Klausner out, Townsend in for fall school board race
Townsend seeks third term while Klausner cites 'mismatch' between passion for pedagogy and limits of board role
This fall's election for Palo Alto's Board of Education came into sharper focus this week as two incumbents declared their intentions.
Barbara Klausner Thursday announced she will not seek a second term on the five-member school board, leaving what appeared to be a "safe" incumbent seat up for grabs.
Hours later, board President Camille Townsend, first elected in 2003, said she will run for a third term.
In bowing out, Klausner, a Yale-trained lawyer who taught math in the district before her election to the board in 2007, cited a "mismatch between the role of the school board in our community and my professional interests, skill set, and hopes of what I could accomplish as a board member."
Touting her seniority Townsend said, "the current budget challenges, ongoing building projects, and exciting education possibilities all make board experience more important than ever."
Thursday's declarations leave the race so far a non-competitive field of two incumbents and one newcomer seeking three available seats.
One-term incumbent Melissa Baten Caswell qualified for the ballot July 24 and newcomer Heidi Emberling, a parent educator and active volunteer, has taken out nominating papers and is actively campaigning for a board seat.
With Klausner not seeking re-election, the nomination deadline for new candidates has been extended from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15. The election is Nov. 6.
In a written statement accompanying her announcement, Klausner said that as a board member she had been unable to pursue her passion for classroom innovation as much as she had hoped because of the school district's policy of site-based decision-making — deferring to principals and the superintendent on classroom issues.
"For me as an educator ... the area of strongest interest is pedagogy, and in these matters, the board carefully circumscribes its role," she wrote.
"In this district, with its strong culture of site-based decision-making and concomitant deference to the superintendent, key pedagogical and programmatic decisions are developed, refined and evaluated primarily within our schools, and the board, as a reflection of our community's values, has adapted its role to fit that culture."
Klausner, who served as president of the board in 2009-10, went out of her way to praise fellow board members, Superintendent Kevin Skelly, teachers and others in the district.
"Many wonderful things have been happening in our classrooms and in our schools," she said.
But her statement implicitly called into question the district's adherence to the site-based decision-making model.
"As a board member, my primary goal was to support our teachers and staff by encouraging an open-minded spirit of innovation and improvement and to help bring about a way for us to make the most of our best educational practices by sharing them more efficiently and equitably throughout the district," she wrote.
"I have come to understand the role that the board has chosen for itself and I recognize its merits," Klausner said, adding that she plans to return to her "roots in education and work with fellow educators to improve the lives and prospects of students."
Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.