To the Editor:
On Feb. 6, Sue Ferguson, the beloved longtime chair of the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, or NCPIE, died unexpectedly in her sleep. Founded in 1981, NCPIE is composed of more than 80 national education, parent, community, and advocacy organizations that champion home, school, and community partnerships to enhance the education of all young people, especially those from low-income and culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Before Sue took the helm, the NCPIE chairmanship rotated among member groups and relied on the U.S. mail to announce its meetings. In 1994, she steered the coalition into the Internet age, developing an electronic mailing list and a website, and greatly expanded NCPIE membership. In addition, NCPIE became a founding member of the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, which, under U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, recruited businesses, family and school organizations, and religious and community groups to bring the importance of family involvement in children’s learning to the national forefront.
NCPIE’s monthly meetings serve as an information clearinghouse for organizations with an interest in children and families and have become a much sought-after venue for the announcement of new reports, research, programs, policy initiatives, and lobbying efforts. Sue’s genial but firm facilitation allowed for ample information-sharing and reporting in a compact two hours, to the participants’ gratitude and relief.
Sue began her career in education as a teacher of children with emotional and behavioral disorders before becoming a curriculum supervisor and a program director, and then a mother of a daughter with severe intellectual disabilities. Spurred by this child, she became a leader and advocate for her and others like her. Sue served on the board of directors of the Arc of Northern Virginia and played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Falls Church, Va., public school system’s landmark inclusion program. She was also an information specialist and outreach coordinator at the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.
Sue Ferguson was a tireless advocate for low-income children and families and for children with disabilities. She will be sorely missed.
Anne T. Henderson
Karen L. Mapp
Ms. Henderson is a senior consultant, community organizing and engagement, at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Ms. Mapp is a lecturer on education and the program director for the education, policy, and management master’s program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2011 edition of Education Week as NCPIE’s Sue Ferguson Will Be Missed