More than 100 students and their parents along with employees from Milpitas Unified came together to celebrate its learners during the fourth districtwide STEAM Showcase on March 4. The event showcased projects including 3D printing to the economics and ethics of producing man-made beef, printing organs, and robotics from students in kindergarten (our first from Randall participated this year) through high school from Sinnott, Weller, Randall, and Curtner elementary school to Thomas Russell Middle School and Milpitas High School.
“These students and their teachers were so excited to share their learning,” said Dr. Kimi Lynn Schmidt, an MUSD teacher on special assignment. The event was held in collaboration with MUSD and the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment.
“The idea was to really to provide an opportunity for students to show the community how they use technology at school,” Robert Jung, co-founder of the event, Board Member, and founder of the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment, said about creating the event. “The STEAM Showcase gives students the opportunity to share content from technology (ie. google suite), robotics, and art.”
He explained that all participants received a T-shirt, medal, and certificate of participation.
Robert thanked Kimi along with Yolie Garcia and Jennifer Rankin from MCEE along with sponsorships from Dr. Wadden Orthodontics, College Planning, ABC, and Realtor Debbie Giordano for making the event go off without a hitch.
“I believe it is important to offer students a venue to demonstrate to the community what they are learning, especially in technology. And, it doesn’t have to be competitive,” Robert said. “This event is in line with the MCEE mission of trying to get the community to get involved with our public schools.”
Editor's Note: This article was originally written for the campus newspaper, "The Union." Editorial staff have submitted the article for use in this edition of the District newsletter.
Outside of school, a whole world of extracurricular activities is available to students. Some students choose to volunteer, take classes, or participate in club activities. Others may choose to take time to study, tutor their peers, or play musical instruments. However, some students, like Junior Neil Sadhukhan, are writing novels in their spare time.
Sadhukhan’s novel is a young adult dystopian fantasy in which a large, unacknowledged and unseen country suddenly starts to fight and conquer long-standing kingdoms in the hopes of achieving world peace. The main storyline follows a group of orphans living in a newly-oppressed city who attempt to escape and unite the remaining kingdoms against the ever-growing fanatic country. Among other things, modern fiction and young adult novels provided inspiration for his novel.
“It’s inspired by modern fiction like The Hunger Games, elements of Harry Potter, and The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin; that was a big inspiration for me,” Sadhukhan said.
He began his project in the summer of eighth grade, when he wrote the prologue of a story without any intention of turning it into the major project that it has become. However, in the time period between the summer of his freshman year and the beginning of his sophomore year, Sadhukhan began to build on the small prologue, working on the story more seriously.
“(I was) setting word requirements and things with the intention of actually publishing the book,” Sadhukhan said. “The goal is before college, to get it published.”
In order to write the novel, Sadhukhan works to find a balance between school, writing, and sleep. While his days usually end at midnight with writing, he catches up on his unfinished homework at lunch and has lunch at home at the end of the school day.
Although the novel itself is Sadhukhan’s brainchild, his mother has helped him on the project by reading the chapters and giving him specific feedback on his writing and characters. Sadhukhan also attributes the realization of his passion for writing to his freshman English teacher, Mrs. Gutierrez. To him, the novel represents his first step towards realizing his true dream; to become an author.
“The career path that I’m choosing is engineering, for practical purposes. This book means a lot in that it’s a step towards what I want to do versus what my parents want me to do,” Sadhukhan said.
By Shannon Carr
Board Support & Communications Specialist
Approximately 40 students from Milpitas and Calaveras Hills high schools were among more than 200 from school districts around the county who attended the Santa Clara County Office of Education Annual 2017 WorkAbility Youth Job and Career Fair on March 17.
“It’s nerve wracking but it’s pretty fun,” Trinity Bocanegra, a junior from Milpitas High School said that morning. “I thought it would be fun to just get myself out there.”
When Trinity arrived with the other Milpitas students that morning, they convened in a smaller room with Elyde Torres, Career Services Coordinator with Expandability from Goodwill Silicon Valley. Elyde walked the students through everything they needed to know in order to be prepared for the job fair that followed. This included asking how many students brought a resume that day to sharing how to dress for a job fair or interview (asking those who modeled the right attire that day to stand up); having volunteers participate in a mock interview, emphasizing the importance of smiling, eye contact, and a firm handshake; encouraging students to know what type of job they want before applying; and sharing the importance of follow-up phone calls.
