News

Srinivasan Subramanian drops out of Palo Alto school-board race

Five candidates now vying for three open seats

Palo Alto parent and engineer Srinivasan Subramanian has decided to withdraw from the race for a seat on the Board of Education and has instead endorsed candidate Todd Collins, he wrote in an email to the Weekly on Sunday.

"From the beginning, my purpose behind joining the race was a way to propose new ideas and not for opposing anyone," Subramanian wrote. "After getting to know Todd Collins, his accomplishments and service to the community, I thought it would be better to support his message and augment it with mine."

Subramanian's short-lived campaign was focused primarily on technology and civic engagement. The parent of two and principal engineer at Cisco has advocated for investing further in technology to improve teaching, reduce stress and reach more segments of the community.

Subramanian said he particularly supports Collins' position on resolving the multi-million dollar

budget deficit, the result of overestimated property-tax revenue, that the school board is currently working to address. Collins has urged the board to address the long-term financial impact of the deficit now -- to “face the hard choices and discuss them openly, not just kick the can down the road,” as he said at a board retreat in August.

Subramanian said that he is "not saddened or disappointed" about his decision to withdraw and will continue to stay involved in the schools.

"I would like to spend time listening to the community and bringing them into the discussions, to advocate investing in tools and technologies that would help (make) learning more fun and less stressful, and make a difference that way," he wrote. "I will continue to be involved in our public education system and influence the policies so they benefit every child."

There are now five candidates for three open seats on the school board: Collins, a parent and investment manager; Jennifer DiBrienza, a parent and former teacher; incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Heidi Emberling; and Jay Cabrera, a "social entrepreneur" who frequently runs for local office.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by links 4 all
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 4, 2016 at 5:31 pm

And for those looking for the Weekly's link to Todd Collins decision to run: Web Link

Note: That link also mentions Gina Dalma who decided not to run due to family circumstances: Web Link


36 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm

I want to thank Srinivasan for his endorsement. I have gotten to know him better over the last few weeks, after hearing him speak at Board meetings for the last few years, and have great respect for both his ideas and his desire to contribute to our kids and our community. I am proud to have his support.

- Todd Collins


2 people like this
Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm

@Todd Collins - What do you think of Everyday Math, and the new curriculums being considered?


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Interesting to hear his reasoning, but I am sad to see him go.

Not sure who will be my top choice now.


15 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:52 pm

I am *really* upset by this. Despite good ideas, Cabrera is not a serious candidate and the incumbents are a disaster. Please reconsider! I would like the chance to vote for you both!


10 people like this
Posted by Cindy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2016 at 1:32 am

I support both Todd and Srini. Please reconsider running Srini!! There is room on the board for both of you!!


13 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 8:20 am

If we write you in, would you consider serving??


18 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2016 at 9:32 am

I am soooo saddened by this news. Srini would have been a valuable contributor to the board and to PAUSD.

The Indian-Americans have a wonderful philosophy on child raising and education that I have always tried to emulate with my own children. The high value that they place on education does not over stress their children as it does with many other populations, and I would love to see this philosophy incorporated into PAUSD and the board. It can only result in more successful, well-balanced students.


10 people like this
Posted by Also Disappointed
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:58 am

I too am disappointed by this news. Todd and Jennifer already have my vote, but we still need the 3rd seat filled. I agree Jay is not a serious candidate and the incumbents need to go.


11 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm

Unfortunately incumbents have the advantage. The reality is that Todd or Jennifer will get in but probably not both. With that choice I'm bullet voting for Todd, for the reasons that Srini said.


2 people like this
Posted by Vote
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 5, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Vote is a registered user.

You don't have to vote for 3 candidates. Only vote for 1 or 2 if that is all you want elected. Poorly performing incumbents may still get re-elected because of their fancy campaigns, but they will receive fewer votes and get the message support for their mis-management is down.


5 people like this
Posted by Vote
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 5, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Vote is a registered user.

We need more diverse candidates who can see what is going on. I just watched the 8/23/2016 Board of Education meeting that dropped the bombshell that a disproportionate amount (30%) of children in Special Education are minorities who are African American or Hispanic.

