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IN MEMORIAM ∙ Jane Stern, 1933—2019

Jane Stern, a founding member, former Executive Director, and steadfast friend of Advocates for Children of New York, died on October 25, 2019 at the age of 86. Jane was a tireless advocate for social justice in New York City, who dedicated her entire legal and professional career to serving the public interest.

A life-long New Yorker with a foundational belief in public service and advocacy, Jane grew up in the Village, the daughter of a psychiatric social worker and a lawyer. Jane attended Radcliffe College and Yale Law School before beginning her work as an attorney at South Brooklyn Legal Services. Through her work in legal services and as the president of her children's PTA board during the teachers' strike of 1968, Jane quickly became a staunch advocate for the equal treatment and educational rights of all New York City students.

Her advocacy led her to join with a group of individuals and organizations who were working to pool resources and establish the fledgling roots of what would grow to become Advocates for Children. The group’s mission, which guides AFC’s work to this day, was to provide education advocacy for families of students with disabilities who were being denied the education rights guaranteed to them by state and federal laws. Jane, the lone staff attorney at the group’s founding, provided education advocacy for individual students and families and drove systemic reform through research, organizing, and impact litigation. Along with her good friend and colleague Bill Jesinkey, AFC’s founding Executive Director, Jane researched and published the widely influential “Lost Children” report, which documented the systemic failures of New York City public schools to provide appropriate educational services to the most disadvantaged students.

A pragmatic, solutions-oriented leader, Jane was as focused on effecting real change on the ground as she was in the large-scale battles of policy and ideals. Jane believed strongly in identifying problems and finding ways to solve them, and the pride she took in AFC’s work was core to her identity. When she left the organization to work with The New York Community Trust, she remained a respected mentor to the executive directors who followed. Even in her retirement, she continued to support AFC’s work.

“AFC would not be here today if not for Jane Stern’s dedicated leadership and her decades of stewardship, advocacy, and support,” said Kim Sweet, Advocates for Children’s Executive Director. “We will miss her.”