Education Desk Mar. 11, 2015
By Carolyn Schuk

Share |

Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund Awards Scholarships to 12 Mission College Students

Education Desk

Fewer than half of low–income students starting college graduate, according to a 2011 study by the non–profit research firm, the National Bureau of Economic Research. Among them are a disproportionate number of Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians. But 12 full–time Mission College students are on their way to changing those statistics, thanks to scholarships totaling $45,000 from the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF).

Now five years old, the program is a partnership between the APISF and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which provides special support to schools designated Native American Pacific Islander–Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs). Mission College is one of 15 schools participating in the scholarship program, which has distributed over $1.7 million in college scholarships to more than 500 college students.

Helping low–income students overcome roadblocks to college graduation is a core part of the school's mission, said Mission College President Daniel Peck. The school's programs address the challenges that many of its students face – from a lack of skills note–taking, to financial and family crises that can interrupt their educations, he explained. "It's our job as educators to create pathways for our students."

In addition to the scholarships, as an AANAPISI, Mission will also receive institution–strengthening grants, one slated for a STEM program. "These grants are not just for specific students," Peck explained. "They support the development of the college's educational infrastructure. All students benefit."

“We are very fortunate that APIASF has decided to partner with Mission College’s AANAPISI Programs," said Mission College Director of Federal Student Services Grants Ken Songco. "These funds are long–term investments that will assist us in our efforts to produce a more diverse, home–grown workforce here in the heart of Silicon Valley,”

Generally regarded as the U.S.'s largest non–profit provider of college scholarships to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, APIASF works to help students get to college, be successful once they get there and become mentors for the next generation of students. For more information, visit www.apiasf.org. For information about AANAPISI, visit www.ed.gov/edblogs/aapi.

SCUSD Facilities Team Gets More Staff to Address Dire Maintenance Backlog

Maintenance needs in Santa Clara Unified have outstripped the staff's ability to address them, and at the Feb. 12 school board meeting, the Trustees approved five additional maintenance staff positions.

Education Desk

The time spent on custodial scheduling, phone calls and walk–ins has "left little or no time on some days" for scheduled service, Facilities Manager Rod Cardin told the board.

"Unfortunately, we spend much of our time putting out fires and responding to problems that could have been avoided with a more robust preventative maintenance program."

The department currently has 13 employees to maintain 560 buildings, and receives about 8,000 work orders a year. New facilities such as Cabrillo's STEM lab and Hughes' Outside Learning Center have added the to maintenance load.

The needs are widespread. For example, Cardin said, "We could spend all the staff's time changing [HVAC] filters and belts. If filters aren't changed regularly, the air students and teachers are breathing isn't clean."

Other preventative maintenance work that has fallen behind is removing the mineral buildup on the district's tankless water heaters, replacing outdated light fixtures with energy–saving LED lights – whose longer life also makes them time–savers – and cleaning gutters and downspouts.

District practice has been to have school custodians clean the gutters and down spouts, but "I don't think that up on the roof is any place for a custodian," said Cardin. However, if this isn't done regularly, instead of flowing to the storm sewer, rain will seep into the walls and cause mold growth.

Magnolia Makes Third Attempt to Extend Expiring Central Park School Lease

At the Mar. 6 meeting, charter school Magnolia Science Academy parents and children were out in force to see if a mass protest could do what their proposal for a new charter school couldn't: persuade the SCUSD board to extend its lease on the Central Park school site (formerly Millikin School) for another year. Last June Magnolia made its first request for a lease extension.

Education Desk

Magnolia's three–year lease expires in June. When it was signed, SCUSD warned renewal was unlikely because the building is needed to relieve over–crowding at other SCUSD elementary schools. Magnolia's answer has consistently been, that because Magnolia, a "school of choice," uniquely offers STEM education needed for success in the 21st century and its students are academic high–achievers, its request deserves precedence. Magnolia doesn't offer K–5, and at least half its students don't live in the district.

"Santa Clara is synonymous with Silicon Valley," said one parent. "[By not renewing the lease] you are depriving the students and community of that." Another said she wasn't here when the contract was signed and didn't know anything about it. Yet another scolded the district for turning down $500,000 in rent.

Students also expressed fear at having to change schools. "We may have to adapt to a new school, and adapting to a new school is hard," said one student. Trustee Christopher Stampolis responded, asking that the district work with Magnolia students transitioning into mainstream schools to "show that our district is ready to work with students" that are "are achieving at an accelerated level."

In fact, Magnolia voluntarily organized in a way that minimized control by SCUSD – as a county charter. That also frees SCUSD from any obligation to supply classrooms unless Magnolia can prove that more than 50 percent of its students live in the school district.

In January, the SCUSD board unanimously denied Magnolia's SASV charter request. District staff's analysis, reviewed by SCUSD legal advisor Clarissa Canady, judged that SASV's charter petition was vague and lacked detail, lacked realistic and sound financial and operating plans, inadequately described its K–5 program as well as how it intended to serve all students – not just high achieving ones – and predicated its plans on using Magnolia's copyrighted materials without knowing if that permission would be granted. The 6–9 academic program is almost identical to Magnolia's.

Some listening were disturbed by elitism implied in asking that Magnolia's students have precedence over the Sutter and Pomeroy students attending overcrowded schools, and the inference that mainstream public schools aren't up to the task of educating people for the high tech world. "Do you want to be the school board that pushed away schools that would enable children to ... afford to live here?" asked one parent.

SCUSD invests significantly in STEM education and receives many substantial grants for diverse programs that include STEM Zones, STEM leadership programs, Girls' Achieving In Nontraditional Subjects, (GAINS) and a state–of–the–art Makerspace (under construction). The district also offers programs allowing advanced students to take college classes and receive college credit.

Magnolia aims to have students working academically a year or more ahead of grade level. Some have asserted the school discourages students from enrolling who can't meet this exacting standard. One recent critic on a school rating website claimed Magnolia's methods result in a "debilitating amount of homework."

The County Board of Education will consider Magnolia's request to establish the new charter school, SASV, on Mar. 11, at 7 p.m. The CoE is 1290 Ridder Park Dr., San Jose. Visit www.sccoe.org for information.