Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff plans to offer hundreds of thousands extra to S.F. and Oakland faculties


It was the summer time of 2013 when San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee requested a billionaire to fulfill with him. He wanted a favor and it was a giant one.

The billionaire, Marc Benioff, co-founder and co-CEO of Salesforce, remembers the dialog properly.

“He sat me down,” Benioff recalled, “and he stated, ‘Pay attention, now we have a dozen center faculties that want consideration. I would like you to assist me. What are you able to do?’”

The faculties wanted expertise and the scholars, Lee stated, wanted to be ready for the long run. The mayor requested for cash to purchase a whole lot of iPads, present wi-fi entry in school rooms and prepare academics to make use of all of it properly. It was a giant ask, Lee would later say, or so he thought.

Principal Emily Leicham chats with students during eighth-grade media class at Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco. The Salesforce Foundation, which funds the class, is giving millions of dollars to San Franciso and Oakland schools.

Principal Emily Leicham chats with college students throughout eighth-grade media class at Roosevelt Center Faculty in San Francisco. The Salesforce Basis, which funds the category, is giving hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to San Franciso and Oakland faculties.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

Benioff listened to the pitch after which advised Lee he wasn’t pondering large enough. By his Salesforce Basis, which will get 1% of the corporate’s fairness to spend philanthropically, the tech cloud-computing titan stated sure to all of the technology-related requests and added one other $100,000 for every center college principal to spend nevertheless they wished on the scholars and employees. That would imply area journeys, furnishings, books, tutoring, soccer balls, artwork provides or a espresso maker for academics.

The examine totaled $2.7 million that yr and Benioff then promised he would donate $100 million over 10 years. It was a shocking dedication, one which appeared unlikely given the fickle nature of schooling philanthropy spending seen throughout the nation.

Benioff began with annual grants to San Francisco Unified, then added Oakland in 2016.

On Monday, for the tenth time, Benioff and his firm will announce its annual schooling grant, which has grown to $25 million this yr for faculties throughout the nation, together with $6.5 million every to the San Francisco and Oakland college districts.

He’ll exceed his decade-long promise by $10 million, for a complete to date of $110 million to San Francisco and Oakland faculties.

And he’s not finished. Benioff stated the inspiration would proceed to fund native faculties “in perpetuity.”

“Now we have no selection however to offer to the general public faculties,” he stated. “They want us very badly.”

Principal Emily Leicham, (left) and librarian Rachel Clouse look at a yearbook during the eight-grade media class at Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco.

Principal Emily Leicham, (left) and librarian Rachel Clouse take a look at a yearbook throughout the eight-grade media class at Roosevelt Center Faculty in San Francisco.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

Roosevelt Center Faculty Principal Emily Leicham agrees. The continuing funding, which features a $100,000 no-strings grant for each center college principal in San Francisco and Oakland, is “large,” she stated.

The Salesforce cash means college students get two electives, selecting from Spanish, artwork, band, house economics, a podcasting/net web page design tech class, in addition to media arts, together with a pupil newspaper.

The cash additionally helps fund a pc science class for each sixth and seventh grader, the San Francisco principal stated.

“Studying is inventive and this enables academics and me to be inventive,” Leicham stated, including the “in perpetuity” promise is exceptional. “I’m a cynical particular person by nature, however I’ve all the time thought it’s superb this firm does this for schooling.”

Educators like Leicham have a proper to be cynical.

Benioff is amongst a protracted listing of high-tech titans — together with Invoice Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Lauren Powell Jobs and Netflix’s Reed Hastings — who’ve jumped into schooling reform efforts in years or many years previous. However their funding usually has had strings connected, requiring that public faculties spend the cash on particular initiatives like Gates’s small faculties, Powell’s overhauling of excessive faculties or Zuckerberg’s software-based unbiased studying. And in lots of circumstances, they’ve had a brief consideration span, shifting from one mission to a different, or prompting debate over whether or not the cash made issues higher or worse.

Librarian Rachel Clouse teachers during an eight-grade media class at Roosevelt Middle School in San Francisco. The class is funding by the Salesforce Foundation, which is announcing a major round of funding for San Francisco and Oakland schools.

Librarian Rachel Clouse academics throughout an eight-grade media class at Roosevelt Center Faculty in San Francisco. The category is funding by the Salesforce Basis, which is saying a serious spherical of funding for San Francisco and Oakland faculties.

Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

Benioff is extra hands-off, inviting principals and directors to his home or workplace repeatedly to inform him what they want. At first it was expertise, however over time, the wants have developed to incorporate pupil entry to dental care, maker labs, studying and math assist, fixing the digital divide, and this yr particularly: psychological well being care.

“We all know faculties are nonetheless recovering from the pandemic,” stated Salesforce Chief Enterprise Officer Ebony Beckwith, who can be CEO of the Salesforce Basis. “That’s why we’re doubling down on our dedication. Who would we be as a neighbor if we didn’t proceed our assist?”

Each San Francisco and Oakland will probably be utilizing this yr’s grants partly to spice up assist for psychological well being, which may imply including counselors or different assets, relying on every college’s wants. Principals will proceed to obtain their particular person $100,000 grants to make use of at their discretion.

Salesforce officers can tick off statistics to point out what $115 million has meant over time. In San Francisco, the cash has paid for 100,000 college students who’ve taken pc science programs and 11,000 hotspots bought to make sure each household had entry to on-line studying throughout the pandemic. In Oakland, they are saying, 96% of newcomer college students have had entry to a social employee, whereas 80% of scholars enrolled in pc science are incomes As and Bs.

However not every part could be quantified, together with 1,000,000 volunteer hours Salesforce staff have spent throughout the workday in faculties throughout the nation, together with the 2 Bay Space districts – which can be a part of the corporate’s philanthropic dedication. In some circumstances, executives or employees have adopted a neighborhood college, together with Benioff, who personally sponsored a brand new playground at Presidio Center Faculty.

“With a lot exceptional help, our college students and employees have weathered the worst of the pandemic, leaving us in a spot the place the long run is certainly promising for all of Oakland’s younger individuals,” stated Oakland Unified Appearing Superintendent Sondra Aguilera. “Salesforce has helped our faculties keep resilient within the face of nice challenges, and for that, we’re profoundly grateful.”

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff is giving millions of dollars to San Francisco and Oakland schools through his foundation.

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff is giving hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to San Francisco and Oakland faculties via his basis.

Darron Cummings/Related Press 2019

Benioff’s dedication to the colleges has remained steadfast whilst the 2 native college districts struggled with controversies, lawsuits, political infighting and dysfunctional college board conferences, to not point out the recall of three college board members in San Francisco. None of it has made him query whether or not the districts deserve the annual six- to seven-figure donation or marvel if the cash will probably be wasted.

“Our focus is on the kids,” he stated. “Our firm will all the time be supporting public faculties.”

However it began with that assembly a decade in the past within the mayor’s workplace.

Mayor Lee didn’t stay to see the 10-year, $100 million promise fulfilled. He died in 2017 after struggling a cardiac arrest in a grocery retailer, simply 5 years into the pledge. The billionaire mourned for his pal, after which stored writing checks to the colleges.

This yr’s grants fulfill his promise. The brand new vow is “in perpetuity.”

Benioff offers all of the credit score to Lee.

“It wasn’t me. It was Ed Lee,” he advised The Chronicle final week. “He in all probability can’t consider we really delivered.”

Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle employees author. E-mail: jtucker@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jilltucker





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