Today’s Silicon Valley Education Foundation was born in 1998 when a grassroots community group in San Jose’s Franklin-McKinley School District formed what was called the “Fair Exchange” project. The group represented residents in the neighborhood around J.W. Fair Middle School who came together to provide support and intervention services to local families. A $150,000 gift from Avant! Corporation enabled Fair Exchange to develop a school-based neighborhood center offering everything from medical and dental care to after-school programs, drug and alcohol prevention and truancy programs to at-risk families. Services grew to include the adjacent Santee neighborhood.
In early 2000, the Fair Exchange project expanded to embrace several educational initiatives and officially incorporated as the Franklin-McKinley Education Foundation. A board of directors was elected. The following year, Muhammed Chaudhry was hired as executive director. The foundation’s first home was a portable behind Fair Middle School on McLaughlin Avenue near Story Road and Highway 101.
In 2001, the First 5 California project awarded the foundation a $500,000 grant to deliver school readiness services. A Safe Schools Healthy Students Initiative was created and Program Coordinator Rene Ramirez was hired to manage a host of support services delivered to K-8 students and families in the Franklin-McKinley District. Foundation staff grew from 4 to 12 people.
Two years later, a $2.1 million Knight Foundation grant was awarded to the foundation, allowing it to further expand its education services and mission. The money helped create a centralized hub for school readiness activities in the Solari/Seven Trees neighborhood, reaching out to 600 Latino and Vietnamese immigrant families by providing education and child care services. A restructuring of the foundation board followed.
In 2006, then San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who had promised to create a citywide education foundation to help schools, joined forces with the Franklin-McKinley Education Foundation and helped transform it into the San Jose Education Foundation.
The San Jose Education Foundation focused on improving public schools in San Jose through partnerships with the business, civic and education sectors. A year later in 2007, a separate education foundation, the Santa Clara County Education Foundation, was formed that concentrated on arts education, special education inclusion, alternative education and technology. It was operated out of the Santa Clara County Office of Education.
The two foundations, realizing they had similar missions, merged in February 2008 to create the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, with Chaudhry as president and CEO. As part of the launch, the Knight Foundation gave a second grant of $1.7 million to create programs that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Cisco contributed $800,000 in cash and product grants to help SVEF create the open source software tool for schools called “Lessonopoly.”
The new foundation moved its cramped offices from the Franklin-McKinley School District on Wool Creek Drive to the spacious Sobrato Center for Non-Profits at 1400 Parkmoor Avenue, in San Jose. SVEF leaders declared that the foundation will be the only organization dedicated solely to improving K-12 public education across Silicon Valley’s 34 school districts and that it would bring business and community leaders together to tackle education issues.
Today, SVEF has 14 board members reflecting a wide range of backgrounds, including education, the corporate sector and civic community. The foundation has 28 employees, assets of $6 million and an annual budget of $5 million.
SVEF hosts an annual fundraising event called Pioneers & Purpose (learn more) and honors a community leader who has given to education with its Pioneer Business Leader Award.