Our parent collective was formed during the summer of 2020 in response to the pandemic education crisis in order to ensure that our education leaders centered the needs of students. We started by going out into many communities to listen and begin to connect parents bewildered and worried about the way the school district was treating the needs of children, because we were and remain committed to devising community solutions that, first and foremost, support all children's learning and well-being. And parents are the experts on the needs of their children. In just a few months, the group grew from 100 parents to more than 1,000, with members from more than 70 schools in SFUSD. We now have more than 3,600 who subscribe to our newsletter, more than 1,400 people in our private Facebook forum, and more than 1,300 Twitter followers. And growing.
Our advocacy and successes are many. As Decreasing the Distance (now SF Parents), we have advocated for the safe reopening of our schools since Fall of 2020, when the science became clear that schools could and should reopen safely, yet our district made no moves in that direction. SF Parents (formerly Decreasing the Distance) has also worked on other related initiatives, such as outdoor education plans, how families can help improve distance learning, equitable fundraising across school sites, and advocating for wrap-around holistic supports for students. All of our issues are rooted in the grassroots concerns of our supporters and tsunami of parent volunteer leaders.
WE ORGANIZED FAMILIES TO MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD.
- Our members organized more than a dozen “Zoom-in” events, attended by hundreds of families, where children attended Zoom classes outside their schools to bring attention to the fact that students were doing poorly on Zoom and missed their teachers and classmates. The events were well covered by local media and beyond.
- We spurred families to attend and engage with Board of Education meetings, getting hundreds of parents and students to make public comments over the course of the school year and getting 1,000 to attend one of the meetings. We have also organized multiple email campaigns to our Board of Education and multiple press events.
- In October of 2020, we organized a petition to bring more transparency and urgency to the reopening process; more than 1,500 parents signed. The same month Decreasing the Distance listened to and assisted the Mission Latino/x community to develop a letter and petition, specific to the Latinx experience and how their families were being misrepresented by our Board of Education, as they were also calling for reopening.
- In February of 2021, we hand delivered to the school district a second petition with nearly 4,000 signatures calling for the district to open schools according to public health guidance. This was following a successful press conference we organized with Mayor London Breed and many SFUSD children holding signs about returning to school.
- On the one-year anniversary of school closures in March of 2021, we organized a week of actions and events. Over a thousand families participated in the various events that week including hundreds at our march and rally.
WE PUSHED AT THE CITY AND DISTRICT LEVEL.
- We pushed for a city resolution Urging a Comprehensive Return to School Plan for SFUSD to identify and ask the city for what exactly it needed (PPE, COVID-19 testing, financial resources) in order to reopen. The resolution was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in December 2020.
- We strongly advocated for universal masking requirements at schools, to help teachers feel safer, a position the district eventually supported.
- We successfully pushed for the passage of a resolution calling for a full, five-day return to in-person learning for all students by the first day of school year 2021-2022 at the Board of Education in April 2021.
- We published important Op Ed articles in the SF Chronicle and SF Examiner
- We organized teachers, paraprofessionals, and school staff to write an open letter to their fellow union members calling for public health professionals--not labor unions--to decide when schools are safe to reopen.
- We organized a Special Education letter and email campaign to the SFUSD Special Education department during our week of events in March focused on “365 Days At Home,” calling for better support and services to our children receiving special education services during school closures.
- We advocated and coordinated with city and SFUSD leaders to request and ensure that in-person and 8th grade graduations would be a reality.
- We researched and drafted a report and letter to the district on how school should look in the fall, resulting in individual meetings with the Superintendent and four Commissioners, focused on their policy positions and stances on how to return to a high-quality in-person classroom experience by the fall. We also produced a report, A Year of Harm and Counting: San Francisco’s Ongoing Public School Failure
WE HAVE BEEN VOCAL AT THE STATE LEVEL.
- We advocated strongly for teacher vaccines. In early December of 2020 we organized a press conference to urge Gov. Newsom to prioritize teachers for the vaccine and were one of the first groups to do so.
- We submitted testimony to the California state legislature in support of AB10, and developed a template for individual parents to send to their legislators.
- We developed and promoted a state petition calling on our governor and state legislature to commit to a FULL 5-day return for all students by Fall 2021.
- We drafted and coordinated a letter from 11 urban parent groups across California to Tony Thurmond calling for a commitment to return to in-person learning for our students.
- We mobilized parents and made 100 calls to state legislators from April-June 2021 to ask them to ensure that students across the state could return to full 5 days of in-person school, with before and after care available, and never again counting Zoom in a Room toward instructional minutes.
- We mobilized the SF business community to advocate to our governor and legislatures to reinstate full before- and after-care.
WE SUPPORTED FAMILIES BY GIVING THEM INFORMATION & HOPE, AND BY BUILDING COMMUNITY.
