Town Square

School board candidates' forum set for Sept. 27

Original post made on Sep 19, 2012

Candidates for the Palo Alto Board of Education will share their views Thursday, Sept. 27, in the first of several public forums.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 4:39 PM


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I think it is important to learn about how the candidates feel about some of the talking points in recent years. Those who are incumbents have already expressed their views in the public forum of board meetings and Ken Dauber has made his views very public.

Heidi Emberling, while probably quite well known in the north cluster elementary schools, is virtually unknown to the majority of voters. From my research, she seems to specialize in preschool and appears to have good advice on such subjects as potty training and sleeping through the night. To give her a better profile, it would be very useful for us to know her views on such topics as the early school calendar with finals before winter break, high school counseling, everyday maths, school size and how to deal with growing enrollment, Cubberley and San Antonio site, foreign language at elementary schools, and the achievement gap.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Erin Mershon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Heidi is a formidable candidate and has much more to offer our kids than just advice on the early years.

I am hoping that once and for all, the school board will come together after this election to put together a comprehensive enrollment and facilities plan as they have promised since 2009.

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Questions to ask the candidates:
Why should parents, who have more than enough money to spare, send their kids, with no special needs, to PAUSD schools instead of private schools such as Castilleja? How would you, as a PAUSD board member, convince them to send to PAUSD schools?

Does anyone on the PAUSD board has children going to private schools instead of PAUSD schools?

Posted by answer, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Because there are 100 students on the waiting list.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by teach every child, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I plan to go and hear the candidates talk about the issues. I also will look at their websites. Ken Dauber has a lot of videos giving his view on issues like the ones that Parent and Erin mention on Cubberly, and guidance and the achievement gap. I appreciate that he took the time to make these videos and a very good website (I guess being at Google he would have a good website).

I think we need more debates at the local schools. Why are there so few? Last time there was one at every school.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Why am I not allowed to say that I won't vote for Mr. Ken Dauber and why and will choose instead to vote for his 3 opponents? My post was deleted. How come?

Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 19, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


We delete all postings that endorse or attack candidates. If we don't Town Square will become overwhelmed with competing posts from all the campaigns attempting to look like they have more supporters than others. That's hardly a good use for a forum designed for a discussion of issues and events in the Palo Alto community.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:46 am

There should be as many opportunities as possible for parents to hear from the candidates, especially the new candidates about whom we don't know as much. (Ken Dauber and Heidi Emberling) Like Teach Every Child, I'm wondering why there aren't more forums this year. The lack of forums seems to benefit the incumbents to the detriment of the new candidates. The PAUSD Board could certainly use some new blood and new perspectives.

I'd like to know how the candidates view the role of the School Board in determining School policy. Not a big fan of this site-based decision making where the school can disregard the clear direction of the Board in a passive-aggressive manner and just do whatever it wants.

Posted by bias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 8:04 am

@Bill, and describing a candidate as only good for "advice on such subjects as potty training and sleeping through the night" isn't attacking them?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 20, 2012 at 8:35 am


I did not say, as "bias" suggests, that a candidate was good only for advice on .....

I did say that from my research I found good advice on ..... and wanted to know her views on topics that are more relevant to her candidacy for school board.

I was not impolite and now because of the Weekly's deletion it is assumed I was disrespectful. It is no wonder that so many of us want to keep our identiy to ourselves when the Weekly can delete half a post so that the assumption is that we have said something insensitive or detrimental.

This was not the case and I have just asked a question for the candidate's benefit that we should know more about her position.

Posted by InfoVacuum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

I've seen Heidi at many school board meetings, but never seen or heard her speak; it's odd. I've also read Heidi's web site, and I cannot figure out what she is about; more odd.

Camille is running her third term, perhaps she has spoken enough...I look forward to the forums so we can really find out what the candidates stand for.

Posted by Erin Mershon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 20, 2012 at 8:56 am

The censorship by the Weekly on this forum for this topic is unbelievable. I said nothing offensive about any of the candidates. Their obvious backing of one candidate is making it impossible for anyone to have a reasonable discussion about the candidates.

Posted by Kathy Sharp, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

I see the problem. There are two websites for Heidi Emberling. One is her professional website where Heidi provides advice for new parents.
Web Link

Ms. Emberling has a campaign site where there is a tab which explores her position PAUSD issues.
Web Link

All of the four candidates have websites.

Ken Dauber: Web Link
Camille Townsend: Web Link
Melissa Baten Caswell Web Link

The forums are a great way to learn more about the candidate's position on key issues the impact us as parents, teachers and students. I plan to attend the forum at Terman.

Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


The test for whether we will delete portions of a post is not offensiveness, but fairness. You and another poster described two different candidates as "also-rans" and disparaged their candidacies. That clearly neither furthers public discussion of the issues facing the school district nor encourages people to participate by running for office. We realize there is a lot of emotion out there, but please simply stick to the issues and avoid stooping to characterizations of them and their motives. There is no need to describe any of the four school board candidates as "also-rans." That only attempts to marginalize the candidate and their supporters.

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

@ teach every child

There are reasons why every PAUSD school is not doing their own forum this election year, as was the case about 5 yrs ago. Here are some of the highlights:

PTAC (the PTA Council of Palo Alto) has encouraged as many schools/PTAs to "team" up with each other, as you can see from Thurs forum, which is sponsored by 4 schools.

5 yrs ago when each school tried to have their own (I think it turned out to be about 15 forums) the candidates began to burn out, the volunteers were way burned out, and the audiences dwindled to about 5-6 people at the later forums. And as is the case, some families have kids at all three levels (Elem, middle, high) and really only have time in their busy lives to attend one forum, but still want to hear the issues and questions that schools at all three levels face.

There are more forums coming up too - so if anyone misses or can't make the 27th:
Oct 1 with Walter Hays/Addison/Duveneck 7-8:30 PM @ Walter Hays
Oct 3 League of Women Voters (**co sponsored by PTA Council) 8-9:30PM 25 Churchill
Oct 8 CAC 7-9 PM @ 25 Churchill

Then there are 3 that aren't yet confirmed

Oct 10 Paly PTSA
Oct 15 PA Weekly
Oct 17 or 24 Escondido/Nixon PTAs

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

@Paly Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood

If you are still concerned about not having enough forums/ways to meet and hear from the candidates, please contact Paly's PTSA and offer your help in putting on the Oct 10th forum, because right now it's tentatively scheduled and may not have enough parent volunteers to get it pushed through all the way. I'm sure they'd love the extra help.

If anyone is also still not able to attend any forums, I think the League of Women Voter forum (Oct 3) will be taped and put up on their website later Web Link

The Sept 27th forum MAY be taped (or even streamed live) and up on Gunn's Titan Broadcast Network, but that detail is still up in the air.

And if anyone out there wants, you may always host 1 or all 4 candidates at a coffee-talk at your or someone else's home. That's a more intimate way to really get to know a candidate and you get more of an up-close and personal feel about them, and of course any topic you wish is on the table for discussion.

Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Barron Parker is a registered user.

To correct the information from the above poster, "5yrs ago when each school tried to have their own . . . the audiences dwindled to about 5-6 people at the later forums."

I don't know what this poster is talking about but clearly this person was not involved in the planning last time and is just hearing misinformation and repeating it. This is not true. The forum at Barron Park was held on October 25. It was one of the last ones. There were at least 75 people there, probably more. It was very well attended -- the MP room was packed.

The idea that we are better off if there is only 1 does not make sense if you have a conflict that night. People like to go to events at local schools because they can see their friends, and hear what their local school community thinks and what the issues for that school are and hear them addressed.

PTAC did a great job organizing those forums last time and the parents at the local schools appreciated their efforts. This year, there are not enough. There are none planned for Fairmeadow, El Carmelo, JLS, Jordan, Ohlone, Hoover, or other schools. This is a loss.

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

@ Barron Parker

That information came from the PTAC meeting held just yesterday. The PTAC has planned a forum which will be at 25 Churchill Oct 3rd - that's all they want to do this year. I think the general feeling is that because BP, JB, Gunn and Terman are basically one school community, then they'd have one forum to address the needs of their community, and also, like you said, so they can meet up with all their friends. BUT, doesn't mean that all other schools and neighbors won't be interested in the questions asked. Kids who are in 2gr and 3gr now will be 6 and 7th graders when this coming term is up. So, yeah, middle school issues are a huge concern for JB and BP parents, and those parents would like to hear from all candidates on how they're going to handle these issues. I think it's the parents of 11 and 12th graders (at both High schools) who probably won't come - they're already on their way out of PAUSD.

Here's a suggestion: If you feel there aren't enough forums or arenas to meet up with your friends and hear what the local school community thinks then hold a candidate coffee at your house and invite your friends and community - or contact the PTAs at Fairmeadow, EC, JLS, Jordan, Ohlone, Hoover, PV and urge them to need to hold a forum as well - with 7 PTAs banning together, that'd be a big audience with lots of different types of questions being lobbed at the candidates. -- might even be better attended and more heated than the one at Terman next week.

