An Open Letter (and Thank You) to Mark Zuckerberg

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

Nearly two years ago, I wrote an open letter to you on this very site. The timing of my letter corresponded with the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Facebook. I wrote in the letter, "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."

The purpose of my letter was to recognize your desire to invest in public education. I asked you specifically to give to the Educare project in Franklin-McKinley at Santee School. At that time we were several million dollars short of the goal to build a model facility, which will enroll 200 infants through 5 year olds and provide them with high-quality education. This foundation for some of the most impoverished youth provides each child with the requisite building blocks for success in school, college and career.

Fortunately, funds have been raised for construction and operation of this model program. This is due in large measure to the private and public sectors coming together to make California's first Educare a reality here in Silicon Valley. Franklin-McKinley School District, The Health Trust, Packard Foundation, East Side Union High School District, the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara County Office of Education have been the major contributors to the goal.

Last week, leaders from these organizations held a ceremonial groundbreaking. Even though—to my knowledge—you did not give to the Educare Fund, you did give generously in 2010 to public schools in Newark, New Jersey. You have given to EducatonSuperhighway, which provides Internet access to K-12 public schools and invests in educational hardware to classrooms.

Two years ago I asked you to consider giving closer to home. Just two weeks ago, you and your wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, wrote an editorial with a very hopeful message to Silicon Valley's education community. You correctly asserted: "The world's most innovative community shouldn't also be a home for struggling public schools." You also committed to give $120 million to support underserved education communities in the Bay Area. I thank you for this.

There is no doubt your generous gift for Bay Area public schools will make a significant difference for many students and teachers in the years to come.

You called this gift your next project. You say the first $5 million will be used to support priorities in mid-peninsula school districts, like Ravenswood and Redwood City. You also wrote that in the five-year rollout of your gift, one part will be "working with partners to start new district and charter schools that give people more high quality choices for their education. The other part is listening to the needs of local educators and community leaders to understand the needs of students ..."

In my humble opinion, the most important gift we can give our public school teachers and leaders is an enrollment class of kindergartners by 2020 that are ready to develop; where there are no learning gaps by race or income.

Investing in programs like Educare and providing access to high quality preschool for all vulnerable 3 and 4 year olds is key to our sustained economic future and quality of life.

An unusually powerful coalition went to Sacramento last week. The group included the SJ/SV Chamber of Commerce, SV Community Foundation (representing both San Mateo and Santa Clara County), League of Women Voters, First Five, Oak Grove School District, the county superintendent and four SCCOE Board Members.

In the governor's conference room, we lobbied several legislative leaders for Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's SB 837, an early childhood education package. I urge you and Dr. Chan to call the governor and urge him to support SB 837 in its amended and more cost-effective form. If budgeted this year, the bill will be a gift that keeps on giving.

When implemented in 2015-16, the SCCOE would begin to move its federal dollars for our highly recognized Head Start program to our 3-year-old learners. A high quality two-year dosage of early learning is the coin of the realm for school and life success.

We only have a short window to get the governor on board. Your voices will be critical. The Honorable Edmund G. Brown's number is 916.445.2814. Or you could just FB him.

Thank you for all you do for our Bay Area teachers, leaders and students. We will need your voice and support for many years to come.

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.

One Comment

  1. I’d love to hear if he responded to this letter.
    I too can see how much facebook has enhanced aspects of my industry. Social media allows me to daily share with and be inspired by my patients. Before facebook I wasn’t interested in any social media and although I’m still a novice I enjoy and benefit by its existence.

    San Jose Dentist,
    Dr. Wesley Yemoto

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