision and invest in this important work. I am proud of what we have accomplished and excited by what we will accomplish in the future. Together with Interim Executive Director Patricia St. Onge and Board Chair Angelica Jongco, you will lead PLAN forward. I look forward to supporting all that is yet to come.