At a book signing in San Jose I ran into Karen Martinez and her daughter, Daniella. They are both in the book, but Daniella has become far more famous lately as one of the Vergara plaintiffs. In fact, she will be in the audience tonight at a panel discussion on charter schools led by Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, who started his own charter school here before becoming mayor.
The mother and daughter appear in the chapter, “Finding Karen Martinez,” which describes the meticulous parent outreach done by both Rocketship and PACT, a community advocacy organization. PACT outreach workers looked for Latino parents who, with some coaching, could turn into community leaders. They found fertile ground in Karen, who brought Daniella to Rocketship after becoming discouraged with district schools,. There, teachers told Karen there was something wrong with Daniella, who rarely spoke and couldn’t read. Rocketship turned that around. One day Karen arrived at the school and observed a teacher sitting with her daughter asking her to repeat: “I am smart, I am able, I will read.”
Soon, Daniella blossomed, as did her mother, who became a powerful Latina voice for education. She is a major reason why a new charter middle school, Alpha Public Schools, got launched in San Jose. Later, she won a school board seat on the Alum Rock school board.