Dauber elected to Palo Alto school board; second seat too close to call

Foster trails Godfrey by 71 votes

With all precincts reporting, Ken Dauber has been elected to the Palo Alto school board, but the second seat remains too close to call with Catherine Crystal Foster 71 votes behind Terry Godfrey.

Two years after a first failed run for a board seat, Dauber held a steady lead for the entire evening as results came in. With 46 out of 46 precincts reporting, he has 29.53 percent of the vote, with 6,629 of a now 22,445 votes counted as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

"I'm pleased about the results," Dauber said Wednesday morning. "I'm really looking forward to working with other board members to get to work on the important issues that are facing the district."

Though Godfrey and Foster were neck and neck for much of Tuesday evening, Godfrey eventually pulled slightly ahead with 6,026 votes counted (26.85 percent of the vote). Foster has pulled in 26.53 percent with 5,955 votes counted.

But with thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots still to be counted, the second board seat is too close to call.

Candidate Gina Dalma received 14.22 percent of the vote, or 3,191 counted.

Jay Blas Cabrera has a reported 644 votes, or 2.87 percent.

Foster, reached by phone over the din of an election party at her home early Tuesday evening, wasn't surprised by the neck-and-neck results.

"There are some great people running for school board. I never expected it to be anything other than a close race," she said.

Terry Godfrey said the same Wednesday morning.

"It's a close race. I guess I knew it was going to be ... but having never been in a campaign before, I didn't quite think that I wouldn't know yet," she said.

A group of more than 30 supporters for Dauber and Dalma gathered at Dalma's house Tuesday evening, many crowding around a large flat-screen TV, analyzing the early batch of results from the registrar.

"I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and camaraderie and hope ... look at all of us together here," Dauber told the supporters, gathered in Dalma's living room. "We're all here for our students. We're all here for our community.

"We have suffered a loss today and it's a loss that we are too familiar with," he added, referencing the early morning death by suicide of a Gunn junior. "I think our hearts and our thoughts are with the student, the parents, the staff, the teachers of Gunn, and they're going to continue to be with them."

Dalma and Dauber thanked lists of people who made their campaigns possible, from spouses and children to friends and volunteers – and even each other.

"Back in February, I decided to write an article that was published in the Palo Alto Weekly because something had happened in a high school that I did not agree with," Dalma said, referring to a guest opinion piece she wrote on de-laning at Paly. "I received this random call from a guy who said, 'Let's go have coffee.'"

"It's been a campaign of issues. It's been a campaign of ideas," Dauber said, "and the first person I want to honor in that is Gina Dalma. ... Gina has really elevated the tone of this campaign. She's elevated the content of this campaign. For me, she's given me an example of someone to aspire to in terms of commitment and intelligence, and thinking about what we need in our schools."

Dalma told the Weekly that despite the loss -- she later joked that she had been telling her children she was "winning fourth place" -- she was excited to have participated in what's been an "incredible race."

"I came into the race late and i came in (without) a built-in network in the community, so i'm incredibly proud of the campaign I ran," she said.

"The level of debate was incredibly high," Dalma added. "I think there was an overlap in most of the candidates' views on key issues. Now it's just a matter of making sure that the candidates that win really implement and take it on."

Dauber told the Weekly that he felt like the community conversation has shifted since he first ran for a board seat in 2012, and he commended all the candidates for running campaigns that kept the election focused on key issues.

"I think the voters clearly responded to this message that I brought to put students first," he said Wednesday. "I think they want a school board that's focused on the issues that really matter to students well-being and to their learning and to their social and emotional health. I also think that it was a campaign that let the voters focus on the issues that really matter. I really want to compliment all the candidates in the race for very well-run campaigns that I think gave voters a clear sense about what their options were and how people felt about the direction of the district."

Later Tuesday evening, four of the five candidates -- Dalma, Dauber, Foster and Cabrera -- gathered at City Hall for an interview with former Palo Alto mayor Peter Drekmeier and Councilwoman Liz Kniss.

Kniss called Cabrera the "dark horse" of the campaign.

"I certainly was running an alternative campaign," he said. "I felt like my goal of being a valid choice, but not necessarily people's first choice, was fully successful."

