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A true community

The story of Daniel Webster is one of great community pride and exemplifies what a community can do when it comes together. In 2005 when three of five Potrero Hill public schools were slated for closure or merger, parents and neighbors rallied for an intense, six-week grassroots campaign to overturn the closure recommendations from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and its Board of Education (BOE). Despite hundreds of children under age five in Potrero Hill, our neighborhood was faced with the very real possibility that no local elementary school would be able to serve its needs.

We gathered over 600 signatures in support of keeping Daniel Webster Elementary School (DW) open, garnered front-page and broadcast media attention and presented the BOE with a multi-part plan to increase the school’s enrollment. The BOE voted unanimously to keep DW open and commented on our uniqueness – a group of middle-income parents passionately committed to helping a historically under-enrolled and underperforming school with a primarily disadvantaged minority population, in order to improve it and ultimately integrate the school with our children. Board members with 20 years seniority could not recall a similar phenomenon.

In May 2006, eight of this group of parents and neighbors formalized to become PREFund, an all-volunteer organization with a mission to support public education in Potrero Hill. As promised to the BOE, PREFund helped transform Daniel Webster into a source of neighborhood pride through a multi- part plan that included:

  • Establishing a preschool on campus: Potrero Kids at Daniel Webster (PKDW)
  • Securing a magnet program, specifically a Spanish immersion language program
  • Improving DW’s physical appearance
  • Augmenting its teaching staff
  • Underwriting academic and extracurricular enrichment activities

In so doing, we aimed to stem the exodus of middle-income children and their families to private or suburban schools, thereby building community and promoting neighborhood stability. In addition, 
we would integrate and diversify this historically predominantly minority and socio-economically disadvantaged school population, bringing fresh energy and resources to provide quality education and enrichment for all students.