View Washington Supporters’ PowerPoint Presentation to the City Council

In major win for the Washington community, Rocketship was unable to garner sufficient votes to approve the Rocketship Tamien project. In a 5-5-1 vote, Councilmembers Rocha, Campos, Chu, and Kalra voted against the troubled project, while Mayor Reed, Vice Mayor Nguyen, Councilmembers Herrera, and Constant sided with the charter applicant, with Liccardo abstaining. Xavier Campos and Donald Rocha lead the charge, moving the issue from a conversation on parent choice to a conversation on the actual issue at hand: land use. They argued that putting a Rocketship school on the publicly owned Tamien site was a poor fit for the community. Ash Kalra and Kansen Chu followed with concerns about traffic and density, with 600 kids crammed into a tiny 1.4 acre site. In a surprise move Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio voted against the project, noting that Judge Bondonno had instructed Rocketship to go back to the local school district for zoning approval instead of bypassing the local authority and going straight to the county. Councilman Oliverio argued on the basis of public policy, stating that he would only support the project after gaining approval by San Jose Unified.

Both the Superintendent of San Jose Unified, Vincent Matthews, and our board President, Pam Foley spoke on behalf of the community, expressing a need for a middle school and the poor fit of the proposed Rocketship Tamien site. Trustee Foley stated that education decisions should be made by the local school board, not by the City Council.

While Rocketship failed to achieve the 6 votes they needed to move forward with the project, the Washington community also failed to garner the 6 votes needed to outright kill the proposal. A fluid public conversation followed with a motion to defer added and then removed by Councilman Oliverio. In the end, the motion to defer passed without opposition, and the issue was deferred for an unspecified amount of time, most likely until August 2014. Oliverio stated that his support depended on gaining San Jose Unified’s approval. San Jose Unified is currently involved in litigation against Rocketship.

Hundreds of Washington supporters gathered in the City Hall Council Chambers wearing green shirts in opposition to the project. Dozens of parents, students, and community members spoke on the issue. About 30 supporters used their 1 minute public comment to present a PowerPoint presentation providing a powerful narrative on the issues with the Rocketship Tamien proposal.

We were proud of the presentations of both the Rocketship supporters and Washington supporters. A respectful, but passionate debate on the future of our community brought us to a sensible conclusion. We want to reach out and thank the Rocketship parents and students for their presentations, and look forward to healing the community wounds that this passionate debate has brought upon us.

Watch the Video Summary of the 4hr City Council Meeting

Washington Supporters gather at City Council in a sea of Green!


Our neighborhood is facing a large problem.  A (relatively) new charter elementary school called Rocketship has invaded.  We currently have two Rocketship charter schools in our small 8 block community in downtown San Jose.  At first, we were happy that Rocketship brought educational choices to our Latino community.  However, with time, we have seen Rocketship bring division and animosity.  They have aggressively recruited students and families from our local school, Washington Elementary, which has been in existence for almost 150 years.  In their zeal to fill multiple new schools in a small and static community, they have sparked community discord.

Now the city wants to build a 3rd Rocketship on public land at the Tamien train station.  We will then have 3 Rocketship elementary schools within an 8 block area, adding more than 2000 seats in a area where the population is decreasing (according to the 2010 census).  We have brought hundreds of people to City Council and Board of Education meetings, we have  written letters in English and Spanish, and nearly 500 people signed a petition in protest against the development of a 3rd Rocketship in our community.  However, our elected City Councilman, Sam Liccardo, is married to Rocketship’s head of community relations, and Rocketship has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into political campaigns. Rocketship primarily serves low income Latino residents, however, their leadership team and board of directors are mostly composed of affluent white people with fancy offices in distant Redwood City. Unfortunately, it seems that so far, money and political connections have been more powerful than dozens of eloquent speeches in Spanish to our elected officials.

The Voice of the community has been clear.

  1. The unanimous top priority of the community is a park. We don’t want a promise of a park, or the hope for the park, but we want an actual park. It should precede the use of the Tamien land for any other purpose. We would love to have a park with a full size soccer field, not the mini-field currently planned.
  2. If we must have a school on the Tamien site, it must be a school that primarily meets our communities needs. Our community has clearly articulated the needs for secondary schools. A school on this site should be a middle or high school (preferably high school), with a local charter that serves our immediate neighborhood.

The community has banded together to send out thousands of Flyers throughout San Jose to communicate our position.