Funk: School partnerships support quality public education
Photo courtesy of Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School.

    My column published on Aug. 19 on Cristo Rey Jesuit High School focused on two public policy issues: Using public funds to underwrite the tuition at a Catholic high school and the procurement process that was used by the San Jose City Manager’s office.

    In all my columns, I have tried to share educational issues that impact public schools in San Jose and present a picture that a lay person would better understand.

    I stand by all of the facts presented in my column about Cristo Rey, however, I did make unnecessary critical remarks regarding the mayor and City Manager’s office. The manner in which the memo was presented to the San Jose City Council gave the impression that someone on the City Council was pushing this contract through and that the City Manager’s office presented this agenda item in a noncontroversial, sectarian way. I do not believe that anyone was complicit in this effort.

    I believe the leaders at City Hall want to be good partners with school districts in San Jose and help close the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist within our city. The mission of Cristo Rey certainly supports low-income families to help close the opportunity gap for families that attend Cristo Rey. The issue I brought forth was about the procurement process used and the policy of using public funds to underwrite a parochial education.

    I am in my 8th year as the superintendent of East Side Union High School District and I’m very proud of the multiple partnerships and collaborations I have developed during that time frame. I would like to highlight a few of these partnerships, because a school district cannot fully create the best educational outcomes for all students without the support of many stakeholders.

    East Side Alliance (ESA) is a partnership between seven districts that feed into ESUHSD, Evergreen Community College, San Jose State University and Silicon Valley Education Foundation. This collective impact partnership allows all of the partners to share ideas, leverage resources, streamline professional development and align practices in order to prepare every student to be college and career ready.

    Spartan East Side Promise is a partnership between ESUHSD and San Jose State University that guarantees admittance into SJSU for ESUHSD graduates if they meet certain entrance requirements, which include passing a set of prescribed courses in high school and attaining certain SAT or ACT scores.

    ESUHSD Education Foundation was created to support and enhance extracurricular, educational and athletic opportunities for the students of East Side Union High School District. In recent years, their primary support has been a Summer Bridge Program to support East Side students who are attending SJSU under the Spartan East Side Promise. The primary fundraising arm of the foundation is the Hall of Fame Dinner, which takes place every other year. This year, the event is being held at the Hayes Mansion on Nov. 9.

    The Community Wireless Project is a partnership between the city of San Jose and ESUHSD. This effort has been a centerpiece of the mayor’s office to help with digital inclusion in San Jose. Together, we are building one of the nation’s first school district-funded municipal Wi-Fi infrastructures, bringing free broadband access to hundreds of district families who didn’t have it before and to thousands of residents in the East Side. We completed the first leg of the project last year in the James Lick neighborhood and we are getting ready to begin the second leg of the project in the William C. Overfelt neighborhood, which will be followed by the Yerba Buena High School neighborhood. In all, approximately 20,000 residents will be positively impacted by this partnership.

    Strive San Jose is a partnership with ESUHSD, the Silicon Valley Organization, Work2Future Foundation and San Jose to support the systemic work in our district to prepare students for college and career readiness by connecting industry to education, providing students with opportunities to learn from the workplace and help develop the next generation of talent for our workforce. We have more than 1,500 students participating in 24 career technical education pathways.

    SJ Works is a program with San Jose’s Parks Recreation & Neighborhood Services. The mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force has partnered with the Office of Economic Development for the last four years to provide jobs to school age youth living in one of our gang hot spots or attend schools near the hot spots.The City Council approved ongoing funding of $1.3 million for the program. The task force has a full-time staff member who works on recruiting and increasing host sites that will provide employment opportunities for our youth. The program is operated by the Office of Economic Development, and the task force receives approximately 150 slots.

    SJ Learns is part of the mayor’s strategic initiatives. This is a partnership across all of the school districts in San Jose. SJ Learns is an after-school and summer enrichment learning program that provides opportunities to K-3 students in a safe place to spend their afternoons and summer. The city’s goal by 2021 is to serve 3,400+ students from schools that serve low-income and underserved neighborhoods.

    There is a plethora of examples across ESUHSD that I could share highlighting the amazing work that’s being done across partnerships and across school districts that enrich the lives of our students and families. Providing a strong public education requires the commitment of all stakeholders living in the communities where our schools are located. Thank you to all of the unsung heroes working to improve the lives of our students.

    San José Spotlight columnist Chris Funk is the superintendent of the East Side Union High School District. His columns appear every third Monday of the month. Contact Chris at [email protected] or follow @chrisfunksupt on Twitter.

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