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What ‘Stand’ really stands for

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Lindsay Neil, the executive Director of Stand for Children Colorado. After Friday, she will serve as the Director of Children’s Affairs for the City of Denver.

Two-and-a-half years ago, a new organization came to Denver. I was working as the government affairs director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign when Stand for Children Colorado arrived in the city that April, but my interest in the organization grew as I learned about the core principle Stand Colorado supports: Ensuring that all children – regardless of background – have access to high-quality public education that prepares them for college and career.

Not only that, I was impressed by Stand’s focus on leveraging the two areas I know have a real impact on education, policy and politics.  I took the job as Stand’s Colorado executive director that fall, joining the intense effort to push Denver toward the goal of providing every child in the city with an excellent public education.

This Friday, I will be leaving my role at Stand for Children Colorado to join Mayor Hancock’s administration as director of children’s affairs.  My new role gives me the opportunity to continue the work I started at Stand in a new capacity and further help children across Denver prepare for lifelong success.

Since I decided to take the job with Mayor Hancock, I’ve been reflecting proudly on my time with Stand. In my two years here, we’ve played a key role in several initiatives, including passing SB 191, ending forced teacher placement in Denver, and supporting the turnaround of six of Denver’s lowest performing schools.

Stand members led much of this work, bravely taking the podium to testify at school board meetings and legislative hearings on the issues that matter most to them and asking their friends and neighbors join them in the fight for excellent schools. We’ve just launched a new chapter in the Adams 50 school district, where our parent and teacher members are getting their first chance to work together to improve the Standards-based Education system currently being implemented there.

Of course I can’t forget our recent work on the Denver school board elections. Our members reached out to more than 18,000 voters and helped secure victory for Anne Rowe and Happy Haynes, two community leaders who are just as committed to strong public schools as we are. This kind of work is the cornerstone of what Stand Colorado does.

Even though I’m leaving, Stand is here to stay, so I want to make sure everyone with a vested interest in improving public education for our children understands the truth about who we are.

Stand is a national organization with an affiliate structure that is surprisingly similar to the National Education Association. We have a national (Stand for Children), state (Stand for Children Colorado), and local (Stand for Children Denver chapter) presence. Our nine state offices share a common mission: To ensure that all children graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education. Given that the policies, politics, and students can be vastly different across states, decisions about how we achieve that mission are made right here in Colorado.

Take our policy agenda, for example. We develop it locally based on three factors:

  1. What will help kids learn
  2. What’s politically viable
  3. What inspires the parents, teachers, and neighbors who make up our membership

We’ll be releasing our 2012 agenda in the coming weeks. I encourage you to read it to get a better sense of where Stand is heading next year.

We also recognize that good policy alone won’t change the tides for our kids. That’s why we identify courageous leaders at the local and state levels who will champion policies that put Colorado’s kids first. Then we put our boots on the ground to help them win, just like we did this fall in Denver’s school board election. Our ability to marry policy and politics is what is most unique about Stand and certainly the part of my job I will miss the most.

As I leave my role as Stand Colorado’s executive director to join Mayor Hancock’s administration, I look forward to continuing to work with the growing staff and members to build a vibrant public education system in Colorado, one that respects teachers, students, and families and holds them all to higher standards. I leave confident in what we’ve created. I know that even without me here, Stand’s work has only begun.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.