This is shocking news. PAUSD was found out of compliance several years ago for doing this. It is why the current highly paid Administrators were brought in. Have we made no progress?

You can't fail to educate minority children by shuffling them into special education and saying they are disabled. The SBAC scores for disabled are horrible. Disabled students in PAUSD meet basic standards at much lower rates than other children. The gap is stunning.

Taxypayers were told the "full inclusion" policy fixed this. For years we heard it saved lots of money and supported 100% of children, even if it made no sense how withdrawing supports from children who needed help would magically bring them up to grade level. What has all the money been spent for?

It sounds like the last 4 years were a failure.

We need to start over.


3 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 10:58 pm

@Also Disappointed.

Normally, I would suggest the same as you just did. But in this election, it's so important that the incumbents are NOT re-elected, I would say it's probably a decent strategy if one is voting for Collins and DiBrienza, to also vote for Cabrera. The reason is that Cabrera is very unlikely to unseat either Collins or DiBrienza anyway, and voting for him with them as a kind of "slate" may actually help him into office.

I've spoken with him in past races, and while he's not really a serious candidate, he's actually a pretty smart guy with great ideas about education. He'd take the responsibility seriously. I know the incumbents personally, and if this is what we have, I'd rather see Cabrera in office than either of the incumbents.

Then again, the senior citizens in this town who have no first-hand knowledge of what has been going on in this district are likely to just credulously read the pamphlets and inadvertently screw all the younger families by voting back in the incumbents. So maybe you''re right. Right now, I'm still wondering if we can write in Mr. Subramanian - would he serve if he won?


4 people like this
Posted by Vote
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Vote is a registered user.

@ A Parent - I fear you are correct voters (of any age) without school aged children will vote for incumbents based on slick pamphlets and web sites without understanding the incumbent's poor records. Emberling heavily pushes endorsements. Those granting endorsements based on her fancy events and sound bites do not get it is an immediate turn off for their services. I am avoiding The Parents Place, a dentist and a realtor, to name a few, because they politicized their services by making these endorsements when they know little about performance.


9 people like this
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:08 am

@Vote,
You have to realize, Emberling is a really nice person with a strong social network of very nice friends. So is Caswell. They are all nice people. I like them myself, as challenged as that like has been by some of the damaging ways they have overseen the district.

The trouble is that being a nice person is not the only needed trait to be an effective school board member, as Caswell and Emberling especially have amply shown. But who is going to go around the shared social connections and campaign against someone they personally like?

I think Todd Collins made a shrewd move, which is to ensure that at least one rational person gets on the board and can make solid, child-centered hard decisions with Dauber and hopefully Godfrey. If the vote gets split between him and Subramanian, neither gets in, because of the afforementioned likely naive well-meaning senior vote that could inflict Caswell and/or Emberling on us again.

I'm not sure that gives his voters credit for knowing enough about what has been happening in the district to see through Caswell and Emberlong, but being realistic about politics in multi-person races, that may be the only way.

Still, I wish I knew if Subramanian would serve if he gets on the board through a write in. I hope he will be at the debates asking hard questions and be willing to write editorials about the board and incumbents' records for the sake of the naive well-meaning senior vote.


8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:43 am

In my opinion, the ability to pass a budget without a deficit, and without resorting to financial tricks (like dipping into reserves, or using bond money) is a prerequisite to be elected to the board.

If the current board cannot reticify their budgeting mistakes by the time I receive my mail-in ballot in early October, I will NOT vote for either incumbent (Heidi Emberling or Melissa Batten-Caswell). I urge everyone to tell their neighbors to do the same.


8 people like this
Posted by Vote
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 6, 2016 at 11:50 am

Vote is a registered user.

@resident - The budget mistakes will be rectified by the November election. They are voting on a new budget September/October. It may still have a deficit (which exists if they are borrowing or taking money from reserves), but the Board will not present it as such because they will say it is a new balanced budget. You can balance with a deficit, you just have to borrow.

