Photo: President Mohammed Chaudhry of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.
San Jose, Calif. -- In a move aimed at bringing business and community leaders together to improve public education in Silicon Valley, the San Jose Education Foundation and the Santa Clara County Education Foundation announced today a merger creating the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.
The new Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF) will serve the 34 separate school districts in Santa Clara County and will seek to galvanize support in Silicon Valley's business community. The new entity is headed by Muhammed Chaudhry, who had served as CEO and president of the San Jose Education Foundation.
"We will be the only organization dedicated solely to improving pre-kindergarten to 12th grade public education in Silicon Valley," Chaudhry said. "We will bring a Silicon Valley business approach to education, focusing on clear goals, delivering results and placing an emphasis on creativity and innovation. We will inspire public education students to achieve their full potential through effective partnerships."
As part of the launch, Faysal Sohail, general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm CMEA Ventures, becomes the new foundation's board chair; Bruce Chizen, former CEO and current senior strategist for Adobe Systems, becomes vice chair; H. Raymond Bingham, managing director of General Atlantic LLC, becomes treasurer; and Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, board president of Sobrato Family Foundation, will serve as secretary.
In support of the merged foundation's mission, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has made a $1.7 million grant to create new methods for Silicon Valley classrooms that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. "Knight Foundation is excited about our investment in this unified organization," said Dave Mills, Knight Foundation's program director in San Jose. "It's a big idea with the potential to transform Silicon Valley education. This investment will lead to better classroom solutions to strengthening science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum in Silicon Valley schools."
In addition to the $1.7 million grant from Knight Foundation, Cisco is giving a $400,000 grant to SVEF to fund open source software tools for the classroom. The project, which Cisco seeded in 2006 through the San Jose Education Foundation with an initial $260,000, will benefit schools that lack the resources and budgets required to use costly mainstream software packages. The open source project creates a web-enabled platform that allows teachers to collaborate via social networks to write lesson plans and share ideas on teaching best practices.
"Cisco is excited to be part of this wonderful opportunity for Silicon Valley public school teachers to design an environment that helps them better write and exchange learning strategies with their peers," said Randy Pond, executive vice president at Cisco. "Open source software is a public good that is inherently aligned with the mission of our public education system that Cisco cares deeply about supporting through our local and global community initiatives."
The SVEF will continue the successful mission of the San Jose Education Foundation, which previously only served San Jose schools. SVEF will focus on the following:
§ Be a voice for Silicon Valley schools. Driving debate around public education in Silicon Valley through its successful forum series and its advisory groups of experts in business, technology, and education.
§ Connect Silicon Valley Businesses to Silicon Valley Schools. Advising Silicon Valley businesses on how to best invest in Silicon Valley public schools to get the greatest impact.
§ Invest in teachers. Helping to recruit quality teachers and bring innovation into the classroom and continuing such successful programs as Teach Here, Live Here rental assistance for teachers, and innovation grants for the classrooms.
§ Prepare Silicon Valley students for Silicon Valley jobs. Launching programs to accelerate math learning for middle school students, developing curriculum around science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and focusing on school readiness.
§ Advocate for arts education and special education services. Assisting teachers and schools in providing a rich educational environment for a wide range of students.
In great part, the future of Silicon Valley depends on the future of Silicon Valley students, our mission will be to inspire and equip tomorrows innovators, today, said Sohail. If we hope to grow the future engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, we must drive educational achievement in the classroom. SVEF will work with Silicon Valley businesses and the local education community to help realize that goal, Chizen said.
Todays announcement was made at SVB Financial Group prior to an education forum focused on making lasting changes in education, moderated by John Fensterwald of the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. Participants included U.S. Rep. Zoë Lofgren, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Joe Fimiani, interim county Superintendent of Schools of the Santa Clara County Office of Education.
Silicon Valley's competitive advantage is its highly educated work force, said Ken Wilcox, a forum participant and CEO of SVB Financial Group. SVEF is committed to helping us maintain that advantage by preparing todays students to lead the knowledge economy of tomorrow.
The San Jose Education Foundation was formed in 2006 and focused on improving public schools in San Jose through effective partnerships in the business, civic and education sectors. The Santa Clara County Education Foundation was formed in 2007 and focused mainly on arts education, special education inclusion and alternative education. The newly formed Silicon Valley Education Foundation will work across the boundaries of all 34 school districts in Santa Clara County to ensure public schools have the resources and expertise they need to ensure our students succeed.