Following the meeting, the students were released to the event, which offered students a chance to put their practice into action.
“This has been such a phenomenal experience every year for these kids,” said Suzanne Moffett, a Special Education teacher at Milpitas High School.
The event offers students an opportunity to learn job interview skills, get professional assistance with resumes and cover letters, and interview with Bay Area employers including Safeway, City of Milpitas, Home Depot, and Shoreline Amphitheatre.
“This year, this has been a very good experience watching these kids,”Suzanne said, added that each students’ assignment that morning was to speak with at least three employers and she was impressed by the enthusiasm she was witnessing.
Employees from the Shoreline Amphitheatre table pinpointed student Vinh Huynh when he walked into the fair, dressed in a black suit and carrying a portfolio, saying he was “dressed for success.” Within 30 minutes, he was hired on the spot.
“This is a great way to connect students to opportunities,” said Bill Allen, Guest Services Manager with Shoreline Amphitheatre. Just one hour into the fair, he shared his excitement for hiring four Milpitas students that day. Those who were at least 16 years old had job opportunities as ticket takers at the front gate and for for those 18 and older, there were job assignments as an usher or part of the security team.
While Milpitas students have participated in the annual fair for five years, Suzanne shared her pleasure in how Annette Rodarte, Vocational Specialist with Milpitas High School’s WorkAbility program, has enabled any special education student that was interested in practicing applications, introducing themselves with a handshake, and and participating in mock interviews with Cisco staff beforehand.
“It’s a confidence builder just having a mock interview before they get here,” Suzanne said, “because they know how to project their voice, and give a firm handshake as opposed to a weak handshake.”
Annette said setting special education students up for multiple ways to succeed at a job fair is important, especially given the unemployment data. In 2015, 17.5 percent of persons with a disability were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65 percent.
WorkAbility is a California school and community transition program working to benefit student, employers, and the community at large by providing secondary special education students transition services and the opportunity to obtain marketable job skills while completing their education.
By Shannon Carr
Board Support & Communications Specialist
Danny Lau, Vice President of the Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education, passed away on March 20 following a serious illness.
“Danny’s passing is heartbreaking; he was a member of our MUSD family who dedicated much of his time to the success of our staff and students,” Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said that afternoon. “He sought excellence for kids, and knew that his part came in nurturing that in all with whom he worked. Danny was the kind of leader who illuminated the capacity and strengths in others. I will greatly miss Danny, and am grateful for his example of unassuming yet determined leadership.”
She emphasized Mr. Lau is an integral piece of the school district, which serves more than 10,000 students from Transitional Kindergarten through 12th grade.
Board President Daniel Bobay, who was first elected in 2008, has served beside Mr. Lau since he was appointed in 2011.
“We are very saddened by the passing of Danny Lau,” Bobay said. “He was the Vice President on our Board and we committed earlier this year to working to make the board and school district more stable in support of our Superintendent. For our friend and for his family, ‘We will miss you Danny Lau.’”
Mr. Lau, 59, has lived in Milpitas for more than 35 years, and has always been active in school and the community at large. He was sworn in by Superintendent Karl Black on March 15, 2011 after longtime trustee Mike Mendizabal unexpectedly announced his resignation, effective January 31 of that year. Mr. Lau ran again in 2012 to keep his seat, and was re-elected in 2014 to a four-year term.
"I just feel so grateful and want to thank all the voters out there who supported me and continue to trust me to do the right thing for their school district,” Mr. Lau said in an article that was published during the 2014 election (Milpitas Post, 2014). “My campaign has always been about trust, integrity and experience and the voters apparently said yes, and trust me to do a good job."
At that time, Mr. Lau shared his hopes to continue improving communication between parents and the school board, and increasing parent engagement and the involvement of local businesses in the district.
District leaders, including Wendy Zhang, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, reflected on Mr. Lau’s longstanding impact on the Milpitas community by sharing the many efforts he has supported and helped lead since joining the Board of Education.
