Now on Oracle's Campus, $43 Million Public High School

Previous Topic Next Topic
classic Classic list List threaded Threaded
2 messages Options
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view

Now on Oracle's Campus, $43 Million Public High School

Jerry Becker
Now on Oracle's Campus, $43 Million Public High School
>From The New York Times, Sunday, December 3, 2017. SEE
Now on Oracle's Campus, a $43 Million Public High School

By Natasha Singer

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif.  - Tech companies ship all kinds of products to public schools:
laptops, online writing programs, learn-to-code lessons and more. [SEE ]

Now Oracle, the business software services giant, is trying the opposite tack: bringing a public
charter school to the company.

At its lush campus with a man-made lake here, Oracle is putting the finishing touches on a $43
million building that will house Design Tech High School, an existing charter school with 550
students. The sleek new school building has a two-story workshop space, called the Design
Realization Garage, where students can create product prototypes. It has nooks in the hallways to
foster student collaboration.

And when the school moves here in early January, Oracle employees will be available to mentor
students in skills like business plan development and user-experience design.

"It's really cool that Oracle is doing this,"  said Matthew Silverman, 16, a junior at the school.  "We can have more opportunities to learn from experience. 

Putting a charter school  - that is, a publicly funded school that has its own school board and
operates independently  - on the campus of a tech giant is a new twist on the evolving relationship between big tech companies and schools.

Big Silicon Valley companies have been in a race to shape students' education and use schools to
train their next generation of workers. And companies like Ford Motor Company [SEE ], in
1916, and more recently, SpaceX [SEE ], have had trade or private schools on their premises. But until now, none has put public
school students a short walk from the chief executive.

Ken Montgomery, a co-founder and the executive director of Design Tech High School, said that early on some parents and school board members asked him:  "Is Oracle going to run the school?" 

Mindful of such concerns, Oracle and school executives said they had carefully worked out
policies governing their relationship in advance. The school will continue to operate
independently, they said, with Oracle playing no role in decisions like curriculum or faculty

The tech giant has made adjustments to make way for the students - like building a separate
entrance and bathroom at Club Oracle, its employee fitness center, to accommodate the school's
basketball team.

"Nobody has done anything like this before,"  said Colleen Cassity, the executive director of the
Oracle Education Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the company. The foundation oversees the
company's partnership with the school. [SEE  AND ]

Design Tech High School, known as, was founded in 2014 with the aim of steeping
students in design thinking, a creative problem-solving strategy popularized by Stanford
University's design school. It teaches students to empathize with people before trying to devise
solutions to their problems. [SEE ]

"It gives students a sense of optimism  - that the world can be a better place and they can play an
active role in shaping it,"  Mr. Montgomery said.

The high school opened with 139 ninth graders in a hallway of an existing high school in nearby Millbrae, Calif. The students' first assignment was to design the classroom layouts. Then they
painted the walls and built some of the furniture.

In that first year, Oracle's education foundation invited the school, along with other high schools,
to an event to generate new ideas for the nonprofit. The foundation soon teamed up with,
developing two-week coding, wearable technology and digital design courses that Oracle
employees could volunteer to teach.

The next year, Safra A. Catz, Oracle's chief executive, announced that the company would build a home for the school on 2 1/2 unused acres at its headquarters. Construction started in 2016. [SEE ]

Some parents and school board members initially worried that moving to Oracle's campus could
give the tech behemoth outsize influence over the school. After all, Oracle is best known for its
aggressive sales tactics and hypercompetitive founder, Larry Ellison  - not for charitable
endeavors. [SEE ]

"How do we make sure that we still have autonomy as a school?"  Mr. Montgomery said. "We are not just training kids to be Oracle employees or just using Oracle products." 

Oracle reassured the community by embracing the school's culture, rather than insisting on the

Using a design-thinking approach, Oracle challenged architectural firms to meet with some ninth
graders and faculty from to get their input before proposing concepts for the building. DES Architects & Engineers, a local firm that won the contract, later held small group sessions to
solicit ideas from students and parents.

"It was surprising on a number of levels as to how thoughtful, articulate and how vocal the ninth
graders were,"  said Dawn Jedkins, an associate principal at DES.  "They said:  'We don't want it
to look like a high school. We want that high-tech corporate look."

The curved, two-story school that resulted has a glass and metal facade that looks at home among Oracle's cylindrical glass office towers. [SEE ]

Along the way, Oracle and the school held numerous discussions to establish each side's role and

Oracle, which owns the land and the new building, plans to cover maintenance costs like
landscaping. It also obtained special licenses to enable its employee commuter buses to ferry
students. is paying Oracle $1 a year in rent and plans to cover operating expenses like
electricity and janitorial services.

Oracle has committed more than real estate to the school, prompting the company to develop
policies intended to protect students'interests, Ms. Cassity said.

Oracle's education foundation offers two-week courses and unpaid internships for students
several times a school year. Should students develop marketable ideas in class, they will have the
rights to the intellectual property.

"That would be wrong - to engage unpaid students in something that Oracle later profited from," Ms. Cassity said. "We are finding our way very carefully and very thoughtfully around how do we provide educational experiences for students where the focus is on really serving them."

Two ninth graders in a wearable-technology class came up with an idea for a  "pickpocket-proof
purse"  that would set off an alarm if someone other than its owner tried to open it. Oracle
employees subsequently contacted a lawyer who agreed to work pro bono to help the students
patent their invention, Ms. Cassity said.

Even with boundaries in place, education researchers cautioned that attending high school on a
tech company campus could alter students' education  - affecting their ability to think critically
about industry products and practices. Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at the
College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., warned that Oracle could use the school to groom future employees at taxpayer expense.[ ]

"I worry about the ethos of Silicon Valley being absorbed by young people at an important
developmental stage in their lives,"  Professor Schneider said.

Ms. Cassity described Oracle's education efforts as  "pure philanthropy."  She also acknowledged
that the company could benefit eventually by hiring graduates.

"Would we like to have the students be Oracle employees?"  she said.  "We would love that. But
there's no strings attached. 
A version of this article appears in print on December 4, 2017, on Page B1 of the New York
edition with the headline: A Public High School On a Tech Giant's Campus.
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Students at Design Tech High School after a day of coding and digital
design courses offered during a school intersession on the Oracle campus in Redwood Shores,
Calif. The students will soon move into a high school on the campus. Credit Laura Morton for
The New York Times
SIDEBAR PHOTO:  Oracle spent more than $43 million to build and outfit the school. Design
Tech High School is scheduled to move into the building in early January. Credit Laura Morton
for The New York Times
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Lauren Diehl, an Oracle employee, volunteered to work with Design Tech
High School students like Katie Brewster, middle, and Adelyn Chen in a course offered during a
school intersession last month. Credit Laura Morton for The New York Times
Jerry P. Becker
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Services
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
625 Wham Drive  /  MC 4610
Carbondale, Illinois  62901
Reply | Threaded
Open this post in threaded view

Re: Now on Oracle's Campus, $43 Million Public High School

Jerry P. Becker Posted: Dec 6, 2017 12:40 PM

From The New York Times, Sunday, December 3, 2017. SEE
Now on Oracle's Campus, a $43 Million Public High School

By Natasha Singer

$43 million?  No wonder Oracle can't get anything done.  This is how you found a school,
LA Unveils $578 Million School, Costliest In The Nation

LAUSD is not nearly as profitable as Oracle, but they have vision!

(To the language artists among us, this is known as irony.)