Grading My Work on Board of Education

It has been an honor for me to serve on the Board of Education for the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Sometimes it’s been rewarding, other times frustrating, but never boring.

There were several areas in particular I was hoping to have an impact in a small yet meaningful way, as a part-time elected representative to Trustee Area # 4 (San Jose Unified, Orchard and part of East Side Union School Districts). I have served officially since December 2008.

Here is my self-assessment, knowing full well any issue I might want to work on needs at least three other board members to agree:

1. Elimination of Bullying behavior from schools — PASS. Former vice mayor of San Jose Judy Chirco has been chairing a task force that I commissioned as president of the Board. The task force instructed to find steps the SCCOE can take to make the reduction of bullying in all forms a priority. Chirco is scheduled to appear before the Board Oct. 19 alongside her task force members with a short list of recommendations.

2. Career Technical and Vocational Education — PASS.  Due to the convergence of my interest in this area for expansion and the leadership by Superintendent Charles Weis and Deputy Cary Dritz, I have done little but observe that the county office is providing strong leadership in the area of Career Technical Education throughout Silicon Valley. With a stronger investment by the state and local officials, more can be done, especially in middle school. This area requires significant investment.

3. Quality Alternative Education Schools for incarcerated and community school youth — PASS.  More work needs to be done, but success is closer than it was in 2009. A West Ed report recommending seven areas for improvement was officially presented to the Board in January 2011. This is still a work in progress. There will be more to come in a report to the Board in October.

4. Reinvigoration in Civics Education — FAIL. I have written about this in my columns on SJI, but I have done little else to promote an area of content I feel is vital to maintain a vibrant democracy.

5. Quality Special Education Schools — FAIL. As a Board, we have paid enormous time and attention to alternative education, neglecting the area that has the lion share of our annual budget: special education. In November, we will finally have a comprehensive report given to the Board by staff highlighting the schools, students, staff and issues that exist, as well as positive areas of growth for us to consider. This meeting will be scheduled off-site at Anne Darling Elementary School.

6. Encourage teaching as a great career choice — PASS. I write about this consistently and discuss this at Board meetings. I will be at the 42nd Annual Teacher Recognition Celebration on Sept. 27 to give a personal message to all teachers who our office will be honoring. I think teachers are the brain surgeons for our childrens’ minds. They should be held in high esteem for their extraordinary work. I also believe that teachers unions must rebuild the trust of the public by reforming tenure and seniority hiring practices. I hope the SCCOE can bring in prominent national education leaders to discuss changes in this area.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion and can be found weekly on San Jose Inside.


  1. What are the scores for your schools?  Have they gone up?  Have you mandated P.E.?  We have some of the most out of shape students in the world.  This leads to higher health care cost. What have you done to promote excellent students?  Have you thought about a college recruitment day for your excellent students?

  2. Providing reasonable and understanable standards as an education leader,  FAIL.  JoJo would confuse a Byzanntine Grand Vizier.

    Writing clearly understood blog posts,  FAIL. 


    Graded on a curve with Craig Potty Mouth, Colonel Song of the People’s Revolutionary Brigade, and Leon Countie Bassie, DiSalvo does pass, it is the other silly wacks who drag the bell curve down.  Bottom line, Joe, the San Jose Giants need ushers next year.

  3. Why is there a concentration of National Merit Scholarship semifinalists at certain schools? What does this mean? Is this significant? What should I think when I see one school with more than fifty finalists and my entire school district with ten times the number of students had only a few?

    On point #2 above – there ought to be the equivalent of a at every high school. Check out the classes offered and the different fields covered. All kids should make things to learn, not just do academic work.

    • YYY,

      You can chart national merit finalist by zip code…# one predictor of school success is Mother’s education, #2 is family income.

      I totally agree about tech shops in all high schools.

  4. I C U R on a pass/fail system, not an A-F system.  Does that help your self esteem?  A “pass” sounds soooo much better than a D-, doesn’t it?

    U say U are a Trustee 4”…San Jose Unified, Orchard and part of East Side Union School Districts.”  Don’t they have their own school boards with trustees and superintendents?  Why do we need you and others as yet another level of bureaucracy filled with highly paid paper pushers?

    Sounds like you’re leaving your sinecure, Joe.  Does that mean no more touchie-feelie posts on SJI?  I certainly hope so.

  5. > 1. Elimination of Bullying behavior from schools — PASS.


