Kudos to Martinez for efforts at Credo
Mother of student at RPís Waldo-inspired high school spearheaded drive to raise money so debt to school district could be paid off
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By Natalie Gray  November 1, 2013 12:00 am

On Thursday, it is Maria Martinez’s turn for school carpool; she loads her car up with her son Michael and four other of his classmates and drives from their homes in Napa to Credo High School here in Rohnert Park, where Michael is attending.

Martinez’s son has attended charter schools his whole life and, though she never attended one herself while growing up, Martinez says she is a strong believer in the alternative, Waldorf-education schooling as offered at Credo.

“It makes me want to go back to school,” said Martinez of the multitude of unique classes and teaching techniques her son experiences at Credo. “I think I’m pro-charter schools (because) it gives different options to parents…and the kids that come out have the ability to think critically.”

 

Finder her way on the board

Martinez beliefs in the alternative education program has led her to a job at Stone Bridge, a K-8 Waldorf-inspired school in Napa, where she works as the business manager. With those connections and beliefs, along with her son’s attendance at Credo and the recommendation of a friend, Credo Director Chip Romer, Martinez found her way to the Credo Board of Directors as president, where her duties recently included leading the short, but sudden and troubling fight of keeping Credo’s charter and thus the school open.

At the Oct. 7 Cotati-Rohnert Park School District Board of Trustees meeting, where the board officially announced to an auditorium full of Credo parents, teachers, students and supporters that the school would be allowed to keep its charter, Superintendent Robert Haley recognized that Credo’s success was due much to the efforts and leadership of Martinez.

Martinez said it was very kind of Haley to acknowledge her, but of course she recognized the parents and supporters of Credo for raising the funding the school needed to repay debt for the school to keep their charter. 

According to Martinez, her job as board president was to act as the communicative piece between Credo and CRPUSD and find a way to keep a balanced and somehow non-biased dialogue open between the two feuding sides.

“I built a trust with the district,” said Martinez. “We slowly built a relationship with them…found out what their concerns were and we had to find a way to work together.”

Martinez was appointed president of Credo’s board of directors this last July, just before confrontations between the charter school and the CRPUSD rose to boiling point over unpaid and overdue debts. The school district claimed that Credo was under their needed 600-student count and, as a result, owed CRPUSD nearly $60,000, a fund that had gone unpaid for longer than the district could ignore.

 

Peaceful mediation works

Martinez’s goal of acting as a peaceful, careful mediator between the two sides seemed to pay off; through the donations of parents and supporters, Credo was able to raise $80,000 to pay off debts, and the district held meetings to hear parent and student complaints and pleas. Credo was allowed to keep its charter and, according to Martinez, she believes both sides felt heard and respected.

“I think I was a fresh voice and a fresh perspective,” said Martinez. She added that being the fresh viewpoint allowed her to come into her job as president without past biases towards or history with either the school or the district. 

According to Martinez, this allowed her to hear both sides, recognize faults and complaints from both angles and work to solve the problem without hostilities.

It probably also helped that this was not, in fact, her first time serving as a president for a charter school’s board of directors. Her past includes three years serving as president for Stone Point School in Napa, where she currently works.

Surprisingly, Martinez never saw herself working with schools, students or any element of the education system when she was growing up. She was born and raised in San Francisco and attended San Francisco State for two years. 

 

School temporarily on hold

School was put on hold when she married her husband, moved to Napa and helped start her husband’s chiropractor business. After some time with the business and working to start a family, Martinez went to achieve a degree in psychology at Sonoma State University.

Even when she was working toward the degree, the thought of working with and for schools as a career never crossed her mind. It was the influence of her children that changed her mind and her course (as having children so often seem to do, she added).

After her son Nick decided to leave the traditional school system for a Waldorf school after kindergarten and, from that, Martinez’s admiration and love for the charter, Waldorf-inspired schooling was sparked. Nick is now at Chico State University studying communications and journalism.

When she’s not busy being a mother, working at Stone Point or trying to save schools from losing their charters, Martinez helps take care of her 92-year-old mother, knits and reads. 

She says she is a lover of theater and adventure and absolutely loves learning quirky history.

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