On August 13, after an interview process that spanned several hours, Hai Minh Ngo was appointed to Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD) Board of Education. (To learn about what has transpired since, please go to one of our articles from last week.)
The Milpitas Beat wanted to learn more about who Ngo is, and what he hopes to contribute to the realm of education here in our community. The following is an interview with him…
Why did you decide to apply for the open board seat?
As a resident of Milpitas and a parent in the community, I saw the various announcements over the summer through Parent Square asking for interested candidates to fill the vacancy by provisional appointment. What stood out to me was that if there was no provisional appointment, then the State Law would require a call to an election at the expense of the Milpitas Unified School District. Being part of the Rose School Site Council, I knew that would funnel down to cutting programs and jobs. Our teachers already ask parents to donate classroom supplies to help supplement what the district can’t afford. I didn’t know if anyone would have the courage to step forward to serve the community at large; that is when I decided that I wanted to provide a larger contribution of my time to support the community. I was surprised and ecstatic when I saw the announcement that there were 17 applicants and 8 chosen to interview.
What do you feel qualifies you for the board position?
For most of my career I have been fortunate to hold multiple leadership positions, executing strategic objectives, transforming culture, mentoring a new generation of talent, assessing risk, leading pilot programs, presenting at national meetings, and communicating with senior leadership. I am also passionate about education; even as adults we never stop learning. I believe education is the key to progress at any level; that is why I got involved in my child’s PTO, SSC, and CBAC as soon as she entered kindergarten, to support and cultivate a positive learning environment. Lastly, I believe in the concept of being more than a problem solver, and motivating oneself to be a solution finder. The difference between the two concepts is that a problem solver is reactive to an issue, waiting for someone to tell you what is wrong to fix — versus being proactive as a solution finder, identifying a potential process gap, and recommending solutions to mitigate. I believe that I have much to offer to the board position.
How do you feel about the state of education and schools in Milpitas right now?
Upon moving to Milpitas, I was very surprised that the community of this size only had 1 high school. In line with the majority of the voters in 2018, I voted Yes on Bond Measure AA. The focus of safety and security, modernization, overcrowding, and the second high school campus all resonated with my family and I. The city and school district finally have the means to innovative and become the model education system in the heart of Silicon Valley. To quote the 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come.”
I was recently given a tour of Milpitas High School, and I must say the curriculum offered is robust. Our high school students are given the opportunity to take a wide array of electives such as AP Computer Science, Engineering, AP Language courses, Ceramics, Photography, Dance, in partnership with the SJCC extension earn college credits while still enrolled in high school, etc. The Bond Measure AA funding will help to build a new Performing Arts center, student center, and a second practice gym at MHS.
Let’s not forget our Elementary and Middle schools. The modernization of Robert Randall Elementary, our district’s dual-immersion school, securing the entry points and enhancing the drop off and pick up points at the various campuses. The focus on infrastructure improvements in the school district is exciting.
What do you do currently for your job?
Currently, I am a Director level Division Supervision Manager for one of the top financial institutions in the country. My department reviews business policies and procedures, implements business controls to mitigate risk, and provides coaching and training to associates. My team prides itself on being a business enablement team to ensure we achieve our firm’s motto of responsible growth. I will be celebrating my 13th consecutive year with the firm this year.
How many children do you have, what are their ages, and where do they go to school?
I am a father of 3 children, 2 girls and 1 boy, with my oldest being 6 years old, currently attending Alexander Rose Elementary as a 1st grader and the Tian Tian Chinese after school care in Milpitas. My middle child is 3 years old and my youngest is 21 months old; both attend preschool at Day Star Montessori here in Milpitas.
What are your feelings about the Better Milpitas group and the petition that was filed in protest to your board appointment? And did you feel that the interview process was fair?
First, I am a firm believer in Democracy and what our country allows under the First Amendment in the United States Constitution — that is, free speech. When Daniel Bobay resigned, that left the current board to decide which route to take, such as holding a special election that would cost additional funds that would otherwise go to programs for our students — for example, the previously mentioned elective courses. The other option was to make the decision to fill the vacancy through an interview process for a provisional appointment. The logical choice was the interview process, in order to save the district money. For those requesting a special election that costs funds…is fiscally irresponsible and not in the best interests of our students. If we are to truly focus on our students, it would be prudent to focus on improving the process for the future.
As for the interview process, I believed everyone had a fair opportunity to present themselves in front of the board. The process was explained to those in attendance during the open session of the meeting. Since I was fourth in line to be interviewed, I was shepherded into the closed waiting room along with the other five candidates in line waiting to be interviewed; the sixth candidate arrived later in the evening. We all introduced ourselves and got to know each other. What was evident to me was everyone there was willing to serve the community and support each other. If I’m being honest here, after meeting Silvia Dias for the first time in the waiting room, I thought she would be the perfect candidate for the board supervisor role based on her background and past contributions as the District PTA president. I stated during my interview process that the District had a great pool of candidates to choose from and anyone they chose that night would be great.
If you are able to continue serving on the board, what do you hope to accomplish during your time there?
If I am still given the opportunity to continue serving on the board, I will encourage creating a safe and positive learning environment for all our students. Think back to when you had a positive role model: Was that a teacher that believed in and encouraged you when you were struggling? The answer should be a resounding YES, and we will strive for this outcome through advocating the district’s culture of WE. Early childhood literacy is important to me as well. With a growing population in Milpitas and the influx of residents moving in to start their families here, are they aware of the wonderful programs the district offers? For example, the Josephine Guerrero Family Resource Center that allows parents and young children an opportunity to be happy, healthy, and prepared for school and life. Or the wonderful Child Development Centers that guide both the child and the family on both the academic and social-emotional structure. Additionally, I would ensure we maximize the gain from the Bond Measure AA to ensure the future of Milpitas education is top-notch and supported by the flexible infrastructure we are aiming for.
What do you love most about living in Milpitas?
The most important thing I love about living in Milpitas is how diverse the community is. That was one of the determining factors in why my wife and I chose to raise our family in Milpitas. We want our children to be exposed to different ethnic cultures and backgrounds. To create those positive experiences so they may have an open mind to all the possibilities in the world.
Anything else you want to share?
I graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Economics. I am celebrating 10 years of marriage this year with my wonderful wife. I’m an avid Bay Area sports fan and cheer for all the local teams. I volunteer all over the Bay Area with various organizations through my firm’s community volunteer network, such as Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Asian Leadership Network, Year-Up, and the Boys and Girls Club.