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.