Dauber and the second new board member will join Camille Townsend, Heidi Emberling and Melissa Baten Caswell at the dais, serving four-year terms starting Dec. 9.

Board President Barb Mitchell and member Dana Tom, who both won their seats in 2005, did not run for re-election.

The two new board members will also join new Superintendent Max McGee, who within the first 100 days on the job has taken a fresh tack on communication, created a committee to address the district's achievement gap and resolved in less than two weeks the most recent complaint filed with the federal Office for Civil Rights against Palo Alto Unified.

Throughout the election season, it became clear that the candidates shared common ground when it came to key issues looming on the district's horizon – a need for strong, data-driven decision-making; the expansion of foreign language instruction; continued commitment to students' social-emotional well-being; and enthusiasm for the Common Core State Standards – though personal and professional experiences lent different tilts to each candidate.

Godfrey brought hours of school-volunteer experience and a background in finance and human resources. Foster, a trained lawyer, has spent her entire career working in the overlapping realms of social justice and education. Dalma's work as senior education program officer for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation has taken her to school districts around the country, observing and evaluating programs, including Common Core implementation. Google engineer Dauber, the only candidate who has previously run for a board seat, champions data, transparency and efficiency as among his top priorities. Cabrera, the only non-parent candidate, brought an alternative voice to the election, pushing for technology to be put to use more in Palo Alto's classrooms and in board decision-making.

The candidates also found common ground in their view of recent school leadership, often pointing to a lack of transparent communication with the public and flawed decision-making as the cause for many problems facing the district.

But where the five candidates have most visibly split -- a reflection of the community that they hope to represent -- is on the district's handling of Office for Civil Rights cases. Dauber, Dalma and Cabrera established themselves as staunch critics who firmly oppose the board's commitment, outlined in a resolution adopted this June, to criticizing the federal agency's investigative practices.

Foster set herself apart early in the election season with a nuanced position on the board's resolution: She said she would have, albeit reluctantly, voted to adopt the resolution if the allegations the board has made about the federal agency's investigative practices are true.

Godfrey, critical of what she's called the district's "defensive stance" on civil rights cases, has not said if she would repeal the resolution but instead has suggested the district propose participating in a post-mortem with the federal agency to evaluate and learn from both of their processes.

Dauber's prior run for a board seat occurred in 2012. He fell short to then-challenger Emberling and incumbents Caswell and Townsend with 22.07 percent of the vote, 916 votes behind Emberling.

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8 people like this
Posted by Thank you Ken!
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2014 at 10:27 am

I appreciate Ken Dauber's hard work on behalf of the youth of Palo Alto. Ken, we need you now more than ever. Please help to get the district working on P-8 of the Project Safety Net Plan. Please save Project Safety Net. Please put our students first, and please help to prevent more tragedies, as this articulate Gunn student so poignantly asks:

Web Link

8 people like this
Posted by Tough One
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2014 at 10:55 am

This was a tough vote - I wish there were three seats, because Foster would be competent too. Dauber and Godfrey showed a concern for mental health and seemed more genuine. To those of you who have experienced middle and high school, you'll understand why mental health is a concern. Foster had too many ambiguous, political answers and did not address mental health. A shame we can't swap one of the current School Board members and insert Foster, because she would study the issues and make well-informed decisions.

8 people like this
Posted by Rajiv Bhateja
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Nov 5, 2014 at 11:22 am

Congratulations Ken -- great campaign!

Thanks for all your efforts and tireless advocacy for student health and advancement. It's great to see you recognized so loudly by the community. Keep up the great work!

5 people like this
Posted by Minorities-Rule-In-Democracies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2014 at 11:31 am

With only a little over 6,200 votes out of a roughly 44,000 registered voters in the PAUSD, Dauber's been elected with only about 14% of the total votes possible.

Given how important the PAUSD is to people who claim that "we moved here for the schools"--then where are the votes, where are the voters, and why is it that the elected representation to the PAUSD board of education is so unimportant to so many people claiming to be the "best educated people in the world".

Democracies fail when people stop participating. Dauber's election can only be attributed to apathy on the part of the so-well educated PAUSD resident/voter.

Dauber does not represent but a sliver of people in the district.

[Portion removed.]

