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Schools and Communities First: The Fight for California’s Future

Thursday, June 6, 2019 -
10:00am to 12:00pm PDT
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
2440 West El Camino Real, Suite 300 | Mountain View, CA 94040
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Schools and Communities First is a historic effort to reform Proposition 13 and restore over $11 billion a year for services that all Californians rely on like schools and community colleges, social services, libraries, and health clinics.  Conceived and championed by those communities most impacted by decades of disinvestment, Schools and Communities First is one of several opportunities for California for advance bold, long-term structural reforms rooted in equity and inclusion that can serve as a model for the rest of the country.  

Change of this magnitude requires a deep and expansive voter engagement strategy and a concrete narrative centered on a vision for racial, economic, environmental, and health equity in California.  Schools and Communities First offers an unprecedented opportunity to channel resistance into real political power.  Leaning on a robust public education campaign to shift California’s narrative from exclusion to inclusion and decades of experience expanding the state’s diverse electorate, a broad coalition of community-based organizations, labor, and local government have come together roll back 40 years of disinvestment in our schools and local communities.  As a critical partner in advancing equity throughout the state, philanthropy can play a pivotal role in achieving the goals of this initiative. 

Join us to learn: 

  • How Schools and Communities First will reinvest over $1.5 billion back into the South Bay and Peninsula and what that means for local communities; 
  • The role that local community-based organizations will play in building real political power among voters of color, young voters, immigrant voters, and low-income voters across the state; and
  • How funders can play a critical role in supporting the voter engagement efforts and public education campaign necessary to make Schools and Communities First as success.  


Derecka Mehrans, Executive Director, Working Partnerships USA

Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director at Working Partnerships USA, brings 19 years of community organizing, civic engagement, and public policy experience working in communities of color and with low- and moderate-income families.

Under Derecka's leadership, WPUSA has strengthened workers’ rights and wages through minimum wage and job protection campaigns in cities throughout Silicon Valley, including winning the groundbreaking Opportunity to Work initiative that helps part-time workers access more hours and benefits. In 2015, WPUSA co-founded Silicon Valley Rising, a coordinated regional campaign to inspire an inclusive tech-driven economy. So far, the SVR campaign has helped over 5,500 service workers in the tech industry organize for better wages and a voice at work.

As Working Partnerships USA's organizing director from 2008 to 2013, she was instrumental in developing organizing and campaign strategies to win policies improving the lives of workers and their families, including the 2012 minimum wage increase in the City of San Jose. She led the organization's non-partisan civic engagement programs building an organized base of more than 40,000 low-income communities of color in Silicon Valley, registering more than 14,000 voters and working to increase civic participation rates of voters of color and low-income voters in Santa Clara County.

Mehrens is the daughter of a union construction worker and a union community college teacher and is married with two young children. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a bachelor's degree in Sociology, History and International Studies.

Taryn Ishida, Executive Director, Californians for Justice 

As Executive Director of Californians for Justice, Taryn leads the organization to actualize its mission of racial justice by building the power of youth, communities of color, immigrants, low-income and LGBQ, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming communities. She provides leadership in program strategy, alliance building and policy, and organizational and fund development. She started as a volunteer with CFJ in 2002, and has since supported CFJ youth leaders to win local and state campaigns that have improved school climate and access to social emotional learning, strengthened equity and engagement in school funding, and increased civic participation among youth of color. Prior to CFJ she spent eight years in philanthropy at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Taryn sees public education as the system that can either interrupt or perpetuate racial inequality in our country, and believes that youth must be the ones to reimagine and lead that change. She is a proud alumni of Molokai High in Hawaii, home of the “fighting farmers”, where she benefited from the vibrancy and strength of being in a multi-racial school community. Outside of work Taryn likes to play tennis and force her toddler and family to spend quality time with her.

Sabrina Smith, Deputy Director, California Calls

As Deputy Director, Sabrina Smith oversees program development, staff management, technology, infrastructure, and strategic communications for California Calls. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization and stitches the program work together to enable the alliance to mobilize a base of 500,000 new and occasional voters.

Sabrina has worked with Anthony Thigpenn since 1997, leading alliance building, organizing, voter engagement and regional policy campaigns for AGENDA and SCOPE. Prior to California Calls, Sabrina worked as SCOPE’s Organizing Director. She has trained hundreds of organizers across the country in community organizing, power analysis, campaign development and work management.

Gina Dalma, Vice President of Government Relations & Special Advisor to the CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

In her role as special advisor to the CEO and vice president of government relations, Gina D. Dalma is responsible for leading SVCF’s ongoing lobbying efforts in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. SVCF’s California lobbying work is centered around education, affordable housing, immigration, equity and justice and economic security; in Washington, D.C., SVCF is a leading voice on topics that advance the philanthropic sector.

Gina was pivotal in the passage of the California Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, signed into law by Gov. Brown on Oct. 5, 2015, and sponsored by Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She serves as a member of the Council on Foundations’ Policy Committee, the League of California Community Foundations’ Policy Committee and Chair of its Housing Committee. She is a national expert on how philanthropy engages in public policy to drive impact.

Prior to her promotion to special advisor in 2015, Gina was SVCF’s director of grantmaking. In that role, she led the grantmaking team in using a diverse set of tools, including strategic investments, to solve our region’s most challenging problems. She also led SVCF’s education grantmaking strategy, as well as the Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative.

Prior to joining SVCF, Gina was director of innovation at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Before moving to the United States, Gina held several positions related to urban economic development and regulatory economics in the federal and state public sector in Mexico.

Judith Bell, Vice President of Programs, The San Francisco Foundation 

Vice President of Programs at The San Francisco Foundation, Judith brings extensive experience in strategic planning and policy development, with a focus on economic and social equity to the Foundation. Previous to joining the Foundation, Judith was the President of PolicyLink where she had been since its inception, becoming President in 2004. Her leadership helped ignite a new national narrative around access and opportunity for all people with a focus on improving health and infrastructure, including increasing access to healthy foods.