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School board president: Public education key to state's future

Original post made on Jan 5, 2013

Like many couples with young children, Dana Tom and Nancy Kawakita moved to Palo Alto mainly because of its reputation for good schools. That was 15 years ago. Before long Tom, a software engineer, threw himself into school volunteering and youth sports coaching. Last month, he took the gavel to become president of the Palo Alto Board of Education for 2013.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 4, 2013, 9:06 AM

Comments (11)

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Posted by Not-Impressed-With-Dana-Tom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

> Are we going to be better off investing in education –
> or in prisons to make up for the failure of
> our education system?"

One can only wonder if Mr. Tom has ever taken the time to review the basic data of California State government spending, prior to making statements like this one?

Let's look at a few statistics—

In terms of Adult Institutions, California has about 170,588 inmates as of 2007, out of a population of over 30M -- 475 inmates per 100,000 state residents. However, about 25% of these, however, are illegal immigrants who will doubtless be deported when they are released from incarceration—unless pardoned by President Barak Obama, as no doubt many are hoping he will do.

But what about welfare? How many Californians are on the dole?

Using US numbers, as of Fall, 2012, there are about 4.3M on welfare, and 47M on food stamps. Perhaps we should be looking to determine how many of these people are recipients of a "public education", to determine just how effective the public investment in this "institution" has been for these people?

Given Mr. Tom's silence on the number of people who are publicly-educated, and on welfare, food stamps, or unemployment—the numbers of such people far overwhelm the number of people in our prison system. Yet, all Mr. Tom seems to be able to focus on, to talk about, seems to be those who have chosen to break our laws, endanger our citizens, and to create a need to remove them from society.

It would be one thing if Mr. Tom could show that all of the people in California's prisons had been denied a public education. But Mr. Tom can not show that—at least for those who are US citizens. While perhaps not all in our prisons finished high school, all were offered the chance.

Mr. Tom should perhaps stop trafficking in sound bytes about education, but actually produce a plan that he will guarantee will educate every child in the state so well that none of them will ever break the law again.

So, Mr. Tom—can you do that?

We are spending upwards of 40% of our State budget (over $60B a year), and billions more in capital expenditures for facilities—we don't seem to be getting that much for our money. How come, Mr. Tom, how come?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2013 at 9:04 am

Dana Tom is a likeable person and great as a fellow parent. I would like to thank him for his devotion and time spent on the school board.

However, as a board member he has been rather insignificant and tends to go with the flow rather than be a leader. His comments are often just stating the obvious (although at times the obvious needs to be stated) and he has flip flopped on issues. The only reason he is there for a second term is because there were no other candidates in the election.

As president I do not expect much to change in his term, it will be well managed but I imagine not decisive. The reason he is president again is just because it is his turn. This is not really news.


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Posted by Barry Garelick
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2013 at 9:21 am

Just curious as to how many parents have hired tutors or are sending their kids to learning centers like Sylvan, Huntington, Kumon, Mathnasium and the like since the adoption of Everyday Math.


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Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 5, 2013 at 10:57 am

Mr Tom, your help is greatly appreciated. Our district is not an easy to manage. We all mean well to the kids, but the definition of 'well' drastically change from family to family.
It's unrealistic expectations, such as "can you guaratee" that make it difficult for anybody to work here. Tutoring has nothing to do with the board. It's a family right to use it to supplement the school curriculum.


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Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

Ze'ev Wurman is a registered user.

I supported Mr. Tom in 2005, and he is, perhaps, an example of my biggest error in judging people. Many others have been elected since of whom I wasn't so sure, yet they turned out to be good, and sometimes even excellent, school board members. In contrast, Mr, Tom has been a constant disappointment.

Basically, Mr. Tom has been voting "present" during his stay on the board. He has had few if any serious ideas to offer, he has rarely if ever prodded the administration even in the most minor way, and he was always happy to explain away any administrative hiccup or misdeed that may have happened.

Basically a full time indiscriminate and unqualified cheer leader for the district administration. One can understand such behavior in a PTA president, but it boggles my mind that a supposedly intelligent person believes this is his role as a school board member.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm

> the board has nothing to do with tutoring.

Like most things in life—there is some truth in this statement, but it is not entirely true, either.

The shift to Everyday Math was never justified in a way that left people in the "community" understanding who/what/why was going on. There was never a position paper from the Board on the matter. There may have been some documentation from some level of staff, but it's hard to that documentation on the PAUSD web-site. A few teachers gave what seemed to be annecdotal testimony about how they believed EDM would help people on the "bottom", but they did not guarantee that it would.

So—what math texts should the district use, and why? Is there anyone on the Board, that made the decision, who can speak authoritatively on the topic, at this date? Did the matter come up during the last PAUSD Board election? Is the District better off for using EDM, or not?

Parents who now find that they are "forced" to hire tutors for their children might disagree with any suggestions that the Board had nothing to do with the selection of EDM—when it clearly did. [Parents in this town should be able to help their kids, but given their schedules (generally), trying to find the time might prove impossible, requiring tutors in their place.]

What's particularly hard to swallow is the fact that the Board, none of whom seem to be remotely "mathematical"—did not schedule follow-on studies at three, and five, years, to determine the effects, and value, of EDM on the PAUSD's students.


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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

There is something about the process of the PAUSD Board of Ed that is so...process driven, detailed, it is off-putting - meetings too long, speeches too pontificating, I think the system needs to be re-jiggered with a major turnover on the Board. I hope this happens sometimes to liven up the place and bring in fresh ideas.
That Mandarin Immersion controversy was ugly and bowing to a particular constituency. My belief has always been the Board must operate in the best interest of the entire district, of all the students, not a pushy self-interested group.
Waffling on decision-making is hardly an unknown on this Board.


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Posted by Not a fan of status quo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm

We had a chance to have a real change in the board but I fear that with the current make up we will be faced with "more of the same". Perhaps the next election will provide us with some possibility of positive change. I agree with Former Paly Parent and the "Wurman" postings.


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Posted by Yuck
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Always so negative. I read this and about the city "behind the scenes" workers. Every post is so critical. Can't we ever find something nice to say. I know Mr. Tom and he is a good man who cares about kids and doesn't want to do anything but make the district run better. So are the city workers highlighted in the accompanying article. Let's lighten up and be nice to each other in 2013, even if it is anonymous.


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Posted by not alone
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2013 at 10:14 am

"My belief has always been the Board must operate in the best interest of the entire district, of all the students, not a pushy self-interested group."
Yes. Unfortunately recent board agenda and meetings have been hijacked by one such group. The only way to counter this is to get more people involved. Mr. Tom can't do this on their own.


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Posted by Damn kids get off my lawn
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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