Giving Thanks to Our Local Education Leaders

The coming holiday weekend is a time to pause and reflect on all the amazing things for which to be thankful. I try to remind myself that many of Silicon Valley citizens do not have the friends, food, warm homes (or any home), and the love I am fortunate to experience each and every Thanksgiving Day.

My position as an elected trustee on the county Board of Education is a privilege for which I am incredibly thankful. Helping children receive a quality education—formal and informal, from birth to career—makes for a full life, for the teacher and the pupil.

For the last six years of this column, I have written about reducing poverty, the academic achievement gap, increasing high school graduation rates, college completion rates and minimizing the wage gap. The commenters and I do not always agree with actions taken to achieve these goals. However, debate is at the core of our nation and must be celebrated.

That being said, I am thankful that my current work—in my seventh decade of life—has given me a rich opportunity to work with amazing people. I am particularly thankful for the educators, policy makers and community leaders who work tirelessly to promote equity.

The third through sixth decades of my life were spent as a teacher for incarcerated and dropout-prone youth, as well as an elementary/middle school principal. Those experiences contribute to the foundation I use to exercise my vote on all board motions.

There are so many people in the community I would like to thank. First and foremost, my colleagues on the board, including Julia Hover-Smoot, who is leaving, and Claudia Rossi, who will be sworn in at our first meeting in December. My Board voted 6-1 to authorize a new charter school (Voices College Bound Academy) in Morgan Hill Unified last Wednesday against the wishes of the district leadership. I am thankful the debate was robust. It took place over two public meetings involving hundreds of people and in the end we voted and moved forward.

I am thankful for superintendents like John Porter from Franklin-McKinley School District. He is willing to experiment with the highest levels of collaboration/cooperation with his charter schools. Franklin-McKinley’s board and teachers’ association give Porter the space to act boldly for all the children. I am thankful they realize that the children belong to all of us and we have a responsibility to see them all succeed at the highest of levels.

I am thankful for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s work to get Educare funded and construction started. I am thankful for the leadership past and present of First 5, the county Office of Education, the County of Santa Clara, East Side Union High School District, the Packard Foundation and many more philanthropists who understand the importance of helping the most impoverished children and their parents. Educare will open facilities unlike any other in California. Silicon Valley will become known for how it treats its most vulnerable children, even prenatally, while Educare becomes a model for all of our communities.

Lastly, I am grateful to my parents who in my youth immersed led me to work toward social justice issues through public education. To my constituents in Trustee Area 4, I thank you for giving me an opportunity to serve you and public education.

You can always contact me at [email protected]

Happy Thanksgiving.

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.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for your kind words about the Leadership Group and Educare, Joe! This is a group effort, with folks like The Health Trust, FIRST 5, Packard, SCCOE, Franklin-McKinley SD and East Side UHSD all pulling hard. Our group has been honored to be a part of this local partnership and national network of schools. Learn more at: educareSV.org.

  2. Has your board ever denied a charter school petition that has come up in front of it? When was the last time?
    What is the ratio of approvals to denials for, say, the past 5 years?