Back in 2008, when Daniel Bobay ran for a seat on the Milpitas Unified School District’s (MUSD) Board of Education, he gave it everything he had.

He came in second place, securing one of two open seats on the board.

In 2012 and 2016, he ran again. Both those times, he was uncontested.  

Still, he fought hard for the opportunity to serve. Knocked on doors. Passed out campaign materials. Spoke passionately with residents.

For Bobay, who’s now halfway through his third term on the school board, nothing is ever promised, especially when it comes to elections.

But although his heart is deeply embedded in his community and the path of education, in June of this year, Bobay will be vacating his seat for greener pastures, moving from his Milpitas home — which he has occupied with his wife, Janice, for 22 years — out to Texas.

Janice, who works for Raytheon in Sunnyvale, will be taking a new position at the company’s Greenville location.

“The nearest house to ours will be a mile away,” said Bobay casually. He followed up that statement by mentioning that he’s a bit of a country boy. In fact, when he was with his first wife, he owned horses, as well as 10 whole acres in Clearlake, where he went camping all the time.

Still, Bobay acknowledges that the move will be a transition. Especially since he has dedicated the entirety of himself to serving students and propelling the cause of education forward for the past couple of decades.

 

A Fire is Lit

 

It all started when his two youngest kids were about 2 and 4. Bobay, who had been working for a military contractor, was out of a job soon after the Berlin Wall fell. Since more than half his income had been going to child care at the time, Bobay decided he might as well take the opportunity to stay home with his two sons. And he did just that, for about three years.

He transformed the kitchen table into Daddy School, putting up some whiteboards beside it. The boys sat for hours around the table, learning things like colors, and how to count to 100. Sometimes, their two older kids (Janice and Dan each had one from a previous marriage) would come home from school and help with Daddy School.

Those were special times, and meaningful ones, as well. Slowly but surely, Bobay’s passion for education was rising to the surface.

 

PTA and Beyond

 

Soon, he got involved in the PTA at Spangler Elementary, where his older daughter was attending. And just as his daughter was leaving to go to middle school, Bobay was elected as President of the PTA. He found this out after the fact, since he had actually missed the latest meeting.

“In PTA, there were ladies there who pretty much ran everything. And I was always there, questioning everything,” said Bobay. “So it really surprised me when I was made the PTA President.”

Bobay assumed the position, and once in, started getting involved with the Sixth District PTA, which is made up of PTAs from surrounding school districts in the region.

“They invited me to a few meetings,” said Bobay. “I went, and they were surprised that anyone from Milpitas actually showed up. So I made a point to go and represent Milpitas.”

Before Bobay knew it, the Sixth District PTA President was approaching him, asking if he would have interest in being Council President for North Valley PTA, which served the Berryessa and Milpitas School Districts. At the time, Milpitas didn’t have their own Council.

“So I ended up being Council President and served there 2 consecutive years…which you weren’t supposed to,” said Bobay. “But nobody wanted to take it. And it was during that time that Sally Minor and Robert Jung approached me about a desire to start a Milpitas Council of PTAs. And they asked if I would be President of the Milpitas Council. So I actually ended up serving three consecutive years, which, again, no one was supposed to do.”  

Bobay worked hard in his new position, communicating with all the PTAs in Milpitas, and supporting them in getting on track with all the things they needed to prepare for and report to the Council. He also spent time grappling with issues, like trying to determine how to boost parent engagement.

His involvement grew deeper as he started attending school board meetings and going out to different events.

Marsha Grilli, who had been serving on the school board, asked Bobay if he had ever thought about serving on the board. With Carmen Montano running for City Council and Barbara Santos getting ready to retire and leave her spot, two seats would be open.

“I asked Marsha what it was about. She said it was hard to describe,” said Bobay, chuckling. “She said she just thought I’d be a good addition to the school board. So I went home and talked it over with Janice and the family. They asked me what it was all about. And I told them it was hard to describe.

 

This is How Persistence Pays Off

 

Through his decade of serving on MUSD’s school board, Bobay has held the positions of President, Vice President, and Clerk multiple times apiece. He also mentioned that one of the things he’s proudest of is playing a part in making Mabel Mattos Elementary School a reality.

Years back, the Milpitas City Council was working on a transit plan for that area, and for some reason, no school was included in it.

“So I raised a flag with the superintendent at the time, Dr. Black. He said he’d get the teachers out to a meeting. And I worked to get others out there,” said Bobay. “We ended up getting 200 of our closest friends out to City Hall to demand they put a school in.”

Armando Gomez, with whom Bobay had become friends when their kids were playing soccer together, suggested taking what had been designated for a park and designating half of it for the school; and they’d have to work out the details later.

However, time was passing. And no one was taking the initiative to work out the details.  

Bobay mentioned that Jose Esteves, who was up for re-election as Mayor at the time, was not responding to requests to move forward on plans for the school. But Bobay was persistent…

“I told him, ‘You’re going to build this thing up, and kids aren’t going to have a school there. If you don’t start calling the school district and making an appointment to discuss this, I’m going to run for Mayor and make that the thing I run on,’” said Bobay. “‘That will be my campaign. It will be all about the school.’”  

So in 2014, Bobay pulled his papers to run for Mayor of Milpitas. And coincidentally (or not): Bobay remembers that was the very same day when Esteves made the call to Milpitas Unified, saying he was ready to sit and discuss the new school.

