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Approximately 50 people came together to join in “courageous conversations” during Milpitas Safety Table Talks, held in collaboration with the City of Milpitas and Milpitas Unified School District, June 2 at the Milpitas Community Center. The event was inspired by the County of Santa Clara Community Summit on Firearms and Safety, held by Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, on April 28.
“The strength of Milpitas is in its sense of community, and when we come together to understand one another’s perspectives, we can use that strength in working together as one to ensure safety in our schools, businesses, places of worship and assembly, and throughout our city,” Superintendent Cheryl Jordan shared as her vision for the day. “We will take this opportunity to come to the table and talk about what matters most to us, the well-being of every person in our Milpitas community.”
The morning kicked off with an icebreaker and table talk about community safety before transitioning into a panel of leaders, moderated by Superintendent Jordan, which included Cortese, Congressman Ro Khanna, California State Assemblymember Kansen Chu, Milpitas Police Department Chief Armando Corpuz, Milpitas Councilman Bob Nuñez, MUSD Board Vice President Chris Norwood, and Milpitas High School Principal Francis Rojas.
During the panel, participants were asked the following questions:
Each panelist shared their remarks about their roles, particularly in how they relate to the Milpitas community and bettering the lives of those most affected by safety.
“Milpitas High School School is the center of this community,” Principal Rojas said. “We are probably the largest organization in the community with over 200 adult staff members and 3,300 youth who this community entrusts the school district to educate and to protect. Participating in this panel, I really want to be able to listen to everyone here about their perspectives on community and school safety, and to be able to look at our policies and practices at the high school and districtwide to see if we can improve safety for all of us, both staff and students in our schools. We serve over 10,000 students here and our children are our future, our children are … Safety is of utmost importance to all of us as parents.”
Norwood, a Milpitas resident for more than 40 years, with two children of his own, echoed similar sentiments.
“As a long time resident in the city of Milpitas and being on the board, which we have a diverse board, I have been very proud of the fact that our board has dialogued just like this,” he said. “… Milpitas has a lot of great connections. If you look at the esteemed panel that we have here, it’s a representation of the county and at the federal level in terms of who we have access to. So when I think about us coming together today as a community, I think about the conversations that we have as a school board and us having dialogue, and the opportunity to bring that conversation wider underneath the vision of our Superintendent and the Culture of We, underneath all of the residents that I’ve known for a very long time.”
In thinking about safety, Norwood said he thinks about a few different things.
“I think about our buildings, our children, our teachers, our parents. Their ability to walk into our buildings and to feel safe, that our infrastructure is solid. I think about access and egress in terms of how our students get to campus and once they’re there, that they’re secure. And then in the event that something unfortunate happens or is going on, they have the ability to be in safe places and get out of those buildings safely. … I think about our staff, student training and their awareness. There’s a lot of education that needs to go on, not just with adults.”
Chief Corpuz admitted that “being safe largely starts with being free of free when you’re out in the community.”
“I want to take the opportunity to say that for us in the police department, fire department, public safety as a whole, for us to be effective in the community as a whole in our roles is to be well trained, well equipped, well staffed,” he said. “And it’s a privilege to work in this city because we are well trained, well staffed, well supported. … We have a city manager, city council, city staff and community that have been highly supportive of public safety. And when you allow us to work in that environment with those resources we are more effective at what we’re doing.”
County Supervisor Cortese acknowledged that the dialogue happening in the room wasn’t “warm and fuzzy” but part of a microcosm and a model for what needs to keep happening.
“When you can put us in a room without an aisle that separates us, when we can put you at tables without aisles that separate you based on the viewpoints that you came in with, it is hugely important,” he said. “...Labeling people leads to ostracism and ostracism leads to anger and violence and fear. … Please continue to promote this kind of thing and let’s continue doing this.”
Following the panel, the day continued with a table talk about school safety, lunch, and another table talk with participants topic of choice: support services, places of assembly/worship, firearms, and safety in the workplace.
Facilitators reported out on the discussion, deemed a success for those in attendance.
“I’m very excited about this,” Norwood said. “I’m very excited about all the different community members, community leaders coming together and having courageous conversations, table talks, and setting the example for who and what Milpitas is. … I’m hoping that this group can continue to renew that spirit and do outreach into your circles of influence and share this was a really powerful day be willing to give them feedback. And when we continue to do these things in partnership with the city, that these audiences continue to grow and the messages begin to permeate about what Milpitas is anchored in: Respect, dignity, honor.”
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NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING:
The governing board of Milpitas Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.