Mosaic Charter an Example of Collaboration

Some communities get it, and some don’t get it at all. It is truly amazing how things work when there is a vision and people with the talents to carry it out. Right now, a brand new two-story school building, built in record time on one acre of land in a residential neighborhood of San Jose, houses hundreds of K-3 grade students who are eager to learn.

Last week, I was fortunate to be one of the speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Rocketship Mosaic Charter Elementary School. When introduced by Preston Smith, Rocketship’s chief academic officer, I took to the podium and asked all 200-plus guests to pause and revel in the moment. It was quite a moment, indeed!

Participating in the event was Mayor Chuck Reed, Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, Fred Ferrer, who is CEO of the Health Trust, former State Senator Gloria Romero, Franklin-McKinley parents, school board members and many others from all corners of the country. All came to Mosaic Charter to check out what is going on in San Jose, a city with the audacity to work toward eliminating the racial achievement gap by the year 2020.

I told the audience I was very proud to be a lifelong resident of this city—a city that will be made even greater when the audacious goal of eliminating the racial achievement gap is accomplished eight years from now. This moment was made possible through the visionary leadership of many individuals willing to take risks to collaborate and invest on behalf of the children. Egos must be set aside in order for these types of collaborations to occur with celebration and not rancor, as in the case of Bullis and Los Altos Elementary.

The village elders must form cooperative relationships that put energy and resources into educating all children with the best models for learning. Equal and equitable educational opportunities must be available to all children of all races, ethnicities, creeds, incomes, and abilities, irrespective of whether they come from neighborhoods with two story homes with wooden floors and white marble countertops or from a 500-sq. foot, one-bedroom apartment with no yard.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gets it. It is putting money and resources behind efforts for school districts and charter school management organizations to collaborate at the highest of levels on behalf of the children. Gates Foundation collaborative compacts have been funded in New York, Boston, Central Falls, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Denver, Nashville, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Hartford. The deadline for the next round of funding for more collaborative compacts is Dec. 2, 2011. We have been working on San Jose’s since April.

San Jose is in the running this time thanks to the work of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Franklin-McKinley, San Jose Unified and East Side Union High School districts, and the San Jose Charter School Consortium. Each district is working with their respective charters to forge a bold and courageous compact of agreements. Each district and charter must get Board and District/Charter superintendents/CEO approval in the next few weeks. The leaders able to keep their egos on the sideline will be the signatories on the final successful compact. Those who cannot keep their egos away from center stage will not be part of the celebration, if or when San Jose is celebrating its Gates funding.

District Boards and teachers unions must recognize the fact that charter schools are not going away. In fact, they will continue to increase in number. In the U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) just got a bill approved last month on a 365-54 vote margin—incredible since the House is usually so divided of late—that provides start-up money for new charters and some quality control provisions. The bill had support from many civil rights groups.

I don’t yet know how our San Jose Charter School Compact vision statement will begin, but I know I certainly liked what was written in the Boston compact (funded in September by Gates):

“As the birthplace of public education in the United States, Boston has long pioneered innovations. … Our communities have expressed an array of sentiments about charter schools and the district, ranging from enthusiasm to distrust. In this context, where merely a year ago some City and charter school leaders viewed one another as the opposite of partners, this compact between the Boston Public Schools and Boston Alliance of Charter Schools is a significant milestone”.

In this birthplace of the microchip, Google, Facebook and Apple, this region must innovate on the boldest and bravest of levels to accomplish the goal of SJ/SV 2020. Rocketship, San Jose charter schools in the Franklin-McKinley, East Side Union, San Jose Unified districts , as well as their district partners and the SCCOE are ready to put the final touches on a new cooperative vision to our work.

As for Bullis and Los Altos Elementary, can we move to a “yes” vote, please. I have accepted the blame for not getting us closer to “yes” at our meeting on Oct. 5. Yet I trusted that intelligent adults from this valley can get to “yes” for the sake of the children. Children must see that adults can come together, even if they have passionately disagreed in the past. The children are not seeing it from our government, but all politics is local.

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.


  1. I’d like to see school districts run and control their own ‘charter schools’ . The law should change so that if a school district wanted to run a charter , or set one up it can do so. So far the ’ charter schools’ out there are not part of any school district . They might be the best thing since Harker Academy   , but rules and regulations are often not enforced as they are in public schools . A great number of charter schools have folded over the years taken with them public money.

    • Unknown,

      Many charters schools in San Jose and Santa Clara County have been authorized/chartered by school districts e.g. Downtown College Prep in San Jose Unified, Rocketship Mosaic in Franklin-McKinley etc.

      • Joseph Di Salvo & johnmichael o’connor.

        I meant that it would creative for school districts to have their own charters with certain innovations like Rocket Ship . It may only defeat the purpose of angry parents who want there own school because they are not satisfied with the ‘system’ .
        I know that some school districts do authorize .
        Cambrian School District runs , and owns it’s Charters , but there is always strife and turmoil when a charter school is set up within the boundaries of a school district-
        Also is it the law that Charter conversions apply to failing schools ? It seems also that the word ‘charter’ is now used for everything else , and for any group that wants it’s own school.

        OK, educate me on this one………………..

  2. Too bad Bill and Melinda Gates weren’t taxed at a higher rate. It’s unfortunate that these greedy billionaires were allowed to keep so much of their own money and use their own judgment regarding how best to use it.
    Let’s all pray that Obama succeeds in his latest scheme and is able to achieve his dream of creating an economic environment in which evil organizations such as the Gates Foundation would never come into existence.
    Just imagine how many Solyndras our Panderer-in-Chief could have created with that money!

  3. Dead Horse Theory

    If you don’t understand this theory, you haven’t lived long enough.

    The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”
    However, in government and education more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:
    1. Buying a stronger whip.
    2. Changing riders.
    3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
    4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.
    5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
    6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
    7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
    8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
    9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse’s performance.
    10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
    11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
    12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
    And of course….
    13 Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

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