Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and the 2010 Republican nominee for California governor, will help fund 10 new charter high schools on the Peninsula, a charter school organization has announced.
Summit Public Schools, which currently runs Summit Prep in Redwood City, said Whitman's family foundation will donate $2.5 million over five years to its "Silicon Valley College Ready Corridor" initiative.
The initiative aims to launch 10 new charter high schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties by 2021. Summit currently operates three high schools in addition to the eight-year-old Summit: the two-year-old Everest Public High School in Redwood City and two campuses -- Ranier and Tahoma -- opening this fall in San Jose.
Summit Prep and Everest are chartered by the Sequoia Union High School District.
Whitman, an Atherton resident who led eBay for a decade and lost last November's governor's race to Democrat Jerry Brown, sits on the board of Summit.
"Summit Public Schools have created a cutting-edge instructional model that will challenge, support and graduate young men and women with the skills and drive to become productive adults, community leaders and industry pioneers," Whitman said in a prepared statement.
"That's the Silicon Valley spirit and the key to its future."
Currently, one in every five Silicon Valley high school students does not graduate, and fewer than half graduate with the preparation needed to attend a four-year college, Summit founder and CEO Diane Tavenner said.
"Silicon Valley is the world's innovation capital, yet its own students aren't graduating ready to succeed at a four-year college," Tavenner said.
Summit's "college readiness corridor" is aimed at tackling that problem, and eventually will provide a high-quality high school education to 6,000 local students, she said.
Beyond their $2.5 million gift, Whitman and her husband, Stanford University neurosurgeon Griffith Harsh, offered another $2.5 million matching grant that will double the contributions of others donating to the college-readiness project.
In addition to Summit, Whitman recently joined the national board of Teach for America. She also sits on the boards of HP, Procter & Gamble and Zipcar.
Summit's Redwood City campus was one of the schools featured in the 2010 documentary "Waiting for Superman." The movie follows the story of Emily Jones, who was one of 445 applicants for 110 spots in a lottery for admission to Summit.
Jones told the filmmakers she felt fortunate when she won the lottery and was able to attend Summit rather than her assigned school, Woodside High.