Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In the Community: Chelsea United in Defense of Education

On Tuesday April 8th, members of Lynn Parents Organizing for a Better Education had the opportunity to meet with parents from the group Chelsea United in Defense of Education (CUDE). The Chelsea Public School district currently enrolls approximately 6,100 students at nine schools in grades pre-K through 12. The student body is 82.1% Hispanic/Latino and 83.4% low income; nearly 19% of Chelsea students have limited English proficiency. In addition to CPS district schools, Chelsea is also home to the Phoenix Academy Charter School which has an enrollment of 193 students from various surrounding communities and the Excel Academy Charter School which has an enrollment of 168.

According to their literature, CUDE's mission is:
"...to have a school system that is efficient and dynamic and complemented by active parent involvement that creates a respectful environment with mutual respect among educators, parents and the community at large."
CUDE shared that they have been around for about 10 years and currently have approximately 138 members. Of these 138 members, 28 are active members in core leadership roles; they also mentioned that 17 of their parents serve on school site councils within each of the Chelsea public schools. In terms of its reputation, CUDE members mentioned that the group is in good standing with both the Chelsea superintendent and the School Committee. They were quick to point out that this does not mean that they always agree on all issues or that they have not had to fight for certain things, but that city officials do consider the concerns of parents and CUDE members.

Some of the initiatives that CUDE has been involved with include:
  • Dropout prevention - specifically legislation to increase the dropout age 
  • Organizing public forums to orient parents to the role of the Chelsea School Committee
  • Encouraging parents to speak out about their concerns with cuts to the School Department's budget
  • Putting together forums (examples: Bullying Forum, Special Education Forum, Gang Prevention, Violence Prevention)
  • Safety in schools, including lighting around Chelsea High School
  • Understanding the new discipline laws scheduled to take effect July 1, 2014
Further, their 'Areas of Work' involve educating parents and students about their concerns via workshops, collaborating with the school administration to foster positive communication, identifying student needs and providing support/resources for parents. Additionally, CUDE members currently engage in quarterly meetings with the Chelsea superintendent and are involved in the school budget process before it is approved by the School Committee. It was noted that built into the strategic plan is an understanding of the level of customer service and responsiveness that Chelsea parents can expect and deserve. Other successes include the hiring of 4 fully bilingual liaisons at the early education center as well as at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  The group also holds both teacher and student appreciation days and holds family events such as an upcoming Easter egg hunt.

In all, LPOBE was afforded an amazing opportunity to meet with Chelsea parents interested in and focused on improving education for their city's youth. 

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