A moment ago I opened Microsoft Word and opened a new blank document to write my final weekly column for San Jose Inside. I am doing so with a heavy heart.
My first column appeared in this space Dec. 9, 2008, one day before being sworn-in to my newly elected seat on the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. Since then, I have had a weekly appointment with my computer to lay out my thoughts on public education. There is something centering and peaceful about focusing once a week for a few uninterrupted hours of writing, particularly on a subject for which I care deeply.
In that first column I wrote with an innocent honesty: “San Jose Inside has given me an opportunity to bring the issue of public education to the forefront of our community conversation with a weekly column. … I want this blog-post to begin a critical dialogue about the educational topics that affect the quality of our lives in Silicon Valley. … From my lens there is no more important issue than public education and equity for all children within its reaches.”
Writing from a hotel room in San Diego while attending my first CSBA conference, I was naive about the blogosphere and the overwhelmingly negative place it had become. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Donald Trump is an example of how deeply we have fallen into the abyss of hateful speech that does nothing to contribute to an intelligent discussion on how to solve societal and global problems.
My second column, “Teachers Deserve Respect—and Money,” dealt with raising the stature of the teaching profession through increased compensation for those who do it well. I discussed the development of a multi-media campaign with personal stories from Silicon Valley people talking about the teachers that made a difference in their lives. Unfortunately, this has yet to happen, but I have continued to keep the concept alive in conversations with influential people.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote this week: “Teaching can’t compete. When the economy improves and job prospects multiply, college students turn their attention elsewhere, to professions that promise more money, more independence, more respect. … Teaching also needs to be endowed with greater prestige.”
He concludes, “The health of our democracy and the perpetuation of our prosperity depend on teaching no less than they do on Wall Street’s machinations or Silicon Valley’s innovations.” I concur!
All of the good work and money appropriated for Common Core, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control Accountability Plans will be wasted if we do not act boldly to fix the quality teacher supply pipeline. Also, we MUST invest in high quality early learning, especially for the least advantaged children among us. Brain development begins very early in life, and providing K-12 teachers with a generation of ready-to-learn students will naturally increase the supply of college graduates wishing to entertain a career in teaching.
My list of priorities going forward include: Fixing the broken teacher pipeline system in Silicon Valley and making sure there is high-quality early learning for all children from birth to age 5. The return on investment will enhance our democracy for the foreseeable future.
I want to thank Dan Pulcrano for giving me this extraordinary opportunity and my two editors who have helped me tell my story these last 300 columns: Josh Koehn and Eric Johnson. I also give heartfelt thanks to former publisher David E. Cohen, who gave me my start as a fledging education writer in his Community Newspapers in 2005.
I hope to continue writing an occasional San Jose Inside column on critical issues in public education. In September, I will begin writing my book to be self-published in 2016—at least that is the goal.
Thank you for reading.