SJECCD's Historic Partnership with Milpitas Unified

Editorial: Path-breaking collaboration brings college level courses for Milpitas High students, adults

Source:  San Jose Mercury News - Milpitas Post 3/28/14

Milpitas had dreams, a half-century ago, that it would be the site of a community college. Despite several well-intended efforts over the years nothing seemed to take. Now, at long last, we stand on the threshold of seeing that dream fulfilled.

The efforts of Milpitas Unified Superintendent Cary Matsuoka and San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Chancellor Rita Cepeda have matured to the point where the elected boards of each district have gotten on board for guidance. Students and parents here have been surveyed and other key educators have weighed in.

Two weeks from now (April 16 at 7 p.m. in the Thomas Russell Middle School gym) parents, neighbors and the community at large will have their chance to get questions answered and voice their feedback.

It is an historic partnership in many respects.

Milpitas has been a taxpaying part of the San Jose-Evergreen College district since just after World War II. The earliest dreams of a campus here were shot down by the state authorities, even though the district had acquired a 70-acre site chosen when the Parktown subdivision was first approved by the city. It was ordered that the Evergreen campus would get building priority and Milpitas had to be told to wait. There were abortive interim efforts. One included setting up in the shut-down buildings of the Samuel Ayer High School site (now district offices and city sports facilities) a series of courses from the college. After a few years money ran short and the project was abandoned.

Since 2011, four courses have been offered in spaces at crowded Milpitas High School using the fifth period of the school day which gave students the chance over two semesters to pick up 12 college credits. Most popular were enrichment humanities courses rather than hard sciences and math.

Back in 2004 the college district floated a $184-million bond issue, which included a pledge to augment services to Milpitas. This community supported that bond issue as it has other such measures over the years.
Now a decade later it appears that a realistic plan is taking shape to accomplish that. The concept calls for $10 million of the bond issue to pay for a classroom building on three or four acres of land surplus to the Thomas Russell site, across from the high school campus. The school district's contribution is the land currently valued at nearly $8.5 million.

The project has enthusiastic backing from all of the Milpitas and college district trustees. A detailed survey of parents and adults here shows an equal measure of support. More than 90 percent favor the plan, with 70 percent indicating they too would like to take courses. More than 60 percent of business and industry here told surveyors they have trouble finding qualified members locally for their workforce.
Student feedback is still being tabulated but early results showed that 95 percent would or might take courses if the nearby center was operating.

Superintendent Matsuoka stressed at the joint board meeting recently that students might well seek courses in arts and humanities while parents see this as a needed enhancement of marketable career skills such as access to science, technology and math.

All agree that a balance must be struck in the curriculum.

After public feedback and completion of environmental and traffic impact studies, the partnership can be signed, lease of the land settled and the construction project can be launched. Milpitas and its college district will embark on a true 21st century Education Center tailored to the technical innovations of our valley as well as broadening learning horizons for all of our young people.

It will be an experiment that could put Milpitas on the innovations-in-education national map. All parties involved deserve congratulations on being creative as well as willing to dare taking a new direction.

SJECCD Press Release