Good Day, CharterFolk.
Today we’re delighted to share our first Contributor Column of 2022, this one from Daiana Lambrecht, Senior Director of Parent Leadership & Advocacy at Rocketship Public Schools.
I provide a bio below.
Daiana Lambrecht is Rocketship’s Senior Director of Parent Leadership and Advocacy, member of the DEI Council and part of the Network Executive Team. In this role, she leads community engagement and advocacy nationally and supports regions to develop and execute strategies that align to our values. In addition, Daiana leads and supports the organization’s parent organizing and education advocacy across all regions. Daiana has served as an Education Organizer in San Jose with Rocketship in 2015 and 2016 before leaving to earn her Master’s Degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Since then, Daiana came back to Rocketship in 2018.
Daiana also serves as coach for public narrative and organizing workshops with Marshall Ganz and the Leading Change Network for organizing groups across the U.S. and Latin America and is Leadership Coach & Strategist with Comunidad Connects. She has previously worked as a Coalition Organizer Lead with Achieve Hartford!, a program manager for Teach for China, and bilingual 5th teacher in San Antonio Independent School District as a Teach for America Corps Member. Daiana earned her undergraduate degree in History and Asian Studies from Penn State University.
Most importantly, she is the proud daughter of an immigrant mother and father. Growing up in an undocumented family, the transition from Argentina to Venice, Florida created many barriers for Daiana and her family. These experiences and her social justice upbringing continue to inspire her fight for education and other opportunities for immigrants and other communities of color in the U.S. Currently, she lives in San Antonio, TX with her husband and two dogs where she enjoys evening walks, tubing in TX rivers and barbecues!
The critical need to build parent power is one of the prevalent themes we continue to explore here at CharterFolk. Thank you so much to Daiana for getting our year off to a great start with such thoughtful ideas about how to take on this challenge with even greater energy and effectiveness.
Let’s get straight to her post!
Rocketship’s Vision: Unleashing Parent Power Can Transform Communities
By the age of 11, I knew how to set up the electricity for my house, enroll my siblings in school and lie to keep my undocumented family safe. Unfortunately, this is also the reality for so many of our students due to the power structures in this country disenfranchising our immigrant families.
I remember one particular day … It was a warm and humid Thursday morning in Venice, FL. My sister was sick and as the oldest sibling, once again I needed to interpret for my mom so that she could talk to our doctor. We got in the car to drive to the Blue Point Clinic a few miles down the road. We walked in and the waiting room was filled with people. The nurse with the blue scrubs gave us a clipboard stacked with forms. “Fill them out!” she said. We were scared. Since we were undocumented, we knew we’d have to leave the social security section blank. I returned the forms and the nurse yelled, “What do you mean you don’t have a social security number? Are you illegal?” She just outed us in front of a room full of strangers.
I looked at my mom and she was lost for words. She didn’t understand, but she knew something was not right. I was livid. I needed to translate this and my sister needed medical care. My mom, who in Argentina was a civically active teacher and spoke up every time she saw an injustice, lost her voice. But I found mine. At that moment, I chose to stand up for my family. I told the nurse we wanted to see her manager and that she was welcome to call the health department too. That afternoon the doctor treated my sister, and didn’t have a problem with immigration.
I found my voice and through that, I found my power.
PARENT POWER AT ROCKETSHIP
At Rocketship Public Schools, we are in a relentless pursuit to help unleash the power of our families because we see them: we see their power, their resiliency and desire to give their children access to better opportunities regardless of the zip code they live in. Our mission and belief in our families is what brought me to this organization, and our continuous work with families to build more power in our community keeps me here.
My team at Rocketship focuses on building authentic parent power. Parent power is core to our model as parents organized in San Jose to open our first campus and through the years continued to advocate for educational opportunities and equitable policies, housing and immigration rights, community safety and so much more. We lean into challenges and opportunities for our families to transform their community. We hope our families not only eliminate the achievement gap, but innovate what achievement means, hold leaders accountable to that vision, and catalyze what it means to educate and serve diverse communities with the end goal of our families sitting in position of power in their community.
To achieve this vision, our approach is key. Our parent organizing model is rooted in the PICO cycle. We build capacity and leadership in our families through collective action. Our Education Organizers across our regions enable this work and support parent leaders through their development. Our families attend trainings and coaching sessions with their organizer and collectively decide and execute on their team strategy. We organize year-round and cannot do this work without full time education organizers invested in the development of parent leaders.
And it works. In just this year, we have built collective power by bringing local charter network families to advocate to oppose anti-charter state bills, advocating for voting rights for our immigrant families, equitable funding and support for special education programs in a 5,000 person virtual action. In Milwaukee, we brought together parents from multiple charter schools to fight for equitable funding at the state level. In addition, our Texas families in southeast Fort Worth organized locally to support opening a new school in their neighborhood and increase voter participation in local city council elections. And so much more!
BUT WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE
As a sector, we know our families act on their power by actively choosing a quality school for their children but that is not enough. We see union leaders in LA publicly stating “ There is no such thing as learning loss..”, a Nashville board member stating publicly they do not serve charter school families, state board members in Texas intimidating parents in public hearings and more. Elected leaders in opposition are actively laying out roadblocks for our charter community whether they come in the form of charter moratoriums, amendments to renewal processes and fervent local opposition in opening and even renewing quality charter schools. This organized fight is coming for us. This is not an uncoordinated movement opposing the charters but one that is backed by millions, coordinated and aligned. None of us can do this work alone…we need each other!
Investing in growing an authentic parent movement is not only the right thing to do, but one of the key ways to build grassroot power absent millions of dollars in union fees and engaged members. The pandemic has brought many challenges, but also pushed all of us in this sector to innovate. Let’s not go back to business as usual. For those of you in California, we have been given a temporary break from renewal, so let’s use this time to build parent power too!
Here are a few steps you can take to build up the power of families in your campus:
- Hold one-on-one conversations with your families to truly listen to them! Ask about their aspirations, challenges they face and how they would like to lead in their community.
- Inform your families on political issues affecting educational opportunities and equity in your community
- Invite families to join you in civic spaces. The first revolution is internal and we need our families to experience being in rooms where decisions are made affecting their community.
Power respects power. We have the opportunity to harness and support our families to access their own power and transform their community. We have seen it at Rocketship and we hope you chose to see it and nurture it too!
* If you want to learn more about Rocketship harnesses parent power, hear from our parents in Texas, Milwaukee, East Bay California, South Bay, California, Nashville and Washington D.C. If you are interested to learn more, please reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.