Funk: Why I’m grateful this holiday season
This file photos hows the mural donated to James Lick from Local Color.

    As Superintendent of East Side Union High School District, I am very thankful for a plethora of amazing things happening in our district and across the East Side Alliance.

    I’d like to highlight five areas I am thankful for during this Season of Giving.

    Downtown Doors – When I was principal at Lincoln High School, I had the privilege to lead a Visual and Performing Arts Magnet high school. To be able to visit art, music, dance, choral, and drama courses daily uplifted my spirits. In 2003, under the auspices of the San Jose Downtown Foundation, the Downtown Doors contest began. The program brings the work of high school artists to utility doors and boxes throughout downtown. Over the years, there have been a total of 292 winners.

    This year, there were 206 applicants with 20 winners from thirteen schools. Eight winners are students from Evergreen Valley, Independence, Silver Creek and Piedmont Hills High Schools. The winners had the honor of having their artwork digitized, transferred to vinyl coating, and affixed to service doors and utility boxes throughout downtown San Jose. There is no better way to demonstrate mastering art standards than through performance-based, authentic assessment.

    Google & Local Color Team-Up – At a recent Google sponsored symposium, Local Color, a woman-owned and operated arts nonprofit organization whose mission is to build economic opportunities for local artists, sponsored local artists to create a community mural that is themed around the Latinx community. This beautiful mural has been donated to James Lick High School and will be installed over the winter break on one of the walls of the recently built student union. The ability to support public murals and have our students and alumni participate is truly amazing.

    Model United Nations (MUN) –There are several high school MUN conferences throughout the Bay Area, but Santa Teresa High School runs the second oldest high school run competition on the West Coast. MUN provides high school students the opportunity to take on roles of their country’s UN representatives, committee chairs and presiding officers, and develop leadership skills, public speaking, research, writing and critical thinking all while addressing issues on statewide, national and international levels.

    Every January, Santa Teresa High School hosts more than thirty schools with 600 student participants. For the competition, the Santa Teresa team goes to Stanford, Berkeley, Hawaii and finishes up the season in New York City.  Every year, I’m impressed with the level of maturity and the deep learning that takes place at the MUN conference with these high school participants.

    McKinney-Vento Dinner — As the holiday season approaches, there is much for our East Side community to be thankful for.  Our schools offer 21st century facilities, our students are achieving at the highest levels in our history, and, each year, we send students to some of the top colleges and universities in the nation. The holidays are a time to reflect and rejoice for the families and friendships we have developed.

    Unfortunately, the holidays for some are an unfriendly reminder of the hardship that many of our students and families endure. ESUSHD has approximately 350 students who qualify for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. These students, along with their families, continue to overcome harsh obstacles and remain actively enrolled in our high schools striving to graduate with their appropriate class.

    Each year, prior to ESUHSD going into the holiday break, we recognize the resiliency of these students and their families by providing them with a warm dinner and a gift of movie passes and a Target gift card to use over the holiday break. For the past seven years, our community has been very generous in supporting this event. We anticipate providing each of the 350 students with a $30 gift card to AMC Theatres and a $30 gift card to Target, as well as gifts for younger siblings.

    Foothill Health Clinic has sponsored free health and dental checkups for our families. ESUHSD staff has donated the dinner. The anticipated total cost of this recognition for the resiliency of these students and families is approximately $25,000. To help fund the effort, please make checks payable to East Side Union High School District Education Foundation (memo McKinney-Vento Dinner) or visit  The dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on Dec. 19 in the ESUHSD Board Room.

    Career in Education – I’m so thankful for each employee that has chosen a career in public education. Whether it is a bus driver transporting our students safely to and from school, or the custodian who keeps our schools clean, or the counselor who provides the guidance to reach for the stars, or our amazing teachers who have dedicated their professional careers to guide, support, facilitate, encourage and work passionately to help our students successfully navigate high school and graduate college and be career ready.

    To all of you working in public education, on behalf of the families in our community, thank you for your service and dedication to the youth in East Side and Santa Clara County.

    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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