News

Final school board candidate forum set for Wednesday

Two final chances to hear candidates discuss Palo Alto school issues

Candidates for the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will square off Wednesday at Nixon Elementary School.

The four candidates vying for three available spots in the election are incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend, software engineer Ken Dauber and parent educator Heidi Emberling.

Wednesday's forum is sponsored by the Escondido Elementary and Nixon PTAs and SIPAPA (Spanish Immersion parents' group). Organizers plan to ask the candidates to discuss elementary education as well as district-wide issues such as school funding; student nutrition; student stress; academic achievement; PE; art; and resources for struggling, challenged and/or gifted kids.

It will take place at 7 p.m. at Nixon, 1711 Stanford Ave.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. More information is available at www.smartvoter.org.

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Final school board candidate forum set for Wednesday

Two final chances to hear candidates discuss Palo Alto school issues

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 1:21 pm
Updated: Fri, Oct 19, 2012, 5:19 pm

Candidates for the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will square off Wednesday at Nixon Elementary School.

The four candidates vying for three available spots in the election are incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend, software engineer Ken Dauber and parent educator Heidi Emberling.

Wednesday's forum is sponsored by the Escondido Elementary and Nixon PTAs and SIPAPA (Spanish Immersion parents' group). Organizers plan to ask the candidates to discuss elementary education as well as district-wide issues such as school funding; student nutrition; student stress; academic achievement; PE; art; and resources for struggling, challenged and/or gifted kids.

It will take place at 7 p.m. at Nixon, 1711 Stanford Ave.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. More information is available at www.smartvoter.org.

Related material:

ELECTION 2012: Stories, editorials, videos and resources

Midpeninsula Community Media Center (Video coverage of forums, election issues)

— Palo Alto Online staff

Comments

What's-The-Point?
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm
What's-The-Point?, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm
Like this comment

Does it really matter who is on this board? Whoever is on this board is going to do nothing by rubber stamp the spending proposals of the Administration.


Sara W.
Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm
Sara W., Downtown North
on Sep 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm
Like this comment

If you plan to attend the Oct 1 forum, you can submit questions for the School Board Candidates in advance at the email address: [email protected] The focus of this forum is elementary schools and education.


teach every child
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm
teach every child, Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm
Like this comment

@What's

I think it most certainly does matter who is on the board. This board has had a lot of trouble with good management of the district staff. The last superintendent, Mary Francis Callan, was forced to retire after a hugely wasteful controversy involving a loss of trust in both the superintendent and the board. The board mismanaged that situation and Camille Townsend was the board President then and is the Board President now. As a result of that whole mess, our principals went into open rebellion and organized a union of their own, Palo Alto Management Association. That was a mess of mismanagement and chaos.

Web Link

Web Link

Then, this year, Dr. Skelly and the board disagreed about what to do about counseling at Gunn and the board muffed that situation, failing to give the superintendent clear guidelines or guidance about what to do, and letting that situation get away from them through having private, confidential communications with him to such an extent that the Weekly accused them of violating the Brown Act and Board member Barbara Klausner chastised Dr. Skelly for refusing to follow Board direction. Camille Townsend was president of the Board for that one too.

Web Link

Web Link

Regardless of whether Mary Francis or Dr. Skelly or Board President Townsend is specifically to blame at some point you just have to say enough is enough and that we need a change of the board to get better management. Two serious management crises in 5 years is ridiculous and the board needs new blood.



well
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm
well, Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm
Like this comment

Well, the board will have new blood no matter what, since there are 2 incumbents running for 3 spots - so somewhere between 1 and 2 spots will be new faces.

Agree that it doesn't especially matter.


Local History Buff
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:38 am
Local History Buff, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:38 am
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Teach Every Child,

The reason for Mary Frances Callan's departure had nothing to do with Camille Townsend. Camille was not the board president when a group of K-8 principals worked hard to push Dr. Callan out from late 2005 through Fall of 2006. Presidents: 2004- Cathy Kroymann, 2005 - John Barton, and 2006 - Mandy Lowell, as reported in the news stories you linked to.

