It’s been nearly 10 years since Santa Clara Unified Trustee Andrew Ratermann and former Trustee Teresa O’Neill started talking with the City of San Jose about the new schools that would be needed to support San Jose’s aggressive Northside growth plan.
“The plans did not include any schools,” recalled O’Neill. “The developers didn’t think any schools were needed. We educated them. Young tech professionals want to have children, and they want good schools.”
“We needed a plan in place for providing neighborhood schools in a fast-growing part of the district, so students wouldn’t have to continue to travel across 101,” said Ratermann. “That would also relieve pressure on our existing schools, and allow us to invest more in our existing schools, rather than overcrowding classrooms and scrambling to put more classrooms on those campuses.”
Last Friday, the results of the collaborative effort between SCUSD and San Jose came to fruition when the California Department of General Services handed SCUSD Superintendent Stan Rose and San Jose Director of Parks and Recreation Julie Edmonds-Mares deeds for the 81-acre former Agnews Developmental Center. The transfer took place at a special ceremony Sept.12 at the Zanker Road property.
SCUSD contributed $64 million for what will be a 60-acre campus for K-8 and high schools, and San Jose contributed $16 million to buy 21 acres that will be a new regional park – one of that city’s largest. SCUSD’s part of the land purchase was financed by proceeds from a 2010 bond. SCUSD includes a sizable part of North San Jose – a legacy from the 1964 unification with the Alviso school district, now Trustee Area 1. Enrollment from that area is expected to grow by 1,200 by 2023.
“I give my thanks to [former SCUSD Superintendents] Steve Stavis and Bobbie Plough for paving the way,” said Rose. “Now we’re going to take it home. We want to thank all of you who signed a petition [for the state to sell the land to the district], and Kathy Watanabe who led that drive.”
Rose was joined by SCUSD Trustees Jim Canova (who represents the area on the SCUSD board), Albert Gonzalez, Ratermann and Michele Ryan, as well as many of the district staff and O’Neill.
There was reason to celebrate that day because the road to get there wasn’t an easy one. “The difficulty of two government organizations coming together to negotiate with a third governmental agency cannot be overstated,” said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.
Getting the state to sell the state-owned land for public use, rather than private development, literally took an act of law, brought forward by State Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. San Jose Council Member Kansen Chu was active in developing the plan and building San Jose support. Canova visited Sacramento several times to advocate for the district’s needs.
Congressman Mike Honda – himself a former South Bay teacher, principal and school board member – made a personal phone call to Governor Jerry Brown to advocate for the SCUSD/San Jose plan. “I remember when Jim Canova came into our office asking for support,” said Honda’s Deputy District Director Edwin Tan. “Jim is a hard man to say ‘no’ to.”
“These are going to be 21st century schools from the ground up,” said Canova. “For Alviso and Rivermark students, this will be their home high school. Cisco – right next door – has already shown interest in an educational relationship with our schools, and we hope to see other tech companies join them. We’re going to get national – international – recognition for these schools.”
Construction is expected to begin in 2016, and will be financed partially by money raised by the proposed Measure H bond issue on November’s ballot.