As concerning as the budget is, it is more upsetting that Emberling and Baten Caswell were rude to other Board members who warned of the dangers of the June budget. They had a right to present divergent policy opinions. They were elected to do just that. They were only doing their jobs.

@a Parent - "Emberling is a really nice person with a strong social network of very nice friends. So is Caswell. They are all nice people. I like them myself, as challenged as that like has been by some of the damaging ways they have overseen the district."

Very perceptive. Emberling conducts a slick, well organized campaign based on support of politicians who really don't know what's going on. Most of her supports know nothing about actual Board operations. Who cares that a State Assemblyman thinks she is wonderful? Who cares her co-workers think she is caring? I am caring but would such as a Board member because I don't have time to do the job.

"The trouble is that being a nice person is not the only needed trait to be an effective school board member, as Caswell and Emberling especially have amply shown. But who is going to go around the shared social connections and campaign against someone they personally like?"

You are really touching a raw nerve with those who have watched the Board meetings the last 4 years!

The Board of the last 4 years used a lot of social control pressure. They communicate "if you don't like or agree with me, you are bad, you are ridiculous, you just can't get along with us, you don't appreciate teachers, you don't appreciate hard working Administrators, you are committing perjury, how could I have possibly known of errors, no one could have suspected this would happen, by the way I am an expert."

The Board communicated to Administrators this is appropriate behavior, and it trickles down through the District.

It's a culture of control of fear, with the Board communicating, "we will attack you from the Board dais. We will sue you. We will say you are ridiculous and unfair to us. Poor little us. Parents are so emotional. We are not. We are a government and we have lots of money and power and you little parents and citizens don't. Better not present a divergent view point because we will use our power against you. Didn't we say we care? We care because we say it, and you don't."

It's almost like watching a bi-weekly temper tantrum from our elected representatives.




5 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Parent
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

It is a shame to him drop out, I liked his ideas. And the incumbents really drive me crazy - they don't seem to have any interest in actually solving problems or moving things forward.


7 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 6, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

I think this is incredibly gracious and thoughtful of Mr. Subramanian!--and I really admire his devotion to decreasing our kids' high-school stress.

I'm glad he very much wants new thinking on the board, new members, a fresh start.

Todd Collins, for one, will be a tremendous improvement, and I'm delighted that Mr. Subramanian is behind Mr. Collins.

M.V.


11 people like this
Posted by retired guy who follows the schools
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 5:40 pm

retired guy who follows the schools is a registered user.

Just my two cents about the candidates, and a video most people haven't seen. Of a board meeting.

PAUSD board members ought to be smart and open-minded, but they ought to care a lot about kids, most of all.

I hope you’ll watch--if you have the time and it’s not too upsetting--the first 25 minutes here, of the board meeting on March 10th of 2015.

Web Link

This was the day after the death of a Paly boy (I am sorry to say) who was the fourth student who passed away that school year. You would expect board members to be sad or at least serious, out of respect for people grieving.

But if you watch--after the superintendent speaks for 3 minutes (he says it's a “dark hour” and offers a lot of thanks and appreciations)--you will see that starting at 4' 45" he and board members laugh and banter, make tributes, smile for a photo-op, watch a slide show, giggle and joke for 20 minutes--in a sort of party mood. And just the day before (only a block away) trains and traffic were stopped, with squad cars and terrified parents. And the Paly boy was lots of people’s student, and friend, and son.

Finally Paly’s board representative, a girl who’s been sitting right there, has her turn to speak (at about 24', 20") and breaks down crying.

In the U.S. presidential election going on, there's a lot of archive film, and I find it very helpful. This clip is too. People show you a lot about themselves during the hardest times or a crisis. I remember watching all this and feeling sad, angry, and wanting a school board election to happen as soon as possible.

Sitting in the middle in dark clothes are the two incumbents now up for re-election: Ms. Emberling and Ms. Caswell.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Thanks @retired guy. It seems like for some, the school board is about the adults, their appearances and relationships, and the kids are props. Maybe it is easy to fall into that trap - I'm sure most people start out with a real interest in the kids. But when it stops being about the kids, it's times for that person to go.


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