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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Milpitas Unified School DistrictCharles Gary is back at Milpitas High School as Interim Principal

Charles Gary is back at Milpitas High School as Interim Principal

Charles “Chuck” Gary is back. 

After having retired from the role of Milpitas High School (MHS) Principal in 2008, Gary stepped back onto the MHS campus earlier this month as Interim Principal. 

“I felt like I could make a contribution,” Gary told The Beat, when asked what had compelled him to return after a 14-year absence. 

Last month, Gary attended a workshop hosted by the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), where he felt called to step in. After listening to a presentation on the disproportionate in-school performance among Latino and African-American students, he knew he could offer his skillset to support the district.

The previous Principal, Francis Rojas, exited several months ago to go work as Founding Principal of Emerald High School in the Dublin Unified School District. MUSD required someone with a steady hand to steer the ship while they searched for Rojas’ replacement.    

What better person than Gary, who held the position for 20 years before retiring? 

“I’m looking forward to making a difference,” said Gary. “I’m hoping that I can give the kind of support that teachers, the admin team, and the students really need. So that the performance on the part of all students improves.”  

 

Photo credit: The Milpitas Beat

 

Despite Gary’s 2008 retirement, he remained active in the field of education. He became part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, making recommendations for the accreditation of 23 different schools. He also went on to teach at Santa Clara University for seven years, working with teachers in the masters and credential program. 

In between, he also traveled to 28 different countries (by way of five cruises and one land trip to Paris). 

Before being a Principal at MHS for two decades, Gary was also a Principal at Rancho Middle School from 1981 to 1987. Before that, he worked as Assistant Principal at MHS for 6 years. Also, from 1969 to 1975, he worked as a teacher at MHS, teaching biology and general science. 

The oldest of five siblings, Gary grew up in Richmond, California. “When I was finishing up the 8th grade, the counselor at the school I was attending said I needed to work with my hands and take shop classes,” said Gary. “My mom said, ‘That’s not right; he needs to go to college.’ Since that was the mindset there, she was looking to move.”

Gary’s mother knew the power of education. And she felt that if they stayed where they were, her children wouldn’t get the education they deserved. 

So the family up and left for Milpitas, moving into the Sunnyhills neighborhood, one of the first planned racially-integrated communities in the U.S. 

“I think that the city of Milpitas was way ahead of its time in the fact that they had Sunnyhills,” said Gary. “So the issues around diversity – Milpitas has always been on the forefront. Although not perfect…but always trying, I felt.”  

After graduating from college at Sacramento State, where he studied bio sciences and physical education, Gary came back to the Milpitas area, driven by a desire to give back to the community…

“Usually kids end up around the college they attended,” said Gary. “I wanted to come back to the community I grew up in and contribute there.” 

 

Photo credit: The Milpitas Beat

 

Upon coming into his new interim position, Gary saw that some of the systems he put in place during his time as Principal were no longer intact. He hopes to be able to bring some of them back. 

Gary has been well-known for his strong leadership across the field of education. Over the years, he has received multiple awards and recognitions for his focus on diversity issues, his dynamic teaching style, and his striking ability to communicate with and empower students. 

Since his return to MHS’ campus, he has already been pouring time and energy into initiating connections with as many students as he can. On a daily basis, he’s visited an average of 4-7 classrooms, introducing himself to students and sharing some of his story.

“And when I first got here, what I did was stake out the energy points on campus. They have 1,200 students that go through that cafeteria within 20 minutes. They also have two snack shacks. So it gave me the opportunity to stand there and greet students coming by. I have to look for opportunities to be visible,” Gary explained. 

Upon visiting the snack bar, Gary noticed students picking up their boxes, so he decided to stand at the door and hand the boxes to them personally. 

“And they all said thank you,” Gary noted. “People have always said students at Milpitas High are awesome. They’re so kind.”   

MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan says she’s thrilled to have Gary back: “Mr. Gary is a visionary leader, the kind we need to support MHS through this school year,” Jordan shared. “The work that he’s done these last 15 years in developing new teachers and Principals at Santa Clara University and his own consulting business will benefit our MHS team.” 

One of the big changes Gary’s noticed since resuming his Principal post is the high amount of tech on campus. He had to take some time to learn it all, but now feels comfortable navigating the situation.   

Before the school year is up, Gary would like to work on supporting each co-administrator in growing their skillset, applying a concerted focus to helping under-performing students, and bringing the leadership that staff needs. He also wants students to know who their Principal is, and to feel that he’s made a difference in their lives during this school year.  

“For me, my job [of being Principal at MHS] was never a chore,” Gary told The Beat. “I’ve never had a negative thing to say about my job. It was all positive. I always tell people I was born to do my job.”

 

 

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Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She 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 mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self” and “Magic Within: Womb-Centered Wisdom to Realize the Power of Your Sacred Feminine Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.

5 COMMENTS

  1. My family moved in Milpitas in1954 we lived at 245 Hazen Street knowing the Montano family and Mr Gary was my freshman football coach and science teacher

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