She shared that Mr. Lau has been part of a Board which, among its efforts, has been instrumental in opening the community college extension facility between the District and San Jose-Evergreen Community College District in February; establishing a family resource center at Randall Elementary School in November; replacing the Milpitas High School track in 2016; opening the new aquatics facility at Milpitas High School in 2014; the passage of Parcel Tax Renewal, Measure C in June 2014; the passage of bond proposition Measure E in June 2012, a $95 million general obligation bond that enabled the school district to make much needed improvements to its aging facilities and begin the journey of developing a new elementary school; and the departure of a superintendent.
“Danny supported all instructional programs,” Norma Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Development, recalled. “He was a champion of public education and held the site leaders (Principals) to high esteem.
She specifically cited his love of music, technology, and innovation, saying: “He was excited about the possibilities personalized learning presented to our students and to closing the gap. He was concerned about the social and emotional being of all of our students and was committed to having our parents partnering with us and fully engaged in their children's education.”
In addition, Rodriguez said Mr. Lau was a strong supporter of the Dual Immersion program at Randall and wanted the District to start a Mandarin language program within the District.
“He wanted our district to be the best in the Bay Area in delivering innovative programs and reaching excellence in everything we undertake,” she said. “He was unapologetic for having high standards for all of us and always expected our best.”
Among his many other contributions to the District, Mr. Lau has been a board representative for the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, Milpitas Sister Cities Commission, City of Milpitas/MUSD Communications Subcommittee, voting representative on the County Committee on School District re-organization, and member of the Community Board of Advisory Council.
Before joining the Board of Education, Mr. Lau volunteered for 17 years years as a school board member for the non-profit Milpitas Community Chinese School (Smart Voter Biography, 2012). During that time, he learned about school issues such as budgeting, hiring/training teachers, parent communication, developing curriculum, working with volunteers, and planning events. Previously, he served as an officer on a school's Parent Teacher Student Association and School Site Council.
By Shannon Carr
Board Support & Communications Specialist
Students at Calaveras Hills High School spent four-and-a-half weeks engineering endless possibilities for their future through FlexFactor, a four-week entrepreneurship program offered by NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute.
“NextFlex is in the business of facilitating and enabling the advanced manufacturing sector and one component of that is workforce development,” said Emily McGrath, Deputy Director for Workforce Development, Education, and Training with NextFlex. “So what we’re doing is looking at the advanced manufacturing sector and predicting what their workforce development needs are or what their workforce will be and creating a pipeline that will meet those needs, and that starts in high school. Exposing high school students to education and career pathways that they wouldn’t necessarily know about otherwise.”
The project -- offered to students in Sridaya Mandyam-Komar’s “Intro to Engineering” classes -- was done in collaboration with the City of Milpitas, Evergreen Valley College, and Flex (previously Flextronics).
"It has been an amazing experience for our students at Cal Hills,” Sridaya said. “We are a continuation school, an alternative school. Many times, our students are focused on recovering credits that they need and miss out on the extra opportunities."
Students kicked off their experience on February 9 with a tour of the manufacturing facility at Flex, where they had the opportunity to touch and feel the cutting edge, wearable, flexible electronic products. During the second half of the day, students received their project assignment at NextFlex. There, student teams brainstormed their ideas for a health monitoring product they were asked to develop and conceptualize in the weeks that followed.
On February 15, the project took another momentous step, when the students experienced college. Evergreen Valley College was generous in opening their doors, having students receive a lecture and tour of the state-of-the-art automotive tech program and receive their first in a series of lectures from Cecil Lawson, who visited Cal Hills in the following weeks to teach them about Entrepreneurship. Dean Lena Tran gave the students an informative presentation about financial aid and what the college offers.
Students were also partnered with mentors from Flex as another layer of depth during the course of the project.
Sridaya shared her gratitude for the many opportunities the students have gained as a result of FlexFactor.
"It is all about exposure to what’s out there, being able to gain confidence as an entrepreneur, being able to say, ‘No matter what I pursue, I know how to position myself as the value proposition,’ and being in touch with real-world technology right now,” she said. “Those are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for our students.”
The culminating event of the project was held on Thursday (March 16), when student groups delivered nine powerful “Final Pitch” presentations for their project to a packed Board Room including their peers, Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, Board President Dan Bobay, Board Member Robert Jung, Vice Mayor Marsha Grilli, Milpitas Economic Director Edesa Bitbadal, Milpitas Economic Development Specialist Daniel Degu, Cal Hills Principal Carl Stice, and Assistant Principal Karisa Scott. Following each presentation, staff from NextFlex provided feedback and asked questions for the students to consider in further developing their product.
