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Caswell, Townsend, Emberling win in school race

Original post made on Nov 7, 2012

Incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend won re-election in the race for Palo Alto Board of Education, with challenger Heidi Emberling, a parent educator, grabbing the third and final available spot. Challenger Ken Dauber, a Google engineer, trailed, failing to win enough votes to get a seat.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 12:16 AM

Comments (39)

Posted by amen, bret, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 7, 2012 at 6:55 am

I hope this is a lesson for how we should treat our public employees for everyone. The voters have spoken!!!


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

Congratulations to all four, especially to Ken Dauber for running and making the debates meaningful.


Posted by 2012 Graduate, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:11 am

As a recent Paly grad I was ecstatic when Ken Dauber decided to run. I am disappointed that he did not win a seat. I can only hope that the other newly elected members and incumbents will think about his platform and work with the phenomenal principal Phil Winston to improve the experience of students at Paly. All of my friends here at college really miss their high school's, whereas I for one am relieved to get away from the stress, competition and anxiety that Paly fostered. Please try to make Paly, and Gunn for that matter, places that students miss, not places that we're glad to get away from.


Posted by The results are in, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

Congrats to the winners.

Dauber's problem was less his issues and concerns (which many share, including on the current board) and more his methods. Despite the "reasonableness" offensive he ran during the campaign, including a stream of "he's collegial!" letters to the editor (which the Weekly was happy to print, of course), his actions of the last two years spoke for themselves.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:44 am

Yes, agree. Actions speak *much* louder than words.


Posted by volunteer, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by No-Mandate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

Given that there are about 40,000 registered voters in the PAUSD jurisdiction, none of these candidates received more than 33% of the possible vote. Sixty-six percent either didn't vote at all, or chose not to vote for those runnin for a seat on the PAUSD Board.

With about 10,000 students in the PAUSD living in Palo Alto, there ought to have been upwards of 17,000+ votes from parents, at least.

This 30%-35% turnout for local government elections is typical--but not healthy.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

Agreed. The election was pretty close. And when you consder that there were three votes and four candidates, it's interesting that the two newcomers did so well rather than splitting the remaining third vote between them.

I, too, do not undertand this bad attitude toward Ken who has done nothing but selflessly give of hs time and skills to improve our schools for the benefit of the kids.


Posted by No-Mandate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:24 am

Given that Batten-Caswell does not have any children in the PAUSD, and that it is very hard to see that she has actually been a "mover-and-shaker" on school board issues, it's difficult to understand why she has managed to win a board seat, much less receive the highest vote count from the electorate.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:29 am

@Nomandate,
Baten Caswell does have kids in PAUSD, and none of the current board has been very action oriented, which is why Ken was such a sorely needed voice. However, you characterization of Baten Caswell is off, she has probably been the most willing to speak out and move things.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:35 am


I also agree how interesting the results are. Many felt Townsend should be on her way out. Many others felt Emberling was too nice and inexperienced. I think after the word got out that the Dauber's were marketing the 'bullet' approach many just did the opposite (voted for three and not for Dauber). The end effect: an evenly spread of votes.


Posted by No-Mandate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:49 am

> Baten Caswell does have kids in PAUSD,

Thanks for setting the record straight.

> and none of the current board has been very action oriented,

Agreed.

> which is why Ken was such a sorely needed voice.

Perhaps.

> However, you characterization of Baten Caswell is off,
> she has probably been the most willing to speak out
> and move things.

And your evidence is? Paper trails were invented so that people could document their activities, as well as their successes and failures. What evidence can you (or Batten Caswell for that matter) produce that supports your position?

Given that schools are a political subdivision of the State .. it's not really clear just how much authority that a local Board has. However, with such controversial decisions as "Mandarin Immersion" and Everyday Math, this Board does seem to have made a number of questionable decisions that have not necessarily been for the good of the schools, as a whole, rather than to place various special interests.

By the way, did Batten Caswell speak to the issues of how the Board handled MI and EM during this campaign?


Posted by JTL, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 9:00 am

Unfortunately Ken's passion to better our schools took the wrong turn into a crusade which offended many people over the years.


Posted by sameold, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

"Given that Batten-Caswell does not have any children in the PAUSD, "
What are you inferring? You do realize that Ken's only school-aged child is in private education?

However, the result isn't going to change much. WCDBPA will continue to pretty much run the board's agenda even if they didn't get a vote.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:36 am

@sameold
Baten-Caswell does have children in PAUSD. Ken Dauber has raised five children, who have attended more of the schools than most people have experience with because they moved between. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

WCDBP does not run the board's agenda, and I for one am glad to have someone with the guts to keep them from their echo chamber.

