This past November’s election was a historic one for women.

A record number of 116 women took seats in Congress. Add to this the fact that two such women — Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland — are the first Native American women ever elected to Congress, while Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were the first Muslim women to win seats in the house, and you can plainly see that something quite meaningful and exciting is happening for women all over the country.

In celebration of this theme, The Beat is currently running profiles of women in Milpitas who’ve won elections.

The first one is: Kelly Yip-Chuan, who was elected and recently sworn in as a Board Member for the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), filling 1 of 3 open seats and coming out #1 with over 10,000 votes.

Yip-Chuan is a true force in our community. Across all the varied organizations, boards, and events that she has been a part of, she truly goes above and beyond, using every experience as an opportunity to deeply enhance Milpitas, along with the lives of those residing here. 

A mother of 3 daughters — ages 7, 9, and 12 — Yip-Chuan has been involved in the PTA for the last 7 years, having served as PTA President of Spangler Elementary, and currently as Parlimentarian at Burnett Elementary, where her 2 youngest daughters attend. 

She has also served as Vice Chair for the Community Board Advisory Council for MUSD, and was — up until this past Tuesday — a representative for Burnett. (She has to step down now since her new Board position officially makes her a Board Rep. for the district.) She was also voted as Volunteer of the Year at Spangler in the 2013-2014 school year, as well as Volunteer of the Year at Burnett in the 2017-2018 school year.   

Yip-Chuan had also been filling in as a substitute teacher for over 5 years at MUSD. She has subbed at Spangler and Burnett, and even put in a day at Thomas Russell Middle School, where her oldest daughter attends. 

“I started out, because I really wanted to get a feel for what was going on at my daughters’ schools,” said Yip-Chuan. “That’s one of the benefits of being a sub. You get to be in the classroom. You get to see what the teachers go through…and it’s not easy for them. They do a lot.”

Since Yip-Chuan had already been coming in twice a week as a Parent Volunteer for her eldest daughter’s Kindergarten class, her transition into subbing wasn’t too difficult. She already knew exactly what was happening in the school. And as it happened, she already had taken her California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) 15 years ago, but never made use of it.

“The former principal at Spangler found out I had my CBEST, and told me, ‘Kelly, we could certainly use you in the classroom, especially since we don’t have enough teachers.’ So I went through a background check and interview process, and then I started subbing for my daughter’s first grade class,” Yip-Chuan explained. “The teacher trusted me, and the students knew me. So it was an easy transition.”  

Now that she is on the Board of Education, Yip-Chuan’s no longer allowed to substitute-teach in the Milpitas Unified School District, but she can go out to other school districts, should she so desire. However, she most likely won’t, as her heart — and of course, her daughters — are in Milpitas. And the whole point of her subbing in the first place was to be more involved and aware of what was happening in their classrooms.

 

Bill Chuan swears in his wife, Kelly Yip-Chuan, to MUSD’s School Board.

The day she got sworn into the Board was her last day as a sub. She went in this past Tuesday to teach at Burnett. At lunchtime, she sat with her youngest daughter, who expressed her sadness over not being able to have her mom as a substitute teacher anymore, something she had been accustomed to over the last several years.

Yip-Chuan told her, and her other 2 girls, that she’ll miss being a sub; however, the impact that she’ll have the opportunity to make for all the schools in Milpitas through her position as a Board Member will be worth it in the long run. Her daughters understand.

In fact, the 3 girls, along with her niece and nephew, played a vital role in securing Yip-Chuan’s win, helping her to campaign by assembling her signs, telling all their friends’ parents and grandparents to vote for her, and even pushing her to go to friends’ houses.

“My kids would get friends’ addresses and tell me to go their houses and put up my signs. And I’d be so tired, and wouldn’t want to go. And they’d say to me, ‘Don’t you want to win?'” Yip-Chuan recalled, laughing. “They loved doing it and said it was fun. They want to do it again in 4 years.”  

Alongside her deep involvement in Milpitas schools, Yip-Chuan also serves as President Elect of the Milpitas Rotary Club, as well as a Board Member and Ambassador for the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce. In 2017, she was voted as Business Person of the Year by the Milpitas Chamber, as she is also a Broker of Record, running Platinum Realty Group, which she opened back in 2009.

A graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara — with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society — Yip-Chuan describes herself as someone who simply does not like to sit still. In fact, while attending college, she also worked 3 jobs. She also describes the time when she opened Platinum Realty Group as marked by great activity…

During that period in her life, she had just sold her share in another real estate company that she’d started with a couple of partners. As she didn’t feel that her partners were in alignment with her conservative business and monetary sensibilities, she opted to go off on her own. She was pregnant at the time with her second daughter, and on bedrest!

One day, Yip-Chuan had an appointment at the hospital, and her husband Bill had to push her in on a wheelchair. She had experienced some bleeding during her pregnancy, so her doctor wanted her to take it easy. On the way back from the doctor’s office, Yip-Chuan asked her husband to take her to the Office of the County-Clerk Recorder, so that she could get her paperwork filed for her new real estate company. She knew that once she gave birth, getting there would be impossible, so why not do it now? So, wheelchair and all, Yip-Chuan’s husband rolled her into the building to get her paperwork filed. Meanwhile, they were also in the process of selling their home in San Jose, while transitioning into their new home in Milpitas.

Yip-Chuan and her family moved from South San Jose to Milpitas almost 10 years ago. As a young family unsure of where they truly wished to settle down, they had slipped into a pattern of moving every few years. Finally, while pregnant with Daughter #2, Yip-Chuan and her husband decided to find a home in a community where they intended to stay put for some time, so that their children could graduate in the same district where they’d started out.

When they looked into Milpitas, they knew that they had at last found home. In the end, it was the school district’s stellar reputation that moved Yip-Chuan and her husband to plant their flag in our city.

“I think we have a very good school district. A lot of my clients coming from Cupertino, Fremont, and Sunnyvale come looking to buy in Milpitas, just because of our school district,” said Yip-Chuan. “I’m very proud to be at Milpitas Unified. And I can’t wait to be more involved and make decisions that will impact our whole community. There’s always room for improvement and that’s why I want to be a part of this change.”  

Asked what her #1 priority during her time on the School Board will be, Yip-Chuan replied: “During my campaign, my #1 priority was to alleviate the overcrowding at Milpitas High. Because it affects not just my children, but the other 10,000+ students. So with this bond that we passed, we will definitely alleviate the overcrowding. And I believe we are also going to be building that second high school.”

 

 

At this past Tuesday’s School Board meeting. Left to right: School Board Members Michael Tsai, Kelly Yip-Chuan, Daniel Bobay, Hon Lien, Chris Norwood, and Superintendent Cheryl Jordan.

Given all the motion and activity in Yip-Chuan’s life, one wonders what she’ll accomplish next. As of now, as she settles in to her new Board position, she’ll no doubt continue to make a major impact in the lives of children and families in Milpitas.

“I’m very excited and looking forward to doing good things in Milpitas, as well as working with our new City Council. And I wanted to congratulate everyone for their wins,” Yip-Chuan added, addressing her School Board and City Council colleagues.  

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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