When Hon Lien joined the Milpitas Unified School District’s Board of Education (MUSD) in 2016, she was driven by her motivation to serve.
That motivation is something she still carries to this day, in her role as Board President, a position she assumed in December, 2019.
Last week, Lien announced on Facebook that she will be running for re-election in this November’s School Board race.
“The excellence we see in MUSD is the result of visionary leadership and the excellent working relationship between the Board and the District staff. I am dedicated to supporting the work that is enabling our District to achieve our strategic goals and vision,” wrote Lien.
In 1978, just a couple years after North Vietnam’s capture of South Vietnam, Lien and her family fled their home country by boat. One of 12 siblings, Lien found herself and her family staying at a refugee camp in Malaysia for over a year. From there, she settled in the U.S., living in San Francisco for 12 years before moving to San Jose—and eventually to Milpitas in 1999.
Lien and her husband have 4 children—ages 18, 20, 24, and 25. Her oldest daughter is a teacher in Oakland, her second daughter is an exercise coach, her third daughter is pursuing a degree in Law and Criminal Justice at UC Irvine, and her adopted son recently graduated from Milpitas High School.
She beams with particular pride when talking about her kids.
“They are all a product of MUSD,” said Lien. “They’re all successful.”
When her children were younger, Lien was busy running her business, which engaged in the importing and exporting of seafood throughout the state. They had a fleet of 12 trucks. Lien would get up at around 3am every morning, and often wouldn’t get home until 9pm each night.
No stranger to working hard, Lien, along with her husband, also ran a bustling manufacturing business, based in Vietnam, which exported chili sauce and dried goods to Amsterdam, Sweden, and the U.S. This business lasted for 8 years. She and her husband eventually sold the business to someone else located in Vietnam.
From 2003 to 2010, Lien served as a trustee at Lincoln Law School in San Jose.
“In 2003, I was introduced to the Dean of Lincoln Law. He contacted me and asked if I would meet and talk. So I met him,” said Lien. “After the interview, he said, ‘Would you be willing to serve on the Lincoln Law Board of Trustees?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure I’m good enough for it…I’m sure there are better candidates out there.’’
However, after meeting all the trustees, they were impressed with Lien and asked if she would serve. She said yes.
“And so…I had the opportunity to serve on the Board, alongside Dave Cortese and Rod Diridon,” said Lien.
Back in 2009, Lien sold her share of the seafood business, so that she could be partly retired and spend more time with her kids. Now, with her kids all grown, she focuses a great deal of her energy on serving the community.
In previous years, Lien has served on MUSD’s school board as Clerk and Vice President. This year, as President, she has taken on new responsibilities, like running effective meetings and moderating.
With a penchant for fundraising, Lien works hard to raise money to support the schools in Milpitas. She initiated an event to fundraise for Rose Elementary’s STEAM program, and has also orchestrated fundraising through the Rotary Club, of which she is a member. In fact, she’s Rotary’s incoming President, and will officially take on the role in July. She was President of the club several years ago, as well.
During the last school year, Lien was most proud of the fact that MUSD won a Golden Bell Award for Love 4 Literacy; also, both Curtner and Rose elementary schools won Distinguished School Awards. She’s also excited about the Measure AA bond of $284 million that voters passed in 2018, which is allowing for the modernization of the district’s old schools, along with plans for a second high school campus.
“No matter where you are, even in a small company, you will have challenges,” said Lien. “We [on the School Board] will work together to turn those challenges into opportunities, so we can serve the students and continue having great schools in the district.”
The recent big challenge for MUSD was, of course, adjusting from in-person learning to their virtual EducateEveryWhere platform, as schools shut down due to the pandemic in March.
“We launched MUSD EducateEveryWhere in three days, so that student education could continue without interruption,” said President Lien. “And together, our team has worked through the challenges of the pandemic, ensuring that the families in our community were not left behind because of the inequities of digital and wifi access.”
Lien also mentioned that since the pandemic, she has been hosting online meetings with community members to listen to them, and get their perspective on how best to serve students and families.
“Students’ safety is of utmost importance at this point,” said Lien. “What we’re planning now is…when school is open on August 13…the first month will be 100% online learning. And from there, we will phase in students in groups and bring them back to school. And the whole time, we’ll be looking at the safety of staff, students, and teachers.”
Since things in the future are uncertain, Lien said that these plans could change at any time.
Along with serving on the School Board, Lien is still finding ways to serve the community…as much as she can with certain aspects of the shelter-in-place order still in effect.
For the past 20 years, Lien has been serving lunch to youth in the Juvenile Hall facility, located in San Jose. Every Mother’s Day, she is accustomed to going out there to teach youth how to arrange flowers, so that they can present their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts with beautiful bouquets when they come to visit.
However, for the first time in years, Lien was unable to go to the facility, due to the pandemic. She has, however, been able to deliver meals to them. In recent days, Lien delivered dinner to 98 people, which consisted of the youth and staff at the facility.
When asked why she feels so strongly about supporting the young people who are in Juvenile Hall, Lien replied:
“I feel like kids at a younger age don’t always think straight. They make mistakes and deserve a second chance. I tell them, ‘That second chance is yours to grab. And do it well, because we’re all here to support you.’”