10 people like this
Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 5, 2014 at 11:52 am

If Ken Dauber was "elected by a sliver" as stated above, then Godfrey and Foster votes represent micro-slivers - which the writer neglects to note. I seem to remember that being the highest vote getter is a good thing, and Dauber is the highest vote getter. To brand Dauber and supporters as left-wing is a 1950's non- sequitur that means nothing in this election.
Congratulations to voters for making Dauber our #1 choice for intelligent positive change.

12 people like this
Posted by Losers will be losers
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

RE: Minorities Rule

Well the last time I checked, Dauber's 6200 votes beat the other candidate's total ballots handily.

I suppose you are griping about the structure of our elections themselves. Yes, a primary election for school board would probably satisfy your craving for large (though misleading) margins of victory.

So yes, if you think about it, if more of these mystery voters who didnt vote yesterday just happened to align with your policy views and voted for your candidate, you would have won. However seeing as that didnt happen, your pining and wailing actually constitute the real threat to our democracy - losers not accepting the will of the majority, not conceding defeat, and not working to enact the democratically selected policy agenda with the democratically elected candidate.

Everyone loves democracy when they win or the winners work for them. The second they realize that it can go both ways, the sweat salty tears of betrayal flow freely.

3 people like this
Posted by peppered
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm

peppered is a registered user.

Correction: Majorities do.

Might want to be a gracious loser rather than a negative, sour doomsayer.
Good for the soul.

5 people like this
Posted by peppered
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm

peppered is a registered user.


Dauber got 29% of the votes cast. Your 14% number is like saying only 6200 people voted for him out of the 7 billion alive -- irrelevant.

You seem to rule out the possibility that the people who did not vote might have voted for Dauber in even larger numbers. Very clever twist. But we caught you.

"Dauber's election can only be attributed to apathy on the part of the so-well educated PAUSD resident/voter."

Correction: It's attributed to more people voting for him than for anyone else on the ballot.

10 people like this
Posted by Local yokel
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Local yokel is a registered user.

I wish the new board members all the best as they start their terms. One issue they'll need to deal with is the "elephant in the classroom" and that is the way secondary school teachers treat students in our district. They have ultimate power and they use it whenever they want. Students need to feel valued and they need to know there's a back-up plan in case they mess up a project, paper or test. I would call the theme at the high schools "tough love." If you make a mistake, you've dropped a letter grade -- too bad for you. There's no opportunity to re-write a paper to improve your grade (and your writing). What a concept! If the student doesn't complete all of the tedious, repetitive homework assignments his/her grade will suffer, even if he/she already knows the material. There's no opportunity for a student with a C to do extra credit to work up to a B. The tests that are given include minutiae meant to generate enough 'non-A' grades so that the teacher makes sure he/she doesn't appear to be inflating grades. Their system is set up for most average students to fail. That's why students don't feel worthy and don't end up enjoying the subject matter. No one is willing to speak up about a lot of this because they are worried their child will have retribution from their teachers.

2 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Local - well said.

5 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm

True is a registered user.

Local yokel: So very true! Teachers have so much power over students' futures. We had a teacher in a regular lane class who overworked the students and didn't allow redemption. Many parents were up in arms but no one wanted to complain for fear of retaliation. The child of one person who did complain got a "C" in the class. No one wanted to write to the IS after the class ended because they didn't want to remember the trauma and feared retaliation. We have found that the unreasonable ones are the young teachers who want to prove themselves and feel taken advantage of if they dole out too many "A"s.

There are some teachers who are reasonable and do allow redemption - they are usually the more experienced teachers.

1 person likes this
Posted by Barron Park Dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Barron Park Dad is a registered user.

Congratulations Ken!

I did not support you. I have heard the old Ken speak at school board meetings. I have watched the old Ken walk out of Gunn meetings. I have heard the new Ken speak at recent debates. I have read the new Ken's writings. Which Ken did we elect? I sure hope it's the new Ken!

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 6, 2014 at 9:35 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.


2 people like this
Posted by Nancy Grace
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 6, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Nancy Grace is a registered user.

Congratulations Ken!

I have heard Ken speak at board meetings and am very grateful he will now be speaking from the dais. Ken puts our students first. He has a great vision for all of our students but cannot do this work without our support. Let’s get to work. There is a lot to be done.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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