@No-Mandate,
Baten-Caswell did speak against EM. She was not on the board during the MI debate.


Posted by sameold, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

@parent
Not sure what you're on about. I was asking why not having children in district schools was considered an issue. You appeared to be castigating Melissa for it (you might have noticed the quotes) and I was pointing out other candidates are in the same situation.

If you wanted my opinion it's that a parent should always do best for their children regardless.

As to your second point, if you've followed WCDBPA interactions with the Board over the last two years, you would see that when WCDBPA says "jump" and the Board's response has been "how high?". The board has been far too reactionary and I don't see this changing going forward.


Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

I would consider voting for Dauber in the future, but agree with comments above. I judged by past actions more than campaign words. Would like to see Ken carry on advocating, as I would encouarage anyone to do. However, at some point you need to realize that moving an agenda involves moving people, and the way you do that does matter.


Posted by chini, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm

chini is a registered user.

The fact that some candidates send some of their children to private schools never came up or was disclosed during the debates and forum.
Interesting! Wonder why.


Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

I am so disappointed that Ken Dauber did not beat out Heidi Emberling, who showed herself to be far less qualified.

There seemed to be an awful lot of attempts to detract from his character and his campaign and make it terribly controversial, almost as if there had been a plot.

I think we will come to regret the result of this particular race.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

determinant is a registered user.

@chini,
Perhaps because it was well known and has been dealt with in past elections. I also believe it was discussed in several forums and interviews.
If having a child in a private school disqualified a candidate, we'd have very few candidates for the board.

@Ducatigirl,
Heidi is eminently qualified for the position.
If you believe the Weekly, Camille is the one they would have preferred lose out. At least the Weekly can't hide behind the "only by 200 votes" line next time. It was quite an emphatic victory for her.


Posted by milefive, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm

milefive is a registered user.

Both my Paly kids were *extremely* disappointed that Ken Dauber lost and do not understand why teenagers cannot vote. They say that if all of their friends could vote, then Ken would have easily won as he is the only candidate who actually seems to really care about how teenagers are doing and that he does not dote on their parents, who seem to only care about family vacation time and how long their family summer vacation is. My kids plan on showing up to School Board meetings to voice their displeasure at any School Board issues that increase stress (e.g. reverting to the old bad calendar where kids had to study over winter break) and encourage all their friends to do so too to show the School Board that the Board should listen to the teenagers who are being impacted by decisions. I am very glad Ken ran as he has miraculously woken up my previously apolitical kids and gotten their passions blazing about standing up for their rights. Watch out, School Board, you are in for some really fun meetings and long nights ahead of you. Also: they will be old enough to vote in the next election. Just saying.


Posted by PA native, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

PA native is a registered user.

When a school board member sends their child to a private school in the district
where the member resides, I take notice. Of course people with the financial means
always have a "reason" (such as my child is sensitive or somehow special) as to why they need a private school. The point of a great school district is that all children should be able to succeed!


Posted by Gunn Grad, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Gunn Grad is a registered user.

I think the We Can Do Better is very vocal, but the majority of Palo Alto residents really appreciate the opportunities that our challenging schools offer students right now.


Posted by chini, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm

chini is a registered user.

@determinant,
I agree that having a child in a private school is not grounds for disqualification, but it should be disclosed. I'm sure each candidate's college education, experience, etc. were also discussed in the past, but they made sure to repeat them as part of their introductions.
If a stock analyst made a recommendation on a stock, they are required
to disclose any holdings of that stock. If a board member votes to change policies for high school or elementary school but has a child attending private school, I think it should be disclosed in the spirit of full disclosure, and that should be done on a case by case basis and not assumed to be "well known" - context is relevant.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm

determinant is a registered user.

When 3 of the 4 candidates have children in private schools, do you think it still matters?

@mikefive
I think any Paly student votes would have been would have been far outweighed by those from Addison,Duveneck,Ohlone,JLS,Gunn, Jordan, Hoover,... Or did your children only want to give votes to their friends that would vote the same way?


Posted by Soccerdad, a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Soccerdad is a registered user.

What is the point of continuing to be so nasty to Ken and his many (10,000) supporters?Is gloating like this really necessary? What ever happened to being gracious in victory? Anyway the threat to complacency has been defeated. Let the wild rumpus of praise start!


Posted by Ducatigirl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Ducatigirl is a registered user.

determinant: maybe she was just bad at interviews and speaking in publc, but Heidi Emberling had a hard time answering questions put to her recently, and apparently ignored some of them. If you are well-qualified on a subject, it is not difficult to answer such questions.

Otherwise, I thought she was a nice, sincere, if rather green, candidate. Needed more experience bfore getting behind the wheel.