    I’m sure if you put out a call to the educrat nation, you could come up with stacks of studies, papers, or doctoral theses that document a correlation between “bullying behavior in schools” and some or all of the following:

    1. Schools with very large student populations
    2. Schools the unionized teachers and administrators
    3. Culturally or ethnically “diverse” schools
    4. Secular schools or schools without religious or ethical philosophy
    5. Government monopoly schools
    6. Schools with high numbers of students raised by single mothers
    7. Schools with high numbers of illegal immigrant students or students from illigal immigrant households.

    Conversely, if any of your public education leadership colleagues ever did a serious and honest analysis of factors that prevent or diminish “bullying behavior in schools”, I am sure they would discover that their is significantly less bullying in:

    1. Smaller, neighborhood schools
    2. Schools without faculty or administrator unions
    3. Culturally coherent schools
    4. Religious and parochial schools
    5. Privately operated schools
    6 Schools where most of the students came from “traditional” intact family, two-parent households
    7. Schools where most of the students came from households that respected the rule of law and complied with immigration laws.

    My suspicion is that in your career you have done more than your share to support or promote those institutional factors that provide fertile ground for “bullying behavior in schools”.

    Unless you can provide exculpatory evidence, I am forced to give you a “FAIL” on your anti-bullying crusade, with additional points off for complicity.

  6. Do keep in mind, folks, that self-criticism is an important part of the process of political rehabilitation for those who have fallen out of favor with the party mainstream.

  7. Let’s not use the pass/fail system, okay?  I have been a teacher for thirty two years, and I’m giving Joe DiSalvo an A+.

    • Well, sue, I think you have CLEARLY demonstrated one of the major problems with the Joe DiSalvo progressive public education system: grade inflation.

      Didn’t the public educator establishment have a brainstorm a couple years back called “Outcome Based Education”?  I believe the essence of Outcome Based Education was, whatever the outcome, it was deemed to be “education” and everyone got a lollypop and a hug.

      Plus: tenure, a cost of living raise, a teacher’s aide to do all the work, a nine month work year, cadillac health insurance, and ninety percent retirement pension.

      Hugs!  Smiley face!  Have a nice day!!

      • Okay, I’ll explain the grade. Mr. DiSalvo is a true educator.  He has been a teacher, an administrator, and a board member.

        Over the past thirty two years, I have known many, many people in these positions.  Mr. DiSalvo has always ranked at the top in all of them.  I don’t know anyone who gives the time, energy, and sincere effort that he does.  He is capable and he cares very much about the district, and most importantly, about the students.  He’s smart, creative, and sincere.  The district is lucky to have him on its board.

        I stay with my grade of A+.

        Wishing you a nice day, as well.

        • > I don’t know anyone who gives the time, energy, and sincere effort that he does.

          Well, it would be truly remarkable of Joe did, in fact, give his time, energy, and effort.

          But, my understanding is, that Joe was a union member, a union leader, or an education civil servant for his entire career and that he did not “give” anything, but was paid, benefitted, healthcared, and pensioned in an extremely generous and accommodating manner by the taxpayers.

          With knowledge that Joe was, in reality, a coin-operated education mercenary, do you still believe that Joe was deserving of your A+ grade?

          What grade would you have given to Mother Theresa, who probably would have done what Joe did without compensation, AND treated lepers to boot?

        • It is my understanding that Mr. DiSalvo gets very minimal compensation for his efforts on the school board.  I’m not sure what the amount actually is, but I seem to remember that it is very little.  (Does anyone out there know? I’m curious.) The time, energy and sincere effort that he puts into this job is enormous. As I said, I’m pretty sure he is paid very little for these efforts.

          Joe DiSalvo’s grade from me still stands at A+.  Mother Theresa gets one too!

        • > It is my understanding that Mr. DiSalvo gets very minimal compensation for his efforts on the school board. 


          Did you INTEND to ignore Joe’s compensation and emoluments as a teacher, union leader, and civil servant?

          In a more literary era, your little sophistic omission would have been described as being “Jesuitical”:

          “Accuse a Jesuit of murdering two men and a dog, and he will produce the dog”.

        • Teachable Moment,

          No, I didn’t intend to ignore Mr. DiSalvo’s compensation and emoluments as a teacher, union leader, and civil servant.  The truth is it was Friday afternoon and I only had time to address part of your letter.  Now I’ll try to address the other points that you made.

          It is true that Mr. DiSalvo was a teacher. I’m fairly sure that he taught in the court schools, which are some of the toughest places to work.  He was not one of the teachers who went home when the bell rang.  I know that he gave many extra hours of his time to his students and never expected to be compensated at all. His primary goal then was the same as it is now.  He wants the students to become good citizens capable competing and earning a living in today’s world.

