An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I humbly write to you today as one elected trustee of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Yes, I know this is one extraordinary week in your life, and the time to read this blog is most likely very limited. However, I thought I would attempt to connect with you anyway.

This week, you and your company, Facebook, are at the epicenter of the investment world. Your IPO is speculated to bring in a whopping $100 billion in revenue on its initial day, Friday, May 18. This is an incomprehensible accomplishment in light of Facebook not existing on paper eight years ago.

First, Happy Birthday! Silicon Valley is enormously fortunate to have your talents in our midst. Your social media network has literally changed the way the world operates, and in some cases the linkage to the peoples’ revolution. My highest congratulations on all you have accomplished, in what historically is a nanosecond.

The reason I write you is because Santa Clara County has been on the leading edge of educational change and innovation. Franklin-McKinley School District has been at the forefront of this creative revolution to meet the academic, social, and health needs of all its children, one of the most diverse student populations on this planet.

The SCCOE Board of Education approved a number of high quality charter schools, including 20 new Rocketship charter schools in December 2011. I cannot help but notice the social connections you have with Rocketship. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix and Facebook board member, and your COO, Sheryl Sandberg, a former Rocketship board member—both of whom gave large sums to Rocketship to scale up their very effective work.

Unforutnately, the pace of systemic educational change to make a difference does not move at the speed of Facebook’s uprising in social media. It’s glacially slow in comparison. In order for us to meet the goal we have set to end the racial achievement gap in San Jose and Silicon Valley by the year 2020 (SJ/SV2020), we need to begin the work from birth to age 5. By the time children get to 3rd grade, much of their foundational learning capacity has been preset for success or failure.

Educare of Silicon Valley is an initiative to bring a state-of-the-art, full-day, year-round school that serves at-risk children and their families. This national model of a collection of best practices from around the country is currently operating in cities like Chicago, Denver and Miami. First 5 of California made the first investment to bring Educare to San Jose and Franklin-McKinley School District for $1 million dollars. David and Lucille Packard Foundation have agreed to commit $2.5 million. So far, nearly $4 million has been raised for the project.

Educare will serve 150 children and their families each year, becoming a beacon for serving for at-risk children and families from birth to 5 as a regional teaching and learning center. The chief partners for Educare are First 5 Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The site next to Santee Elementary School has been designated as the Educare location, and its opening date is set for 2014. Its chief goal is to prevent the achievement gap from ever occurring. The capitol campaign to fund the first Educare center in California will kick off soon. 

Mr. Zuckerberg, in light of your generous gift in 2010 of $100 million to New Jersey schools, I am asking you to bridge the gap between what has been pledged already and the cost of the total site, about $14-$16 million. The Franklin-McKinley community is approximately 30 miles from your Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park. Please consider giving closer to home.

And please forgive my brazen request during one of the most hectic weeks of your life, but we need your generosity here and now. We can achieve the goal of ending the achievement gap in 2020 and become the first region in the U.S. to do so with your help. The dots could finally connect on behalf of our most vulnerable children.

Sincerely,

Joe Di Salvo

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.

4 Comments

  1. Mark Z,
      Keep your Billions. I only ask that you speak for the children that are being systimatically poisioned by lead at the ages of birth to 6 years old.
      not only here in Silicon Valley, but through out the USA and the world.
    Brain development is complete at 6 years old. Do your home work now!
      Lead impairs the brain development at these early stages of life. You will find the answer as you search the web, just as I did.
      The Village Black Smith

  2. According to Dr. Stephen Covey, “The program No Child Left Behind trains teachers to train students to take tests, so they get high scores. But they ignore the whole child. Childhood is social, so social skills need to be learned. And character skills. The 7 Habits does that.”

    Santa Clara elementary schools should teach all children the timeless 7 Habits if they have not already done so. It’s been proven a success (A.B. Combs Elementary, Dewey Elementary, etc.).

    References:
    1) TIME with Covey (edited transcript)
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1861074,00.html
    2) A.B. Combs Elementary
    http://combses.wcpss.net/news/ab-combs-in-the-news/67-the-7-habits-of-highly-effective-schools
    3) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
    https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit1.php

  3. “Educare of Silicon Valley is an initiative to bring a state-of-the-art, full-day, year-round school that serves at-risk children and their families. This national model of a collection of best practices from around the country is currently operating in cities like Chicago, Denver and Miami. First 5 of California made the first investment to bring Educare to San Jose and Franklin-McKinley School District for $1 million dollars. David and Lucille Packard Foundation have agreed to commit $2.5 million. So far, nearly $4 million has been raised for the project.” (J. DiSalvo)

    As a member of the public, I would rather see educators teach all children in public classrooms the best way they know how and learn from other successful educators. In other words, I would like to see educators practice the characteristics that the top-performing schools have in common, among which is “They have high expectations for their students. They assume that their students are able to meet high standards, and believe their job is to help their students get there. They do not assume that their students are so crippled by poverty and discrimination that they will never be able to meet high standards.” (Karin Chenoweth).

    “Educare will serve 150 children and their families each year, becoming a beacon for serving for at-risk children and families from birth to 5 as a regional teaching and learning center. The chief partners for Educare are First 5 Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.” (J. DiSalvo)

    I would rather see all children being served now in public classrooms instead of an anticipated number of 150 students in a regional learning center in the future.

    And it can be done because “It’s Being Done” according to Karin Chenoweth’s findings when she was hired by the Achievement Alliance to visit schools and work on the project.

    References:
    1) What top-performing schools have in common
    http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3746773
    2) “It’s Being Done” 
    http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/65