Posted by soccerdad, a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

soccerdad is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Fred is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by soccerdad, a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 8, 2012 at 4:50 pm

soccerdad is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Fred is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Nadine Gordimer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2012 at 2:56 am

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

There was a massive whispering campaign in this election. The most egregious example was when Mandy Lowell and Walt Hays forwarded a Daily Post editorial full of untruths about Ken Dauber to thousands of registered voters and PAUSD parents urging everyone to vote according to the Post's recommendations. Not surprisingly they chose the only local newspaper that did not endorse Ken Dauber. All of the other local papers ,The PA Weekly, Daily News, Campanile, Palo Alto Voice, and Palo Alto Verde gave strong endorsements for Ken Dauber's candidacy with most of them picking him as their top choice.

Ms Lowell and Mr. Hays served on the campaigns for both of the incumbents who appear to have run as a slate. Ms Lowell and Mr. Hays chose not to use the official campaign email accounts but instead set up a new website called Experience Matters to send out the email that disparaged Mr. Dauber's character with scurrilous unfounded attacks. Perhaps they chose to use an independent website since all of the candidates signed a pledge, on file with the County Registrar, to uphold the State Code of Fair Campaign Practices. According to my reading of the code the official campaigns should have publicly repudiated this attack.

The Code of Fair Campaign Practices states:
Section 20440
(2) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life.
(6) I SHALL IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY REPUDIATE support deriving from any individual or group that resorts, on behalf of my candidacy or in opposition to that of my opponent, to the methods and tactics that I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate who violates any provision of this code or the laws governing elections.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 9:35 am

determinant is a registered user.

The email sent to the mailing list was simply the Palo Alto Daily's endorsements with no comment. How can this be construed as a "whisper campaign"? If that was the case, sending out or referencing the Weekly's endorsements would also be a whisper campaign and all campaigns are equally guilty.

You go on to say "...[sending] out the email that disparaged Mr. Dauber's character with scurrilous unfounded attacks.". Seriously? When a paper doesn't want to support a candidate they state why. You don't have to agree with them but this is NOT a whisper campaign.

Don't believe me? Check out the so called "facts" that the Weekly applied for not voting for Camille: Web Link
"while Camille Townsend, the only incumbent running, barely beat out Wynn Hausser for the third slot by 200 votes." - Why is only just beating Wynn in the last election relevant to this one? If Wynn had been running again, it may have some relevant. Since he isn't, is the Weekly trying to claim Camille will only beat Ken by a few votes given the WCDBPA connection? If that was the case, they were way off.
"For the third seat, we cannot support Camille Townsend, who we also declined to support when she ran for reelection four years ago." - Why is this relevant unless the Weekly is admitting its bias.

"But as much clarity as she has in private conversations about school policy, she has not brought it to the public process, where it really counts. As recent email disclosures have shown, she says one thing in public and another in private. As board president, where a trustee's influence is greatest, Townsend has consistently opted to use the role to carry the superintendent's water rather than construct meeting agendas so that important issues were teed up for a focused policy discussion and decision by the board." - This is as bad as anything in the Daily's post. Wouldn't you consider this the Weekly now "disparaging Camille's character with scurrilous unfounded attacks."?

"Only in the most extraordinary circumstances should anyone serve three terms on a local elected body. This is not one of those times." - How did the Weekly come to this conclusion? Why is it "Only in the most extraordinary circumstances" that someone should be elected 3 times? They can run as long as they wish assuming they continue to get the required support. There is nothing that requires "extraordinary circumstances".
The Weekly did a complete hatchet job on Camille as much as the Post did on Ken. Ken and his supporters had no problem in pointing people at the Weekly's post. Why can't other supporters point out the Daily's post supporting their candidates?
In the end, the email was irrelevant. Ken's percentage didn't change between the early votes published immediately after close and the final count. The email, which came out very late, had no effect.
You can't claim "whisper campaign" when your only example is editorial endorsements. Bring up other emails or something but "this editorial didn't endorse our candidate" falls far short.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

Wynn Hausser is a registered user.

@determinant -

The difference between the two editorials is that the one in the Weekly is clearly opinion with which people can agree or disagree. The one in the Post is filled with actual lies. Mandy Lowell Munger and Walt Hayes were told they were lies and decided to distribute the editorial anyway. And this isn't the only example of negative campaigning coming from your supporters (just look through Palo Alto Online for numerous examples), while Ken and the people associated with his campaign made a concerted effort to keep it positive.

I'm sorry if it still stings that you only won the previous election by 183 votes despite the fact that I missed three weeks of the campaign with pneumonia. You won, then and now. Congratulations.

I accepted the fact that I lost and Ken Dauber has done the same without complaint. Maybe you should accept the fact that you won by whatever amount graciously and get on with doing the people's business. The continued whining is just unseemly.