The board hired an independent company to investigate the veracity of those principals' allegations. After a detailed investigation was conducted and new formal protocols were adopted in June 2007 which addressed those principals’ concerns, they left the district anyway. Apparently, Dr. Callan and the board were not the problem.


As for the governance crisis that We Can Do Better and Ken Dauber frequently allude to - there was none.

Barb Klausner did dress down the Superintendent about governance, but no governance problems were ever established. Her comments referred to the Superintendent undermining the board’s direction but, reading Town Square, is sure seems as if she was misinformed.

Web Link

Perhaps that is why Barb Klausner publicly retracted that statement a few weeks later with her enthusiastic vote to renew the superintendent's contract, taking that as an opportunity to express her "profound appreciation" for Dr. Skelly's work in light of her "recent commentary about board and superintendent relationships."

Web Link

The Dauber’s accusations, after an expensive and lengthy hunt through PAUSD emails, never, ever established ANY "private, confidential communications" that violated the Brown Act.

WCDB and Mr. Dauber probably feel a need to keep these claims alive because, since early 2011, he’s wanted Dr. Skelly fired.

Web Link


teach every child
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:47 am
teach every child, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:47 am
Like this comment

That's a lot of misinformation for one post.

Barbara Klausner never retracted her statement on governance. That's false.

Most of the rest of this is false too.

Camille Townsend does not have a record that justifies a third term plain and simple.


David Pepperdine
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:08 am
David Pepperdine, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:08 am
Like this comment

Anyone who thinks it doesn't matter who is on the board does not need to go vote.

I think it matters. Enormously. And I plan to vote.

What doesn't matter is what happened 5 years ago. It's today's problems that need to be solved.

And by the way, if Klausner was talking BS, then why did Skelly apologize for his failure to lead? And why did he acknowledge Klausner's call to accept Klausner's concern about governance? And why did he give her the thumbs up to show that he agreed he needed to follow the Board's lead? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Local History Buff
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:27 am
Local History Buff, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:27 am
Like this comment

Teach Every Child - You can listen to Barb Klausner's exact words in the audio link to the board meeting I provided in the link.

David Pepperdine - You've raised those points before. Here were possible answers posted in the link I provided too:

"Mr. Pepperdine, Ever considered that Mr. Skelly's "lack of leadership" might not have been a confession of sins but just wishing that he could have contained the WCDB folks better so his employees had more time to do the work we taxpayers pay them for instead of reply to emails from the Daubers and post documents on the district website?"

"I don't know what he was thinking nor do you. I bet he was unhappy with how he was being treated but was professional enough to keep his feelings to himself and take it on the chin for the district. That is not an admission of guilt. That is keeping decorum and having character."

No need to swear.


More like His story
Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm
More like His story, Fletcher Middle School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm
Like this comment

Skelly has been terribly ineffective but it looks like he is still benefitting from the ghost of Callan. An apology fools only so many of us, though. Klausner seemed to finally emerge when she spoke up to Skelly but like previous posts, she changed her tune weeks later and ensured that we'll be on the hook for a million dollars for this guy.

As for the rest of the Board, ask yourself how well the past four years have gone. Are you satisfied with our math and language arts programs? Do you even know what we our kids do in language arts? Have we shown excellence? Or have we continued the smoke and mirrors while wasting our time with the Brown Act?

Though I haven't lost a child to suicide, I have never gotten past the ineffectiveness and lack of leadership when it was needed most. I will not vote for any of the incumbents this year or in the next election. I'm not thrilled with the new candidates, one seems to have an agenda and the other not a clue, but anybody new will get my vote, write-ins included.


Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm
Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm
Like this comment

I hope that the Weekly will report on this forum better than they did on the last forum.

I want the Weekly to tell me what the candidate's answers to specific questions so that I can choose who will get my vote. This is supposed to be more designed for elementary school issues, I assumed that the last was for middle school issues, but reading the article it appears that was not the case.

It is impossible for me, or anyone, to attend all the forums. I would like the Weekly to report the questions and the answers from all candidates. I assume the same areas covered last week will not be covered again.