"The idea that we are better off if there is only 1 does not make sense if you have a conflict that night" -- well, that's why 2 of them are being webcast, or at least planned to be.

But, also now there's 7 forums planned; 7 last I checked, is more than 1. Although 3 are tentatively planned. Like it was suggested for the parent at Paly, contact the schools who have a tentatively scheduled forum and see how you can help solidify their plans. Believe me, PTAs love to have people come forward to lend their expertise. That's probably why each school isn't having a forum, because they just don't have the volunteer base to put on a forum this time around.

Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Barron Parker is a registered user.

I need to correct a little more incorrect information. The October 10 forum is being sponsored by PASS/SEAN not the Paly PTA, though the Paly PTA may agree to co-sponsor it after the fact. PTAC is not organizing the forum on October 3 -- the League of Women Voters is. PTAC and a host of other organizations including the Weekly are co-sponsors. Being a co-sponsor is not the same as an organizer. I don't understand why you think that the forum will be "heated." That is an odd thing to say. This is an election so of course the candidates may differ but what are you trying to say? You identify yourself as a member of the PTAC board so is PTAC trying to send a message about this election being too "heated" to be involved? And does PTAC think that coffees are better than forums? Because in your previous post you said that you were worried about the poor candidates being worn out but now you apparently want them to run around from coffee to coffee to meet people in small groups rather than to forums where they can meet a lot of voters at the same time.

I think PTAC board members should not be anonymously posting on paloaltoonline but should clearly and publicly explain its decision and help the community to understand its position. A lot of people are saying that PTAC is giving local PTAs a hard time when they try to have forums. Is that true? This is so different from what happened in 2007. It is disappointing to a lot of us.

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

The coffees were just another option for those who can't make a forum or would rather have a more intimate setting. Not everybody likes these, I admit, a coffee setting at someone's home is not for everyone. They are not necessarily better, just a different setting.

If a candidate is invited to a coffee, they have to make time on their calendar for it. In the exact same regard, if a candidate is invited to a forum, they have to make time on their calendar for it.

A coffee or a forum, doesn't matter, you still have to find an available date. And if it's a forum, all candidates must be invited, so the best scenario is a date where all 4 can make it. Finding room on all 4 candidates' calendars for 15 forums? or 7? Not sure which option is better now that you mention reaching more voters. So, I'll give you that. If 75 people attended BPs back in 2007, then how well were the other 14 forums attended, also 75 people? so 1125 people all total? So 7 forums would need 160 people each to equal that. Less is More? Or No? I can't predict how many are going to show up at Terman next Thurs but the room holds about 200, it'll be interesting to see. But ok, I give you that it won't be heated. Terman Gunn JB and BP parents are a nice bunch. They probably won't throw tomatoes.

As far as I know there aren't many hoops to jump through from PTAC, just clearing the 4 candidate calendars seems to be the worst of it, and getting a room space that holds a few hundred.

And you're right, also not organized, but co-sponsored (my post from 3 hrs ago mentioned that PTAC is the co sponsor on Oct 3, so I didn't really misspeak, just didn't reiterate in the proceeding posts) I am not a member of PTAC, just went to the meeting because I am interested.

You said 'this is a loss' to not have enough forums, and you are disappointed. Then please, get in touch with PTAs of the schools that aren't having a forum and get in touch with the candidates, and just see if there are dates still available. I am not trying to discourage you from organizing one yourself or make you not come to one that's already scheduled. But for me, I am choosing 1 out of the 7 to attend. Come to Terman next thurs, see the turn out, hear the debate, and then if you're still feeling unsatisfied, organize a follow-up forum, talk to the candidates right there and organize a follow up forum.

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

and also, if you're still that disappointed after Terman's forum, you may ask PTAC why they aren't forums at each school this time around. I really don't know or have an answer for you beyond scheduling difficulties and lower than expected attendance at some forums (but not BPs).

I'm just one parent, with kids in PAUSDl, who has one vote, and probably only one evening to go out and hear a candidates forum.

Posted by PA-Native, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

PA-Native is a registered user.

oh, also here's one more thing to consider, then I promise I'll keep quiet about this issue

in 2007, the school board elections were not on the presidential cycle. But now they are. So back in 2007, perhaps it was feasible for the schools to each sponsor/co sponsor one out of 15 forums in a much slower election season.

Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Barron Parker is a registered user.

why is that relevant? Are all the PTAC board members working on Obama's and Romney's campaigns?

More chances to hear issues and meet voters at the school level is the best option for the voters and the candidates.