10 questions: Where does Ken Dauber stand?


Q: What should the district do about the Cubberley Community Center site (4000 Middlefield Road)?

Ken Dauber said he is "committed to producing clarity for the city" on Cubberley. "Whether we can be clear about when we're going to do school construction at this point, I don't think so. But ... we can develop a plan with the city that says, 'Here's what we are going to reserve for school use; here's land that we think would make sense as a community center; here's joint use.'" He said the covenant not to develop -- the sticking point in negotiations between the district and city -- "clearly reflects realities that are no longer there" and that both the district and city need to be more flexible on the issue.

Q: Should the district open a 13th elementary school?

Dauber has repeatedly stated his support and the urgent need for opening a new elementary school. He has said that over the last 20 years, the average size of Palo Alto's elementary schools has gone up by a third, yet the district has only opened one new elementary (Barron Park in 1998). He said research shows the optimum size for an elementary school is between 300 and 400 students, but only two of the district's primary schools have populations that small.

Q: Should foreign-language instruction be provided in elementary school?

Dauber has identified foreign languages in elementary schools as a priority during his campaign. He has advocated cutting spending on legal fees and public relations as well as making more realistic budget projections to free up the money for "something as impactful and important as foreign language."

Q: Should the board repeal its June resolution criticizing the Office for Civil Rights?

Dauber has been a vocal critic of the resolution since before the campaign and is committed to repealing it. He thinks getting the district on the right path with its special-education families starts with getting on the right path with civil rights, which means collaborating with rather than fighting the federal agency. He has also criticized the amount of money the district has spent on Office for Civil Rights-related legal issues.

Q: Your opinion of district versus school-site decision-making?

Dauber has said the district should make sure that its guiding philosophy actually is guiding the work of individual staff members and that it provides every child the best the district has to offer, no matter what school they go to or no matter which teacher they have. The key is evaluation. If there are inconsistent practices across the district, they should be evaluated for success, and the ones that are working should be propagated throughout the district.

Q: Your view on the district budget?

Dauber said he thinks the district uses an "overly conservative" property-tax projection (2 percent), which "causes us to underestimate quite substantially our income when we're formulating the budget. ... And the cost of that to the district is that ... we might well choose not to do things that we actually have the capacity to do and that the taxpayers of the community really have a right to expect us to do with those dollars."

Q: Your view of the district's implementation of inclusion programs?

Dauber said the district has "some distance to go" on implementing and managing inclusion effectively. He said in the 2014 Strategic Plan survey, 57 percent of teachers said they feel they need more professional development on special education to be effective in the classroom. He said he is encouraged by Superintendent Max McGee's request that the district director of special education report directly to him. Monitoring and getting direct feedback from students, parents and teachers is also essential.

Q: What would you do about the achievement gap?

Dauber is a strong advocate for using data to be more precise about where the district's areas of strength and weakness are with respect to the achievement gap. He said he would provide the direction and resources necessary rather than to "generate pedagogical strategies."

Q: How is the district doing on managing student stress/well-being?

Dauber has said issues around student stress and well-being are what first got him involved in schools. He worked to get the district's homework policy adopted and has participated in Project Safety Net. He is not satisfied with the progress the district has made and points to the district's failure to evaluate the implementation of the homework policy as an example. He would ask for more metrics, an evaluation of the homework policy and more work on coordinating test and project schedules.

Q: Your opinion of Common Core?

Dauber is an enthusiastic supporter of the new state standards. For Palo Alto, Common Core is consistent with what families want for their kids -- to think critically, synthesize information and reach across disciplines. He has cautioned that the district should pay attention to the Common Core-produced gap in student assessment, since a new standardized test was piloted last academic year but results were not released.

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