          I really don’t remember him being a union leader.
          (I do remember that in the years Mr. DiSalvo was teaching, the leader of the Teachers Union was a man named Ed Foglia.  I remember other names too, but Joe’s name is not among them.)  More importantly, many of the years Mr. DiSalvo was in education, he was an administrator.  Those in administration were never even allowed to join the Teachers Union.  It is still the case today.  (Administrators have their own organization, but it is small and ineffectual compared to the the powerful Teachers Union.)Again,  Joe was never even in the Teachers Union for all those years he served in administration. 

          You are correct in saying that Mr. DiSalvo has a pension.  I don’t know about his health coverage, but are you aware that most teachers are not covered by district health coverage after they retire?  I have had many friends in San Jose Unified School District who were faced with this problem once they retired.  As I said, I don’t know about Mr. DiSalvo’s coverage.

          As I mentioned in my previous note, I am certain that the amount Joe is compensated for his work on the board is minimal.  It is in no way commensurate with the time and effort he puts into this position. I’m not sure of the actual salary he gets paid, but I know it is a tiny amount. He just isn’t in it for the money.  He really cares about the students and the district. 

          I hope I have shed a little more light on the subject.  I just don’t think it’s valid to call this man a “coin operated education mercenary.” He’s doing a super job, and he is very sincere in his efforts. 

          On a different subject, your reference to my remarks being Jesuitical is interesting.  As I mentioned, I didn’t purposely leave out important parts of the discussion.  The term Jesuitical, however, is interesting.  I had never heard this term before, and it is a very good one. You taught me something new and I thank you for it.

      • Johnmichael, I’m glad you made a comment!  After reading the comments you made on Wed. Sept 14, I wanted to make some suggestions about your writing.  You seem to have very strong feelings about a number of things, and you obviously want very much to voice these feelings. 

        By using letters instead of actual words, (i.e. ICUR, U say U are a trustee 4…)you are not coming across as well as you might.  If you use traditional form and proper spelling, people will take you much more seriously.

        I just wanted to make this suggestion to you.  Good luck with all future writing.

        • Well, Johnmichael, maybe sarcasm is just much too sophisticated a concept for a country girl like me to understand. 

          It is still my opinion,however, that your use of “ICUR” and “U say U are a trustee 4” is not doing your writing justice.  As I have said to others, writing like this sounds like a teenager writing in an autograph book.  Your audience is made up of adults.  If you write like this, all they will remember is your rather juvenile spellings and your ideas and points will become secondary, no matter how good they might be. I’m sure you don’t want that. 

          I really am just trying to help you.  As you said, sarcasm doesn’t seem to be my forte.  So rest assured that I am being very sincere.

        • Hi again Johnmichael,

          As an additional note, I wanted to look at and comment on the first question that you asked me.
          It reads:

          “In what school do you teach?  I want to make sure my grandkids don’t go there.”

          Now THAT’S sophisticated writing, all right!  How subtle and sarchastic! Just too urbane for me to understand!

  8. Are you kidding me. The real world is not a kind place. And we wonder why little Johnny and Susie can’t wipe their our a$$!

    • to Really!

      Take a look back at the last sentence you wrote…” And we wonder why little Johnny and Susie can’t wipe their our a$$!”  (their our a$$!)???  What does that mean?  As I said, I’ve been a teacher for thirty two years.  I’ll correct your writing for you.  Please try again to write this sentence correctly. 

      I’ll repeat this:  Joe Di Salvo gets an A+.

      • Is it sue or Sue?

        Sorry for the incorrect spelling. Little Johnny and Susie can’t wipe their OWN a$$ because people like Joe Di Salvo coddle them through instead having them fail in order to learn.  Do I get an A+ now?

        • Really,

          You’re doing better, but you’re not quite A+ yet.  I’ll tell you why.  You refer to little Johnny and Susie not being able to wipe their OWN a$$. (Those are your words, and not mine.) Little Johnny and Susie are two people. (Plural)  The word “a$$” is singular.  The way you wrote it means that they only have one a$$ between them. Your word “a$$”  should be plural, or “a$$es”. 

          The second point I would like to make is the use of the dollar sign for the letter “s”.  If you want people to take your writing seriously, you have to use traditional form and correct spelling.  Using a dollar sign for an “s” reminds me of something a teenager might do when signing an autograph book. Your audience in this forum is made up of adults, not teenagers.  As I said, stick with traditional form and correct spelling.

          The final and most important point I want to make is about your use of vulgarity in your writing. When I had to use your word “a$$” in order to tell you about singular and plural, it was offensive to me.  I really hated even writing the word knowing that it would be shown in a public forum.  You seem to sincerely want to express your thoughts and get your point across.  When you use crude slang and vulgar language, that is all people see and remember about your writing.  The ideas and points that you want to get across become secondary, no matter how good they might be. 

