Regular readers of this blog know of my great admiration and appreciation for the work of our NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg. One of Bloomberg's signature issues has been gun safety. When you ask Mike about this issue, he tells you that after a few visits to the wives and children of NYC police officers who have been shot and killed on their job, you get pretty worked up about this issue. And worked up he is.
Bloomberg and many of the urban mayors around the country have created the Demand A Plan organization to fight for gun safety. It is currently the leading gun safety group in the US.
Many leaders in the Internet/tech industry have been working with Demand A Plan over the past few days to kick off a large and sustained social media and regular media campaign to pressure our leaders to do something about the gun safety problem in our country. I have been involved in this effort and I support its goals completely.
I will update this post with additional efforts that launch today. Like the PIPA/SOPA efforts last year, this effort is diverse, distributed, chaotic, and hopefully effective and powerful. I am not aware of everything that is going on right now. There is a lot of activity out there. But I will try to stay on top of it today and keep you all up to date as well.
In addition to our Mayor, I would like to thank Ken Lerer, Ron Conway, and Eric Hippeau for their excellent leadership of the tech sector's work on this issue in the past few days.
In the six weeks since that post, a lot has happened and I want to give everyone an update.
First, and most importantly, we have a leader for the school. His name is Seung Yu. His first name is pronounced like sing. He's been in several new high schools working directly for the Principal waiting for his opportunity to lead a new school and now he has found it. I've been working very closely with Seung for the past four weeks and I'm really impressed with his passion and commitment and considerable talents.
We are now recruiting the first class of 9th graders. Today and tomorrow are big days as we will be at the citywide High School Fair at Martin Luther King Jr High School on the Upper West Side. The fair is on from 10am to 2pm both days this weekend and Seung and I will be there along with many of the folks on the school's advisory board. Next week on Tuesday night there is an open house for parents and students at Google's office and next weekend there is an open house for parents and students at NYU. And there is one more open house the following week at NYU. If you know any students who are going into ninth grade and are a fit for this school, please tell them and their parents to come to the High School Fair and the Open Houses. That's the best way for them to get into this school.
We also have a full blown web presence now. We have a website, a twitter, and a facebook page. I'd like to thank Sean Gallagher for his tireless and excellent work on all of our physical and virtual brand presence. Sean is creative, technical, and hilarious. His sense of humor and vision will be plastered on this school for many years to come.
I'd also like to thank AVC community member Larry Erlich who left a comment on that first post six weeks ago that he was gifting the school a handful of web domains. That was the gift that kept giving and giving. With Larry's help, we assembled a bunch of domains, decided to use afsenyc.org, and lit that one up. Larry has also helped with a bunch of stuff around getting our web presence live. He's an example of what makes this community so great and why it is such a force.
There are literally dozens of people in the NYC tech community who have given massive amounts of their time for this school. The advisory board has people on it from many of the big and small tech companies in NYC. It is led by Evan Korth of NYU who has become a full partner in this effort. Evan's research interest is K-12 computer science education and he's getting a real-time live immersion in that right now.
Finally, I need to call out the NYC DOE. It's easy to dismiss government as big, slow, dumb, bureaucratic, and ineffective. I know I've been guilty of that myself. But I have to tell you that the DOE has impressed me again and again in this effort. The folks we work with are smart, committed, decisive, and most surprisingly, they are risk takers. There are too many of them to mention here, but they know who they are and I am extremely grateful for their efforts to get this school off the ground.
I'll end with a video that the folks at Makerbot (also on the advisory board) put together to explain this school and what its all about to the parents and students who are considering it. Please pass this on to any 8th graders you know in the NYC school system that you think might like to go to a high school and learn how to make software.
A number of years ago, I wrote a blog post talking about the need to teach middle school and high school students how to write software. In the comments (where the good stuff happens), a Google engineer told me to go down to Stuyvesant High School and meet a teacher named Mike Zamansky who had taught him to write code in high school. So I did that and thus begun my education into the world of computer science education in the NYC public high school system. What I learned was that other than Mike's program at Stuyvesant and a few other small programs, there wasn't much. So began my quest to see more computer science and software engineering in the NYC public school system.