Among the projects shared that day was Frost, clothing that would incorporate patches of cooling technology to prevent heat strokes and reduce stress; Maternity Pants, pants that would monitor pregnancy and alert expecting women about possible complications; Epi-patch, an adhesive, needle-free alternative to the Epi-pen; and Alz Glasses, a two-product design including a patch that pairs with an optical headset (glasses), which would allow people with Alzheimers to receive meal and medication reminders, facial recognition, and become stable during the distress that often arises with the medical condition.
Superintendent Jordan shared final remarks at the March 16 event, to not only thank the many people who brought the partnership to life but particularly acknowledge the students involved in the experience.
“I was so excited when Brynt Parmeter from NextFlex spoke to myself and former Mayor Esteves about this potential project that they had just completed for the first time with Lincoln High School,” she recalled. “I rushed right over to Mr. Stice because I knew that our Cal Hills’ kids were the perfect group of kids for this project. Because each one of you is somebody with great potential and I want you to see that in yourselves, and I think that going through this for the last month, you probably do. … Because you aren’t in a box just because you’re at Cal Hills; you’re at a place of opportunity. And you have a community of people that believes in each one of you, and we want you to succeed and to realize your dreams. Look at this as an opening of what your future can be.”
At its meeting on March 14, the Board recognized Bob and Linda Gray, a “dynamic duo” of volunteers at Joseph Weller Elementary School, who will receive a Crystal Bowl Award during the Junior League of San Jose’s 48th annual volunteer recognition luncheon on April 28 in Santa Clara. They will be honored as one of 10 volunteers at the luncheon, for their service at Weller in addition to in the community at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Milpitas and the library.
Kindergarten teacher Kindergarten teacher Susan Von Tersch nominated Bob and Linda. Susan alongside kindergarten teacher Kristi Hirano shared why the Grays have been wonderful volunteers since Linda began volunteering eight years ago.
“Mrs. Gray has not only been a grandmother to the children, but she has been a loving mother, she has been a teacher, she has helped, we’ve calculated, over 500 kindergarteners get ready for first grade,” Susan said. “She loves them, she is a joy. She gives them laughter, silliness. She has a loving heart and listening ears to those kinders who will say, ‘Mrs. Gray, a long time ago when I was four’, and she will listen with a beautiful, loving smile. She is present with them, and that’s a great volunteer, just being present… She has wiped many noses, she has tied many shoes, she has dried many tears, she has received many hugs.”
Mrs. Gray began volunteering at the school because she lived in the neighborhood, but her grandson lived in Nevada so she wanted to be around children who were her grandson’s age, and she also wanted to give back to her community.
About four years ago, when Mr. Gray was thinking about retiring, his wife asked how the teachers felt about him joining her volunteer efforts at Weller. The following year, Bob joined the kinder community and fit right in, Kristi said.
“He’s been retired for about three years now, after being an engineer. Now he’s with children,” Susan said. “Mr. Gray has a quiet, calming personality which is really perfect for those wiggly kinders. Mr. Gray has also brought a lot of his engineering experience and his expertise to all of our SEAL units. It’s so wonderful to see all the children being so engaged with Mr. Gray as he built a weather station for them and, just last week, showed them the garden that he built.”
Kristi concluded: “I think one of the most remarkable things about both of them is they are willing to dedicate so much time and energy to the children and the school where they don’t have any children attending, so I think that says a lot about them individually.”
Editor's Note: This article was originally written for the campus newspaper, "The Union." Editorial staff have submitted the article for use in "Campus Connections," Milpitas Unified School District's bi-weekly newsletter.
By Harriet Do and Katherine Hubeny
While many people spent January 21 taking the SATs, a number of Milpitas High School students and faculty participated in the San Jose Women’s March to support immigrants’ and women’s rights in light of the recent presidential inauguration. At the Women’s March, approximately 25,000 participants took part in the march and rally.
The Women’s March began with the master of ceremonies, who started a few chants at the city hall, according to junior Tsegenet Awoke. Participants then marched from the City Hall to the Cesar Chavez plaza, about a 0.7 mile walk, where there were multiple speakers, Awoke added.
