This month we lost one of our warriors and leaders – a friend who had been at the forefront of the struggle for the rights of English Learners and their families and the movement for high- quality programs. Lynne Aoki passed away on Sunday, November 3, 2019.
A third-generation Californian, Lynne found that she would not and could not tolerate injustice from an early age. Whether it was confronting a bully or making a public stand against prejudice, she felt compelled to act.
Since that early age, Lynne continued to take action, to intervene, to inform, to persuade, to advocate for students who are English Learners and immigrants. Lynne’s immersion into immigrant and English learner advocacy came early just as California was opening up to bilingual education for students who were English learners.
As a professional, Lynne wrote and collaborated with school districts across the state to submit Title VII, III and other public and private grants uplifting bilingual programs, professional development, technology, magnet schools/desegregation, arts in education, physical education, and career technical education and quality instruction. Her work in helping to bring millions of dollars to schools educating California’s English learners has touched millions of children and their families. In addition, she was a tenacious evaluator of programs.
A partner to the districts she served, Lynne not only crunched numbers but also helped district leaders to understand their data and turn that understanding into steps to strengthen the quality, design and delivery of their programs for English learners, many times not charging for her services. She asked direct, probing questions, pushing the envelope to improve English learner programs and increase student achievement.
Her second home was Ventura County, working with several districts for decades. She was a member of the Ventura County Chapter of CABE and was actively involved in many local Ventura County campaigns.
Lynne was a part of Californians Together even before we formally became a coalition. She was “all in” to defeat Proposition 227 in 1998. As the activist she was, she held fundraisers, distributed materials to voters, made phone calls and more. With her calm, soft-spoken, can-do demeanor, she demonstrated great leadership during that difficult campaign.
As a representative of the National Association for Multicultural Education to Californians Together, Lynne attended, contributed to and provided guidance for the creation and development of the work of Californians Together. Over the last 5 years she served on our Executive Board as Secretary and was currently our Vice President at her death. Her fingerprints are all over almost every grant we have written – providing input and expert editing. Through her talent and expertise, many new funders became convinced to support our work.
Recently, Lynne served on the Gala Committee to celebrate Californians Togethers’ 20th Anniversary, using her incredible organization skills to help make the evening a success. She was also working on finalizing new criteria and procedures for awarding our Annual Multiple Pathways District Biliteracy Award. We are proud to honor Lynne by renaming this award the Aoki Multiple Pathways District Biliteracy Award.
Lynne Aoki will always be with us and we are forever grateful to her.