          I hope this has been helpful to you. Take all that I have said, rewrite your words correctly and without vulgarity, and I’ll give you an A+ and a gold star too!

        • Dear Really,

          You’re welcome.  It’s just plain Sue (or sue).  Either will do! Have a nice evening.

        • Hi again Really,

          I have worked outside the school system, but it was a while ago.  I know what you are getting at.  Believe me, I do hear what you are saying about the difference between the world of education and the real world.

          With respect, I would be interested in hearing some solid, helpful suggestions from you concerning how we might make our school system stronger.  You seem to have an interested, active mind, and it’s people like you we need to hear from. 

          How about it…any ideas? I’m looking ahead to your reply.

  9. Mr. DiSalvo,
    Why not teach the kids that they need to have discipline and be responsible and work hard to get good grades?  Before you go patting yourself on the back, you should go visit the private sector world (the place where tax revenue is generated) and see how things work; here they don’t let you slide with a Pass/Fail grade, you produce at a certain level or you’re gone. That’s the real world.

    • America’s Future,

      I agree. Kids today really need to be prepared for the work place of the future. The elements of globalization, specifically educated foreign labor, would almost dictate that our kids need to be rigorously taught if they are to have any hopes of competing for a job – a U.S. job. 

      In my opinion, I would like to see kids get specific grades; I think it lets them know what they need to work harder on. When I sit down with my boss and we discuss my performance over the last six months, he does not give me a pass or fail grade, we specifically discuss the things that I need to improve upon as well as the things that I did good.

  10. Joe,
    I don’t know you or the board’s responsibilities well enough to offer a grade.
    What I would like to see as a taxpayer, resident and voter is that the kids receive the education needed to be competitive and contribute to society.
    I am very opposed to social engineering and catering to special interest groups. Focus on the basics!
    I would also like to see a more understandable budget so the average person can understand where funds are being spent.

  11. I wonder where Joe’s weird and obsessive crusade against “bullying in schools” came from?

    Google search:

    “lgbt bullying in schools”

    About 1,820,000 results (0.24 seconds)

    Oh.  There.

  12. Mr. DiSalvo.

    Has made education ‘reform’ a crusade . I think his self assessment is vary fitting . There is a tremendous more to be done on his desk . I give him an A+ for his years of service .

  13. I assume I know Sue, but not sure who she is. I thank her for the support. During the writing of this column I was attempting to be sincere about self-reflective feedback on the issues I wrote or discussed during my 2008 campaign. In my view I have failed in some and passed in others. This is my personal score sheet. If I used letter grades I would not have one area for which I can give myself an A. Maybe some C’s, B’s but no A’s. My failures I have listed are F’s for sure.

    I have asked to personally meet with some of you who so ardently criticize by work or efforts. No one, except Kathleen has taken me up on my invitation. The offer still stands for JMO or anyone else.

    As for my compensation on the county board, I put in about 25 hours per week or more on this term since December when I was elected president on a 5-2 vote. I receive $610 per month compensation. I do not take the medical benefits that are offered to me. Fortunately, my wife has coverage for me.

    I was the President of my local association in 1980-82. I have been president of my ACSA local group in districts too. I do receive a pension from STRS for 33 years in pubic education as a teacher and principal.

    I have tried to encourage dialogue about many key issues we must come to understand deeper and better relative to public education in this weekly column. I receive 9-1 critical comments so what I say/write. It does not feel good to continue to be criticized, but it is what it is. I have determined in is more important for me to give the public a forum than not to write.  I get zero compensation for my weekly column. Some days I am not sure why I do it.

    No matter what I am human and get hurt by the attacks, but I guess that is what all elected officials must put up with. I do wonder in the future who will be willing to serve or run for office in this very dysfunctional, system we have?

    I am doing the best I know how to represent the the people in Trustee Area #4. I take each of my votes seriously and I do my homework without the help of any staff. It takes time to attempt to do the work well.

    I truly believe there is no more important issue than public education of all of our children. All of you will have an opportunity to elect someone in my place come November, 2012. I encourage you to run.

    Thank you, Sue, for taking the time to be an advocate of my work. I pledge to you and to others who agree or disagree with what I write that I will do my best to understand the issues that come before our board and execute an informed vote.

    I agree with many of my critics on several of the issues I have raised the last 3 years on SJI. For some reason they never point to areas where we agree only where we disagree.  The record is in the archives of SJI for anyone wishing to investigate my views.


    Joseph Di Salvo