When Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Board Vice-President Chris Norwood put the word out about “The Future of Milpitas Education” event he was hosting, his call was answered by students, parents, educators, elected officials, and others throughout the community.
The date was last Thursday: October 4.
Dozens of guests gathered around tables in the Milpitas Library’s auditorium to listen to Norwood’s thoughtful presentation, wherein he cut right to the core of things, speaking on the values of Milpitas education while making those in the room feel they could actually shape and contribute to the current and future success of Milpitas students, along with the city’s educational system on the whole.
“I’d like you to understand that everyone in this room is an Ambassador for Milpitas education. The things that you hear…you’re going to have the opportunity to take back into the community, to share with your family and friends. We are a relationship-based nation. We see the social media, we read the news. But we realize we trust people we know more than anything else,” said Norwood, at the top.
But the evening wasn’t carried by talk alone; it was highly interactive. People had a chance to ask each other questions and engage in meet-and-greets at their tables. At one point, the audience members were even asked to take out their phones, navigate to a web link, and take a poll.
Minutes later, the poll results were shared live in the room, offering a snapshot of people’s opinions on education…
As one example, when asked who should fund our public schools, 54% voted for state government, 32% voted for federal government, 6% voted for private citizens and community, and 2% voted for county government.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was when several MUSD students, all from middle school and high school, got up one by one to speak on their own personal experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the state of education and the ways in which they hoped it would evolve.
Madison Gamble, an 8th-grader at Thomas Russell Middle School, highlighted the need for more of an independent learning style to prepare students for the future, as well as her idea for a Life Skills class that could serve as an elective. She also spoke of the importance of teaching Money Management, Communication, and Social Skills, as well as emphasizing the value of health and fitness.
Sixteen-year-old Vivek Chotai, a junior at Milpitas High who also currently serves as the MUSD student board representative, openly addressed the fact that he has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up:
“And I think that’s OK,” said Chotai. “Because who knows what will happen in the future? But one thing I do for sure want to be is humble and professional.”
He went on to talk about the need to teach kindness and morality to elementary school students, social equality to middle school students, and empathy and responsibility to high school students.
As the evening went on, Norwood spoke about all that was being done to address school safety, namely the implementation of an incident command system for emergency and disaster communication and management over the last few years; they’ve even had the Milpitas Police Department provide training on active shooter protocols to all managers, and the Milpitas Fire Department and City Safety Manager provide CPR and emergency response training. Norwood also cited plans to strengthen school safety in the months and years to come. An outside firm was recently hired to do a physical threat assessment of all MUSD schools, which has paved the way for some potential new safety protocols and plans.
Sergeant Bryan Hinkley, who has been with the Milpitas Police Department for over 18 years, spoke to the audience about just how seriously the Department takes safety in schools: “With our school resource officers working so closely with the district, and with us as a police department working so closely with the district, I think we can achieve those goals that Chris talked about, and provide that safety,” said Hinkley.
Milpitas Adult Education Principal Giuliana Brahim, along with other staff, got up and touched upon the value of adult education and learning:
“We believe that adult education is also the future,” said Brahim. “There are many things going on in Adult Education. It started many, many years ago when the Ford Plant was here, and Milpitas Adult Education was giving services to re-educate the workers to access other opportunities.”
At an earlier point in the evening, Norwood had asked the audience members to start thinking of and writing down questions about Milpitas education that he would take home with him, so as to work on formulating thorough answers.
At the event’s end, a list of questions flowed his way, among them:
What will be the safety precautions and improvements made for elementary school students at recess when school staff is minimal?
Why isn’t community service recognized in the summer?
What are you doing to get more parents involved?
When will there be more foreign languages offered in the school district (Mandarin/Hindi)?
Does MUSD have a K-12 Computer Science Initiative?
Have you considered bringing back school buses?
Norwood is now on the case, preparing to resurface with pointed, useful answers. In the meantime, he invites more questions. So if any readers of The Milpitas Beat would like to pose questions of their own, you can send them to: [email protected]
They will be passed on and answered in turn.