Thank you.


David Pepperdine
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm
David Pepperdine, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm
Like this comment

"Mr. Pepperdine, Ever considered that Mr. Skelly's "lack of leadership" might not have been a confession of sins but just wishing that he could have contained the WCDB folks better so his employees had more time to do the work we taxpayers pay them for instead of reply to emails from the Daubers and post documents on the district website?"

No. Absent any misdeeds on his part, Skelly would be loathe to apologize in public for a lack of leadership. He looked very crestfallen that his misdeeds were discovered. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"I don't know what he was thinking nor do you. I bet he was unhappy with how he was being treated but was professional enough to keep his feelings to himself and take it on the chin for the district. That is not an admission of guilt. That is keeping decorum and having character."

How he was being treated? By the Board catching him red-handed trying to undercut the board's explicit directive, which by the way, multiple board members recognized as a governance issue? And he had no role in this? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


I
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm
I , Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm
Like this comment

At tonight's candidate forum at Walter Hays Camille Townsend prevented the PTA from videotaping the forum even though the other candidates all agreed. The poor PTA leader was very embarrassed. What kind of behavior is this for an elected public official? What about parents in our community who didn't have childcare? She lost my vote. I couldn't believe she did that and she's the board president.


Attendee
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm
Attendee, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm
Like this comment

The quote above is incorrect - the addition of a camera was a last second change in plans. Multiple candidates objected, as they were dressed for a more informal gathering. There is a taped debate on Wednesday for anyone interested.


Hays mom
Community Center
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm
Hays mom, Community Center
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm
Like this comment

Sorry Attendee but Camille was the only one who objected. All the candidates were dressed up. Ken and Melissa were wearing suits and the others had on dresses. All three women were professionally dressed and coiffed. Let's be honest.


Attendee
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm
Attendee, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm
Like this comment

Beg to differ - all three women were surprised and objected. Actually, the forum was quite interesting, but rules and expectations do matter.


Hays mom
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm
Hays mom, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm
Like this comment

Melissa said it was fine and Heidi said it was fine with her but if Camille objects then maybe we shouldn't do it. I was right there [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Why don't you ask Melissa?


Attendee
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm
Attendee, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm
Like this comment

[Portion rmeoved by Palo Alto Online staff.] Actual sequence of events was Melissa and other candidates expressing surprise at there being taping, and then a majority of the candidates deciding it wasn't a good idea.


Curious
Addison School
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:05 am
Curious, Addison School
on Oct 2, 2012 at 1:05 am
Like this comment

I wasn't able to attend and would have loved to have had the chance to see this on video since it was supposed to be geared towards the elementary school community. Was it primarily Camille objecting and Melissa and Heidi deferring to her wishes? I also wonder why Camille would object since she gets taped at every school board meeting.


bottom line
Charleston Meadows
on Oct 2, 2012 at 6:52 am
bottom line, Charleston Meadows
on Oct 2, 2012 at 6:52 am
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Hays mom
Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2012 at 7:30 am
Hays mom, Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2012 at 7:30 am
Like this comment

@curious. Yes that is what happened. I was sitting in front. The mom with the camera was not from Hays she was from Duveneck I think. But she had it all set up and Camille said no because she didn't know in advance. The others were fine with it. As to why you would have to ask her. Yes she is videoed at board meetings but who actually watches those? Maybe she wasn't sure how she would do. She did fine actually but I still am not voting for her because I think she should not have blocked the video for other parents. People want to participate and that's a good thing for the schools and a board president should encourage that not try to prevent access to a public event.


Wynn Hausser
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2012 at 11:24 am
Wynn Hausser, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2012 at 11:24 am
Like this comment

In addition to the forums listed above, Palo Alto's Congregation Etz Chayim is hosting a school board candidate forum this Sunday, October 21st from 3:00 - 5:00 pm at 4161 Alma Street. After brief introductory statements, candidates will answer questions submitted by attendees or community members. To submit a question ahead of time, email [email protected]



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