“The experience at the Women’s March in San Jose was generally positive,” Awoke said. “We were surrounded by a lot of women, and men too, who had a hope within them and wanted to fight for what they thought was right.”
Among the 25,000 people in attendance was also junior Yen-Vy Ngo, who decided to go because she wanted to march and celebrate the humans rights that everyone should continue to have, Ngo stated.
“It was very uplifting to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people because there were over 25,000 people walking around,” Ngo said. “And you could see that everyone who was walking really cared and was really supportive.”
At the march, there was a variety of speakers who shared their own stories and conveyed their thoughts on current issues, Ngo explained. It was inspiring to hear the different stories, and how different experiences can bring the world together, Ngo added.
“I learned that hardships can bring people together, such a big diversity of people together,” Ngo said. “Because there were such diverse people who all supported the same thing.”
Psychology Teacher Lisa Gable also attended the march and felt very supported in her beliefs, Gable said. The march was positive and upbeat; men and women of all colors were talking to each other about their signs and what they thought and meant, Gable continued.
“I wasn’t alone in my beliefs; there are a lot of us,” Gable stated. “So many people marched all over the country, and I felt like this march had some value, and I think it’s the beginning steps of a resistance.”
The Women’s March is a movement that should continue to progress, according to Gable. The unity among the collection of people affirmed the support of certain issues, Gable said.
“What we need to do is hold our (parties), for me I’m a Democrat, so my Democratic Party accountable to me,” Gable explained. “Also, to have (the party members) know that they have my support when they battle for and fight for the values that I think are important.”
It was encouraging to meet people who had similar ideas, according to Gable. The positive environment of the march was a motivation to those in attendance, Gable continued.
“I thought about (why I decided to go), and I decided that I can’t be quiet and just let our democracy be taken over the way it seems to be being taken over,” Gable said. “I can’t allow those things that I feel are antithetical to what our society should believe or does believe be stripped from us.”
Nonviolent protest is essential to democracy, and it is important to speak up about issues, according to English Teacher Sanjit Roy. Many people of all colors, ages, and genders participated in the march, and the group was very diverse, Roy stated.
“There were so many men that I didn’t feel anything,” Roy said. “Even though the march was called a Women’s March, it was much bigger than one issue. People spoke about rights of immigrants and other issues.”
Hon Lien proudly describes her four-year appointment in late December as that of a “selfless public servant” for the Board of Education.
“I have served as a trustee of Lincoln Law School for over seven years,” she explains. “I understand that the Board’s involvement and decisions greatly affect the success of a school.”
Because Hon knows first-hand her role has the opportunity to directly impact the work of MUSD teachers, principals, and, ultimately, students, she shares the need to approach her work through multiple perspectives. Meaning she not only taps into her experience as a trustee, but that of a mom and active community member.
“Having four children grow up and attend school at different levels helps me see the needs for our children and guides me to serve as a Board member,” she said. “I also served as President of Milpitas Rotary Club. That led to my decision to serve on the Board of Education, where I can help with education and training for our younger generation to cope with the rapid changes in science, technology, and other fields.”
Hon has many goals in mind for her time on the Board. She hopes to help prepare students for advancement in society and careers, noting her passion to oversee the implementation of science and technology growth in curriculum across Milpitas.
She would also like to increase parent-teacher communication to promote parent participation in each child’s education in addition to bringing in involved members from the community to help establish a more diverse and effective Board.
After just a few months, Hon said her interaction on the board and with the schools is giving her a broader perspective in the education of Milpitas students going forward.
“I now better understand the challenges that MUSD faces in fulfilling its mission, how it works with the local, state, and federal authorities to get funding and supports for our children,” she said.
By Amanda Montoro
Fourth grade teacher at Alexander Rose Elementary School
Fourty-three excited students experienced the great outdoors Saturday, March 4 when the Milpitas Rotary Club sponsored them for the 19th Annual Fishing in the City event.
Two fish were caught by patient fisherwomen: Viridiana Falcon and Grace Liu. The barbecue, enjoyed by all, assured that no one went home disappointed.
Special thanks to Officer Eric Emanuelle and Superintendent Cheryl Jordan for making this trip possible for our kiddos.
Come join us at 2p.m. - 5p.m. on Sunday, March 12, 2017, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.