Silicon Valley execs lend learning hand via school philanthropy

As state funding for California schools decreases, a growing number of Silicon Valley leaders is pitching in.

Former eBay CEO and 2010 California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman announced Tuesday that her foundation will invest $2.5 million into the tech-centered Summit Charter School system. The Whitman- Harsh Family Foundation also will match contributions worth up to another $2.5 million.

“With success comes responsibility,” Whitman said in an interview. “Every day here in the Valley, venture capitalists are looking to put money behind the next big startup. I challenge them to put money behind an organization that will ensure we have the innovators, the entrepreneurs and the workforce to keep that tradition alive.”

Other deep-pocketed Silicon Valley executives — including Skype’s Jonathan Chadwick, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg — also have put millions of dollars into computer-heavy education, such as that offered by Rocketship charter schools.

There are currently four Summit High Schools, including two in Redwood City. Whitman’s grant will help launch 10 more from San Jose to South San Francisco by 2021, Summit founder Diane Tavenner said.

Whitman said she chose Summit, which Newsweek magazine ranks among the top 100 public high schools in the nation, because they are “working.”

Summit’s secret is high expectations, student teacher ratios of 25-to-1 and “a ton of academic support for students,” said David Richards, principal of Tahoma Summit Public School.

Ninth grader Brianna Betancourt, who said she plans to attend UC Davis, said more wealthy people should step up to the plate like Whitman.

“It’s not fair that they have millions of dollars and waste it on useless stuff,” Betancourt said. “They should really try to help.”

Summit guidelines

– Each grade has no more than 100 students.
– Teachers all graduated in the top 20 percent of their class at college.
– Kids stay after school on Fridays until they complete all their homework.
– Students take six advanced placement classes
– Spend two-months intensively focusing on career and life exploration.
– Students spend half the day on the computer
– Students are fed breakfast
– Student-teacher ratio is 25:1

Source: Summit Public Schools

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