I want to personally thank the Mayor, his education team led by Dennis Walcott, and his economic development team led by Robert Steel for adopting an integrated set of technology, economic development, and education policies and then aggressively rolling them out city wide. The Academy For Software Engineering is just one part of a much bigger strategy of developing new industries and new jobs in New York City and making sure we have the education resources, both in K-12 and at the college/university level, to properly staff these new industries.
The Academy Of Software Engineering is not a "specialized school." It will be open to all students as part of the high school admissions process in NYC. The City's goal (and mine too) is to open up opportunities for many more students than the small number of specialized schools can deliver. Hopefully the curriculum that is developed and teachers that are trained at the Academy will get rolled out into high schools all over the city in the coming years.
The Gotham Gal and I have provided the initial financial support to hire a new schools team and recruit a top notch Principal. But we do not want to be front and center in this story. The team at the DOE and City Hall that has brought this school to life and the Advisory Board of educators and industry leaders (led by Evan Korth of NYU) should get way more credit for what has happened to date. And we will need more financial and industry support (as well as a fantastic Principal) to make this school a success. So if you would like to join us in this effort, please email me via the contact link at the bottom of this blog and let me know how you would like to help. This is an ambitious effort and we will need it.
Yesterday, Mike Bloomberg went to Washington and spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations on the topic of immigration reform. The text of the entire speech is here. I just read the whole thing and I'm encouraged and excited that the chorus for intelligent immigration reform has gotten louder. This quote was my favorite:
we must stop telling foreign entrepreneurs to build their companies in other countries
We have seen so many great entrepreneurs struggle with visa issues over the years that we were founding members of the startup visa movement. In his speech, Mike Bloomberg specifically called for passage of a startup visa provision:
A foreign entrepreneur with backing from American investors should be given a temporary visa to start a company in America. If after two or three years, the business has successfully yielded new American jobs, the entrepreneur should be allowed to continue to run his or her business and receive permanent legal status. We are a nation of entrepreneurs because we are a nation of immigrants and in the 21st century, the global economy will revolve more than ever around entrepreneurs.
But he didn't stop there. The Mayor of our fine city also proposed the following reforms:
– A green card stapled to a diploma:
We are investing millions of dollars to educate these students at our leading universities, and then giving the economic dividends back to our competitors – for free. The two parties should be able to agree on a policy that allows any university graduate, with an advanced degree in an essential field, to obtain a green card – and a chance to help us grow our economy. We must allow these students to stay here and be part of our future or we will watch our future disappear with them.
– More H1B visas:
right now, the cap on H1-B visas and green cards is much too low, and caps on green cards are set by country. So Iceland gets the same number of visas as India. That may be fair to each country, but it’s not fair to American businesses. We should end these arbitrary limits and end the cap on the high-skill H1-B visas. Let the market decide. It’s basic free-market economics – and both parties ought to be able to get behind it.
– immigration reform for agriculture and tourism:
we must ensure that major industries, such as agriculture and tourism, that rely on those workers just starting up the economic ladder have access to foreign workers when they cannot fill the jobs with American workers. These employers want a legal work force, but our current system makes that extremely difficult. Farmers have to go through multiple levels of approvals to do basic hiring, and in Georgia, where they have cracked down on illegal farm-workers, farm owners are experiencing severe labor shortages. That’s driving up their costs and leaving crops un-harvested. At a time when food prices are rising, this is the last thing American consumers – and farmers – need.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire speech. It's not long. Mike lays out a sensible and intelligent way to reform immigration laws without getting into the contentious issues that have held back immigration reform for many years. And if you agree with the Mayor, do everyone a favor and call your elected officials in Washington and tell them you are also for intelligent immigration reform (as opposed to comprehensive immigration reform). I've done that and it has helped. Getting your voice into the chorus on intelligent immigration reform would be helpful too.