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December 6, 2013
JedWallaceSmall.jpgOne of the aspects of my current position I value most is having the great privilege of being able to visit so many charter schools across California where I am consistently struck by the inspiring efforts that parents, teachers, school leaders and board members are making to help support the success of students. If it weren't for the remarkable commitment and energy that this diverse group of stakeholders brings to our schools, it simply wouldn't be possible for our schools to be as successful as they are. And what I invariably find particularly heartening about these visits is having the chance to experience personally the level of awareness and appreciation that all within the charter school community share for the heroic efforts that these stakeholders are making.

What is sometimes harder to be aware of and to appreciate is how this same diverse group of stakeholders - parents, teachers, school leaders and board members - are undertaking similarly heroic efforts to support the advocacy efforts that the Association is undertaking to magnify the impact of the broader charter school movement. This is why I am very encouraged to see how our community is starting to have increasing excitement about the redoubled efforts that CCSA is undertaking to bring charter school parents, teachers and board members even more deeply into our advocacy efforts. Our work focuses on connecting charter school parents and building teams of passionate parent advocates so they can work together to fight even more effectively for the issues that mean the most to them and to tell their positive, personal stories. With training and support, these teams of parent advocates are taking ever greater action to influence decision-makers about the impact our schools are having on children across the state. And by informing and educating parents on where candidates for public office stand on charter school issues, their voices are being heard even more clearly from local communities to the halls of the Capitol. As but one indicator of the level of commitment CCSA brings to this redoubled effort, we are pleased to have been able to hire a dozen staff organizers in key areas across the state to leverage and unleash the power of parents.

To illustrate the power of parents, I'd like to highlight a parent who inspires me and has already become an extraordinary advocate for charter school students: Joanna Ahola in Sacramento. When she heard that the San Juan Unified Board of Education would be discussing issues of importance to charter schools, she called 46 other charter school parents asking them to attend a meeting and 10 were there. She is also writing her own blog called "What's Working in Education". Joanna is truly making sure that parent voices are heard.

Just as we have enhanced our efforts with parents, we know that we must also find innovative ways to engage teachers in the movement's advocacy work as well. We are excited to announce the launch of a new and unique fellowship for charter school teachers. The fellowship will help teachers connect what they're seeing in their classrooms to policies at the state and local levels and help them build real, tangible skills that will empower them to step forward as leaders in their community and advocates for their students.

We also know that in addition to parents and teachers, charter school board members are critical in this work. As a result we are working even more closely with those individuals who have already stepped up to assume governance roles at charter schools to connect them with public officials in their communities to ensure that these officials truly put student needs first and are committed to high-quality public school options for all families.

The power of our movement comes from people - the extraordinary parents, teachers, charter school leaders and board members who are proving what is possible every day. And finding tangible ways for these stakeholders to engage in the advocacy work to advance our movement is what we strive to do at CCSA every day. As we join with friends and family this month for various celebrations filled with the spirit of gratitude and giving, all of us at CCSA are deeply grateful for your ongoing commitment to your school, community and the charter school movement. And we are looking forward to an exciting and busy 2014 as we work together to engage more broadly and build the power of our parents, teachers and board members to have an even greater influence in our communities and on the leaders making decisions that impact public schools every day.

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