Wendy Zhang has always had a gift for numbers. 

When she was 24 years old, she ventured from Beijing, China, to the United States, to go to college. At the time, she already had a sales and marketing degree under her belt, from Beijing Economics and Management University. Now in the states, she made the choice to pursue a major in accounting and business administration at Drury University in Missouri. From there, the journey of her subsequent life has blazed down a path of auditing, accounting, business, and education. 

For Zhang, the education part came as a surprise. She had always figured that her career aspirations would find her settling into work as a controller for a private entity. 

But when she got on the path of bringing her skillset to the world of education, everything seemed to click. 

Currently, Zhang serves as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD), overseeing the day-to-day operations of four different departments: accounting and business, maintenance and operations, student nutrition, and facilities. During school board meetings, Zhang is up on the dais, sharply serving up details involving budget, finance, and other operational items. When she speaks, no word is wasted. And it’s obvious to anyone listening that the substance of what she’s saying is imbued with years of vast experience and knowledge. 

After completing college, Zhang nabbed a position in accounting at a high-tech start-up. This was back in 1998. 

“I valued that experience because in the start-up, I was the one person in the accounting department,” said Zhang. “I did everything. That gave me good experience and familiarity with all different aspects of accounting.” 

A couple years after that experience, Zhang went on to work at 7up as an Accounting Supervisor. 

After a year of that, she went to work at an auditing firm and became a California Certified Public Accountant (CPA) The firm’s speciality was auditing school districts.

“That’s how I got into the education industry,” said Zhang. “And I didn’t know this industry at the time…” 

Zhang worked at that firm as an auditor for several years, while also doing consultant work. She audited school districts located in Santa Clara County, all the way to San Francisco Unified School District. During this time, she got some good experience in understanding exactly how school districts work.    

In 2004, Zhang went on to work at the Metropolitan Education District (MetroED) in San Jose, coming onboard as their Director of Fiscal Services. 

Four years later, in 2008, she made her way into a position at MUSD, as Director of Business Services. But her time there was briefly interrupted… 

“I was young and aggressive and wanted to try and work at different school districts to get experience,” explained Zhang. “So in early 2009, I went to Fremont Union High School District.” 

There was a vacancy for a similar position, so Zhang figured: Why not? 

She was always looking to gain experience and try something different. In Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD), which serves Cupertino and other parts of surrounding cities, education is primarily funded by property taxes, and not the state, whereas MUSD’s funding comes from a combination of local property taxes and state aid. 

While at FUHSD, Zhang had a strong feeling. Milpitas was calling her back. She really missed the people and the sense of community here. 

Luckily, MUSD welcomed her return with open arms. 

“I was very blessed,” said Zhang. “I think the Board and our Superintendent gave me a second chance…”  

For over 10 years now, Zhang has been with MUSD. 

“I’m a person who likes to move around a lot, and that tells me something,” admitted Zhang. “In Milpitas, I’m attached here.” 

Zhang lives in South San Jose. Yet even though she doesn’t reside in Milpitas, she feels as if it’s also her home. 

“People in Milpitas are always helping each other. I always have that family feeling working here,” said Zhang. “When the kids and their family have a hardship, I see the staff and teachers come together to help them at the district level. We help each other. I love working here.”

 

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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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