original article published July 31, 2021 by the Milpitas Beat
In November 2018, the citizens of Milpitas passed Measure AA, one of the largest school district bonds in the city’s history, at a whopping $284 million, with the largest voter margin in the city’s history, at 71%. Some would attribute this overwhelming show of support by the community for education funding to efforts by district leadership to create a culture of collaborative ingenuity and inclusion.
More specifically, it may come down to the guidance of the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) under Superintendent Cheryl Jordan, whose 5-year tenure began with a set of strategic goals for the future, including building a “Culture of We” and identifying creative, student-focused strategies to accommodate enrollment growth and ensure healthy learning environments. In other words: invest heavily in all of our children’s futures by preparing them to be the Silicon Valley leaders of tomorrow. Says Jordan, “Just like the Sunnyhills neighborhood, we want this new campus to reflect the Milpitas mindset of strength and richness in diversity, with opportunity for all.”
Jordan’s philosophy is becoming reality in a big way with the development of the MUSD Innovation Campus, slated for completion in 2024. $66.8 million from Measure AA will be used to fund this high-tech project, a collection of schools and research centers that will most likely become a new hub of innovative thinking in Milpitas. The school district is seeking an additional $28 million through corporate and private donations to complete the full campus.
The design of the Innovation Campus includes 6 state-of-the-art, L-shaped buildings spanning a total of 96,000 square feet, complete with a theatre and an admin building. Programs will include new high school and alternative high school classes that will be dedicated to students, from grades 9th-12th, needing special guidance to help them become successful. The campus will be located at 1331 E Calaveras Blvd., where the old Ayer High School site and district offices currently reside.
Programs will also include an adult education center; STEAM labs for coding, AI, computer science, virtual design, and construction; Career Simulation labs to familiarize students with the legal, financial, manufacturing, and health industries; a Workforce Pathway Center; and Early Childhood Development Research Centers.
Says Jordan, “The premise of this campus will be that no time goes wasted. The buildings will be alive with learners from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. When we think about learning, it’s not just about going to college anymore. It’s that and so much more. Through corporate, municipality, and small business partnerships, we hope to offer all students at the Innovation Campus opportunities through apprenticeships, internships, and mentorships, while learning real life skills.”
MUSD has already developed partnerships with the City of Milpitas, San Jose State, and San Jose City College. And recently, local giant KLA, which has its headquarters in Milpitas, donated $750,000 to the project, securing naming rights to the STEAM Lab building for the next three years. Says KLA Executive Director Cindy Campbell, “MUSD is right in our backyard, so investing in state-of-the-art capabilities for local students makes perfect sense.”
Indeed, KLA has a history of collaborating with MUSD on high-tech projects, including a $100,000 gift to purchase Chromebooks during the pandemic, a $10,000 donation to Alexander-Rose Elementary in 2017 to sponsor the start of Science is Elementary in three kindergarten classrooms, and supporting other technology investments and programs over the past 15 years.
Says Campbell, “We created the KLA Foundation in 2007 to be the philanthropic arm of our company, to focus on education wellness and community enrichment. Of course, MUSD falls into both those categories. We’ve sponsored the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) program in the past, as well as the Milpitas Elementary Olympics.”
KLA has over 11,000 employees worldwide, with 2,500 of them at the Milpitas headquarters. They manufacture semiconductor inspection and metrology equipment, which gives companies like Intel the ability to inspect their silicon chips. Says Campbell, “We’re the quality control that’s brought into the semiconductor manufacturing process. Semiconductors are basically a chip with several layers, like a cake. Our tools inspect and make sure there are no defects—that all the strawberries are lined up correctly, if you will.”
In fact, the microscopes that KLA makes are extremely powerful. Powerful enough to view the DNA of a human hair. Or, as Campbell explains, “Imagine you’re in a satellite in space. If someone threw nickels all over San Francisco, our tools could find every one.” And since semiconductor chips are in practically everything these days, from cell phones to cars to appliances, it’s crucial that they work.
It’s a natural partnership, KLA and MUSD, with both entities focused on the future. But both Campbell and Jordan know that they will need other local businesses and organizations to join them on their mission to create compassionate, curious, creative thinkers. With practically $28 million still needed to complete the MUSD Innovation Campus, let’s hope that the business community potentially steps up. Otherwise, success will await at the end of a long and winding road.