Uploaded: Tue, Jun 12, 2007, 11:24 am
Gearing up for school board elections
PTA President and prior candidate preparing for race
Palo Alto school board elections are months away, but PTA Board President Melissa Baten Caswell, former 2005 board candidate Claude Ezran, and GATE Math Specialist Barbara Klausner have told the Weekly they want to run.
Current Board President Camille Townsend said she will not make an announcement on whether she plans to run again for a second term until later this summer. Board members Mandy Lowell and Gail Price will leave two seats open after having served a limit of two terms.
Any registered voter living within Palo Alto Unified School District boundaries may apply. The open date for filing candidate declarations starts July 16 for 2007 and closes on Aug. 10, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters Office. Elections will be held on Nov. 6.
"I've been to about every single school board meeting for the last two years," Baten Caswell said about her commitment to the district. "I'm very familiar with the issues. And I've been in PTA council for two years."
"We have an excellent school district," she added. "I want to continue that we have an excellent school district."
If elected to the board, Baten Caswell plans to put a high priority on closing the achievement gap. "I'm a big proponent about kids being enthusiastic and curious and loving learning," she said. She wants to emphasize educating "well-rounded happy-smart kids," she added. "And that should be all our kids."
Ezran, who ran for the board in 2005 but lost. He did win 3,000 votes, however, he said. People have been asking him whether he plans to run again, and his answer is yes.
"I'd like to see a little bit less talk and more action," he said about the current board. "Minor issues have been mishandled. First was the senior management crisis. Personally, I would have handled it a bit differently," he said.
"When you have heavily disgruntled employees, the first thing you want to do is talk to them directly. The gesture of doing that releases a lot of tension and creates goodwill."
Forming a committee to hire a consulting company to handle the issue was too bureaucratic, he said.
"When you have a crisis you have to grab the bulls by the horns and take action."
As for the food services debt, he wanted to see more creativity from the board.
"Maybe we could do more marketing, do more promotion of lunches to attract more students," he said. "Free movies on the terrace -- something like that would attract students."
On the achievement gap, "If you want to lose the gap, you need to raise standard of living of people who fall into the achievement gap," Ezran said. "It's a societal problem, and not just linked to schools."
Klausner, a teacher on special assignment for GATE, said she is considering the possibility of running for the board and will have a statement prepared in a few weeks.
Posted by Jon,
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 11, 2007 at 11:19 pm
I understand fully that Mr Ezran's statements aren't policy declarations and that he wont be making decisions based on that article (which allegedly misquotes him), but usually candidates (or prospective ones) do present ideas that they possibly toy with and may use in their campaigns, and it is necessary to critique them for their plausibility/practicality. (see note to Mr Ezran below)
I am glad for your wonderful experience at Foothill and learning topics that you are passionate about. I myself may have that luxury as I head into my senior year, because finally I can choose courses that I want to possibly pursue in depth when I go to college. Thanks for the encouragement to show me and others that money is not necessarily the barrier and determinate for academic achievement.
I apologize if I was mislead by the article that misquoted you saying "free movies" as opposed to "free smoothies". Your free smoothies idea is brilliant, and implementing it would be beneficial to all, provided the smoothies followed state/district's nutritional policies, which can possibly pose as a roadblock.
Regarding healthcare, it is understandable (but useful?) to mention it, and I question the level of impact. Possibly the most I can envision is educating parents on the necessities of having it? Correct me if I am wrong for I am no expert in this field.
I would offer that closing the achievement gap requires examining socio-economic factors but then going beyond that because there are better ways to pursue and achieve your noble goal.
Ok another hypothetical. Kids, get a whole bunch of them, rich, poor, middle class, White, Asian, Hispanic, Black, etc. and put them in a class. Assume that they have all the "basic needs" we all desire for them. Now, give them books, pencils, notepads, a teacher, coursework. Now, get them started, and along the way, ask them what is motivating them to learn. Some will say it's the teacher and his/her inspirational teaching, some will say it's the books because they are clearly laid out, others will say because they enjoy the topic, others wont give a rat's ars. There must be a multilateral approach towards the issue of closing the achievement gap. We can fire and hire a few teachers to get the best ones (albeit costs), we can replace/upgrade the textbooks (again, costs), but what is the best way to deal with the students on the lowest end of the spectrum? How do we motivate the unmotivated? I personally believe that is one of the most serious factors in preventing the closure of our achievement gap. Unfortunately at times, STUDENTS DON'T CARE. Give them their million dollar facilities, their brand new books, their decent teachers. Motivating? No.
Last year I took some AP courses, along with a regular course. There is a stark contrast in the student's attitude. In AP, the discussions were lively, intellectually stimulating, and in whole a better experience while the regular science course had a teacher who was greeted with disrespectful, apathetic students one could say are undeserving of receiving such a fine education in this district. I believe that those students, given the right motivation and an attitude check, would have blended well with students in the AP class. Students in the regular course degraded my experience; some decided to walk around while the lecture was happening, some decided to watch as their lab partners did all the work, and to one point degraded to where the campus security was called in to remove a non-cooperative student. Yes, unbelievably in a Palo Alto District school. Like in my previous rant, giving students the motivation is the key to solving this dilemma. Should you, Mr. Ezran realize this and propose solutions that help solve this issue, you will stand a fair chance at winning and improving our district (on top of finding constituents who support your positions on mandarin immersion, school expansion, and all the other headaches).
I wish you best of luck in your election campaign.
~Sincerely to all mentioned,
Jon, Palo Alto High