By the time Bobay actually filed his papers, the district and Esteves had settled on a date. Bobay went on to run his campaign quietly, heartened by the fact that Esteves had come to the table and at least begun the discussion.

Not wanting any conflict of interest, Bobay wasn’t present for the meeting, and Grilli and Trustee Danny Lau were there to handle the discussion.  

“They made a bad deal ultimately. It ended up being $21 million for 7 acres of land,” said Bobay. “Three million dollars an acre. Paying the City for land that was part of the redevelopment agency? We got screwed. But we got the school.”

A series of meetings and conversations ensued, in order to determine and define what the district really wanted the school to be. They spoke about how to build, and how to divide the land. And after years of planning, Mabel Mattos Elementary School finally opened in August, 2018.

Something that Bobay is also proud of: Signing an agreement with the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District to open and operate the San Jose City College Milpitas Extension. It was the first-ever cooperative agreement for creating a school in the State of California, between a college district and a school district. The Milpitas Extension opened its doors in 2016, and has been a breath of fresh air for the city’s student community, offering high school students the opportunity to accumulate college credits right across the street, even before they graduate.

As someone with a Master’s Degree in IT, who has had a long career in managing and supervising at different capacities across a host of Silicon Valley tech companies, Bobay never in a million years imagined that he would become so deeply committed to giving his energy, his heart, and his commitment to enhancing education for a myriad of students over so many years.

Not one to shy away from difficulties, Bobay put himself through college, and once he was out in the working world, he realized that sitting in front of a computer all day drove him nuts. Sitting still was just not in the cards for him. Once, while working for a paratransit company, upon feeling the need to do something productive, he took it upon himself to fix all of the GPS equipment in a total of 200 cars.

Yet although Bobay is handy and known to fix things around the house, he shrugs and insists, “I’m just a tinkerer; I’m not good at anything.”

 

Wait, There’s More…

 

Along with his time on the PTA and school board, Bobay has even been a dedicated softball, soccer, and swimming coach, spanning from the 80s to as recently as 2014.

Bobay also currently serves on the Governing Board for Silicon Valley Career Tech at MetroED in San Jose, and has been doing so for nearly 9 years. MetroED is part of a joint powers agreement between 6 school districts — Milpitas, San Jose, East Side, Santa Clara, Los Gatos-Saratoga, and Campbell.  A member from each school district occupies a seat on the board.

“This is really where I found my passion to be in Career Tech,” said Bobay. “The kids are engaged. The equipment they have there is top of the line, brand new. Kids are learning state of the art stuff. Police Science, Fire Science, Culinary Arts, Auto Repair, Animation…and they even have a film lab. Kids can go there for free, if they’re juniors or seniors in high school.”

Reflecting on what he’ll miss the most after he leaves, Bobay spoke of the many students he has been fortunate enough to know, along with all of the graduations, promotions, and celebrations that come with the territory of serving such an engaged community. He has also enjoyed the times he’s spent going out to Sacramento, lobbying for more funding and programs.

Yet he did mention that one thing that makes it easier to leave California behind is the legislature:

“The legislature does not listen to us, when it comes to school funding and school programs, like career technical education,” said Bobay. “This whole local control funding did not take into consideration any of the career tech centers throughout the state of California; they just totally cut them out. So we were left hanging, we were scrambling with our districts to make decisions. They don’t understand. And I think it’s the way California is organized; the way schools are funded is archaic.”  

He spoke of the similarities in the number of students in the Milpitas and Palo Alto school districts. However, in Palo Alto, funding for schools is three times what it is in Milpitas.

“They’ve created this tax program so that in those cities that go above the revenue limit, a large portion of those taxes go to the school district,” said Bobay. “That’s not the case in Milpitas. As you get into more rural districts, it’s even worse, with things like cost of transportation going up…”

 

Looking Toward the Future

 

Yet despite his gripes with the system, Bobay mentioned just how much he will miss all the people he’ll be leaving behind in Milpitas, among them his fellow board members and superintendent.  

Those who have worked with Daniel Bobay feel the same way…

MUSD School Board President Chris Norwood had this to say: “Dan Bobay has represented the voice of the Milpitas community with integrity, passion, and commitment to fiscal responsibility, student outcomes, and a professional work environment. He has always been a visible presence. He continually advocated for high school students to have multiple pathways to success through career technical education. When he was the Board President, he was a valuable resource to all the new board members and still is. I’m confident that Dan will continue his educational community leadership wherever he lands, and look forward to being in touch with him for many, many years to come.”

Superintendent Cheryl Jordan mentioned how instrumental Bobay’s presence was when she first came in as superintendent. They had recently experienced several big changes, among them losing Board Member Danny Lau, who passed away in 2017.  

“Dan was the veteran on the team and dedicated himself to supporting each of us as we worked towards becoming a cohesive Board-Superintendent team. Dan’s core is MUSD,” Jordan shared. “He cares deeply about every student, parent, and team member who make up the MUSD Family. He’s been a strong Milpitas leader and mentor, and will be missed. I will miss his challenges, critiques, and support. He has helped me to grow as a leader.”

This June, as Milpitas bids farewell to one of its most longstanding educational leaders, it will also see the opportunity to fill a new board seat. Board members have not yet discussed how and when they will move forward on that. Bobay is confident that his fellow board members will continue to propel education in Milpitas forward.

As Bobay looks to the future, out toward the unknown expanse spread before him, one thing is remarkably clear…

“I can’t see just letting everything I’ve done go by the wayside,” said Bobay. “I will get involved out there, in some way.”  

 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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