- We organized town halls to share public health information about how we could safely return our students to in-person learning, with over 600 families registered, and on state policy impacting the return to in-person learning with Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting
- We held dozens of parent/community “Zoom Social” and “Zoom Action” meetings for parents, caregivers, and community organizations across San Francisco to share their ideas and concerns, and for us share upcoming actions
- We developed and sent with information to parents that they consistently claim is clearer and more informative than anything they get from the district
- We heard over and over from families: “You gave me hope this year.” “DtD gave parents and families a voice.” “The calls-to-action were so organized and effective, and it made me feel less hopeless.” “You generated an inclusive community across the district.”
SF Parents Coalition is a grassroots movement of parents, and our members and volunteers are our beating heart; they are the source of our agency, our advocacy efforts, and are the ambassadors to future members, parent leaders in development and, most importantly, the pulse of what our city’s public school children need and feel. SF Parents Coalition is a deliberately flat organization, and so our members and volunteers are just as important as our leadership in shaping the direction and culture of the organization.
To that end, the role of leadership is to communicate relevant information to members, empower members to take action on the issues that impact their children's schooling and provide guidance and support to help those efforts succeed. Parent leaders also identify patterns across schools that need attention, network members and work on structural issues that have led to those negative patterns impeding the wellbeing and success of the city’s children. We deliberately operate in managed chaos in order to encourage and develop member leaders and volunteerism.
SETH BRENZEL, Board
Seth Brenzel is the Executive Director of The Walden School, a summer music festival, school, and camp. Since 1995, he has sung tenor with the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and currently is a professional member of that ensemble. He is past co-clerk of the SF Friends School board, and has served on numerous arts and education organization boards, including the Glen Park Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, where he has served for two years as Co-President. He lives in Bernal Heights with his husband and their daughter.
MEREDITH WILLA DODSON, Staff
Meredith Willa Dodson is an education policy professional with a background in nonprofit planning and evaluation. She is a parent of a preschooler and a kindergartener, and plans to see them go through SFUSD start-to-finish following in the footsteps of their dad. Her commitment to this work is grounded in listening, lifting up, and advocating for what is best for children and families. Meredith’s first jobs out of college--first as a social worker in the Bronx, NY, then as a researcher for the National Center for Children in Poverty--solidified her understanding of injustices and inequities embedded in our society as well as her commitment to applying her waking, working hours to fighting them. She has a Masters in Public Policy from UC Berkeley, and a Bachelors in Child Development from Cornell University. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
YVETTE BYES EDWARDS, Board
Yvette Byes Edwards brings a passion for learning and advocating, and strong research skills gained through her experience as a legal educator for California bar examinees and an Adjunct Professor of Law. Yvette has been working in the post-legal education field and with academic support programs at Bay Area law schools for 20 years. She works closely with law schools, and their students, as they prepare for the bar exam, and is also an educator in the e-learning industry. She believes access to information is a critical driver for every person being able to make informed decisions. She holds a Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University College of Law, and is a parent of a rising 3rd Grader and 5th Grader within SFUSD.
KIT HODGE, Staff
Kit Hodge has over 20 years of experience in grassroots and grasstops issue advocacy. She has spent the bulk of her time in the sustainable transportation industry, most recently as the Deputy Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, overseeing all programs and advocacy. She’s also launched and run a family cargo bike business. Kit is a core team member of Wealth & Disparities in the Black Community (please support!), which focuses on police reform in San Francisco. She believes in reading everything and asking questions. Kit graduated from Harvard University, keeps a blog and has two children in SFUSD elementary and middle schools. Contact: email@example.com
CYN WANG, Board
Cyn Wang is the Chief Legal Officer of her family business, Wang Insurance. She also serves as a San Francisco Entertainment Commissioner, promoting and regulating nightlife and entertainment. Prior to this, Cyn worked as a Public Policy Manager at Airbnb as well as a U.S. diplomat (Foreign Service Officer) at the State Department, with tours abroad at U.S. Embassy San Jose, Costa Rica, and U.S. Consulate Toronto, Canada. A graduate of Smith College and UC Davis School of Law, Cyn began her career as an Associate Attorney at Meyers Nave, and also served as Assistant City Attorney of South San Francisco, Deputy City Attorney of Hayward, and Deputy Town Attorney of Los Altos Hills. Cyn resides in the Sunset District, where her daughter Sloane attends Jefferson Elementary. Cyn speaks Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and is a proud member of the LGBTQ community.
CLIFF YEE, Board
Cliff Yee is born and raised in San Francisco and a proud SFUSD graduate (Argonne, Roosevelt, and Washington). He has a background in youth development, community organizing, and leadership. Cliff works for a nonprofit as a trained facilitator and brings a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the team. Cliff has two young children in SFUSD and holds a Masters in Social Work.