Posted by determinant, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

determinant is a registered user.

@Wynn,
Your response comes down to:
- Editorial I agree with is "clearly opinion"
- Editorial I don't agree with is "filled with actual lies"
In the end regardless of whether you agree or disagree they are published endorsements for local papers for specific candidates, which candidates are free to reference.

"And this isn't the only example of negative campaigning coming from your supporters"
Please post these examples and their source.
These forums aren't a valid source. Firstly it's anonymous and not representative of anything. I don't even know if you are Wynn. Secondly I can find loads of examples here of negative campaigning by your supporters. Heck, just look at this thread.


Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Wynn Hausser is a registered user.

@determinant

This is my last post on this topic because there is no sense litigating an election that has already happened. But for the record, here are two of the falsehoods contained in the Post editorial that Mandy and Walt distributed:

The editorial claims that Ken stated that the student suicides at Gunn stemmed from academic stress rather than mental illness. Ken never made this claim. In fact, I've heard him say many times that suicide is closely connected to mental illness and depression, and that stress plays at most an exacerbating role. This is the same position taken by Project Safety Net. The editorial also claimed that Ken has "demonized" Gunn teachers and counselors, when he did no such thing. In fact, he has consistently praised them. These are just two examples.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

On the other hand, what the Weekly says here is backed up by the facts, including emails which we can open up again if that's really where you want to go: "As recent email disclosures have shown, she says one thing in public and another in private. As board president, where a trustee's influence is greatest, Townsend has consistently opted to use the role to carry the superintendent's water rather than construct meeting agendas so that important issues were teed up for a focused policy discussion and decision by the board."

Again, voters elected you anyway. So be it. What I don't understand is why you are unable to be gracious in victory.

In answer to your question, you know I am Wynn because I am a registered user and the Weekly has confirmed who I am. I have the guts to put my name out here and be held accountable for my words. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Again, I urge you to stop with the pettiness and get on doing what's best for our kids. Whether I agree with them or not, Palo Altans have charged you with that responsibility. Live up to it.


Posted by soccerdad, a resident of Nixon School
on Nov 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

soccerdad is a registered user.

Well and let's be honest. Where did Dave Price get the falsehoods he printed in the Post in the first place? He got them from Camille Townsend, who tried to give the same falsehoods to the Daily News but Mario wasn't buying the falsehoods she was peddling. The Post became the Fox-News like echo chamber for the Townsend-Lowell negative falsehood machine, which once having gotten Price to print their lies on his tearsheet, they could then "obtain permission to reprint it" through the shadow money organization "Experience Matters" which was then sent to over 10K registered voters in Palo Alto and voila, a negative campaign, run for the benefit of Camille Townsend and Heidi Emberling (though I'm sure she was the unwitting beneficiary of it and no one blames her for it, she was a bystander) without Camille's fingerprints on it. Nicely played. And why does this sound familiar -- why it is the same Munger shenanigans that were played on the Prop 30 negative campaign to benefit prop 38, using a shill "shadow organization." Just on a smaller, local scale.

Why set up the "Experience Matters" account, and what was the source of the 10K person maiiling list. Rumor around town is that Mandy Lowell Munger appropriated it from Measure A. That sounds right. And why not?

If the whole thing is so just and fair, determinant, why didn't the Townsend campaign just send around the negative hit piece yourselves instead of using the sham "Experience Matters"? And nice touch on the "school issue" subject line -- that was scary and it probably upped the opening rate. Played like a Munger.


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I'm afraid that after the dust settles on this election, the lesson in Palo Alto will be that negative campaigning works. This was a pretty close election, and it could have gone either way. We will never know whether Heidi or Ken would have won without the negative campaigning, maybe Ken would have lost anyway. To this point, it has always been thought that negative campaigning violated community standards and would just backfire here. But now everyone can see that a very vicious negative campaign didn't backfire on the people behind it and so we can expect to see more of the same in the future, particularly in close cases. That's too bad for Palo Alto and also too bad for our life as a civic community. The genie is out of the bottle.


Posted by Spectator at Large, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Spectator at Large is a registered user.

Determinant: [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] You would do yourself a favor by ceasing to try and defend the disgraceful tactics that were used in this election. It is shameful that people in our town would resort to such dirty tactics in order to have themselves elected. I am sick of the lies and whining. You won (not fair and square) but nevertheless you won. I would suggest that you should not continue to bring attention to what went on. At least Mr. Dauber and his supporters ran a fair, issue-based campaign. I have faith that the full truth will come out sooner or later about the "shenanigans" and who financed them. The more you protesteth the more fuel will be added to the fires of those that may want to fully expose the dirty tricks.


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