Collins, DiBrienza lead in school-board campaign funding

Five weeks before the election, however, DiBrienza's campaign coffer is nearly depleted

Two challengers in the race for the Palo Alto school board have amassed bigger campaign war chests than the two incumbents, according to campaign finance documents filed Thursday.

Leading the pack, Todd Collins has raised $20,460 to date, including a $5,000 loan he made himself, according to the latest finance statement, which covers the period between July 1 and Sept. 24. He also contributed a separate $5,000 to his campaign. With expenditures totaling about $6,000 and “miscellaneous” cash increases, he has about $15,000 left in his campaign coffers.

Among Collins' contributors are Steven Chanin of Palo Alto, ($1,000); Grace Mah, a Palo Alto parent and current member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education ($100 in this period, $200 to date); former Palo Alto trustees Barbara Klausner ($150), Barb Mitchell ($250) and Amado Padilla ($100); and Olenka Villarreal, founder of the Magical Bridge Playground ($200). Three Palo Alto Unified School District teachers also contributed to his campaign: Cara Stoneburner, $100; Tom Culbertson, $250; and Karen Saxena, $100.

Jennifer DiBrienza has raised about $17,617 to date, but she has spent nearly all of it, according to her finance statement, which shows an ending cash balance of $421.

She has spent most significantly — close to $7,000 — on print and online advertisements in local newspapers, including the Palo Alto Weekly, and for services from Political Data Inc., which provides data to political campaigns. Other dollars went to typical campaign expenses: kickoff events, lawn signs, flyers, T-shirts and the like.

DiBrienza also loaned her campaign $999, according to her finance statement. Her husband Jesse Dorogusker also contributed about $800 to date.

DiBrienza’s other top contributors include Michelle Sandberg, a Santa Clara Valley Medical Center pediatrician (and sister of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Michelle Sandberg), who gave $999; and Hilary Weisfeld, a board member for the Palo Alto Oshman Family JCC, who gave the same amount. Elizabeth May, vice president of schools development for Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE), gave $500. Palo Alto Unified teachers Julie Bagniefski and Karen Kitayama contributed $250 and $100, respectively.

Incumbent Melissa Baten Caswell has raised $12,814 so far with minimal spending (about $600 on T-shirts and kickoff party expenses). Some familiar faces in the school community are among her donors: current trustees Camille Townsend ($100) and Terry Godfrey ($100); Barb Mitchell ($250) and former board candidate Catherine Crystal Foster ($200).

Current Board President Heidi Emberling trails the pack with $10,347 raised to date, according to her statement. She has spent about half of that amount so far.

Townsend also gave $100 to Emberling’s campaign, and Crystal Foster, $150. Former Palo Alto mayor Nancy Shepherd contributed $225. Two members of the district’s Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, Erin Mershon and Mark Romer, gave $100 each. Teacher Cara Stoneburner, who also contributed to Collins’ campaign, gave the same amount.

Jay Cabrera, who has committed to running as a small-contribution candidate, is not accepting donations over $100. He has not filed a campaign finance statement.

To view the candidates' campaign finance statements, visit the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters' website.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of the school-board election. To view it, go to


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the loans the candidates made to their campaigns.

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1 person likes this
Posted by JohnG
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Bit of a misleading headline. If we exclude the loans that candidates (and spouses) provide to themselves, then the math shows that Jennifer DiBrienza raised $15,818 and Todd Collins raised $15,460. So I'm not sure that means she is "technically close behind Collins".
I'm in favor of both of these candidates but wish the Weekly writers would remove some bias.

Like this comment
Posted by Follow the money
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 1, 2016 at 6:55 am

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by more details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:04 am

List of school board members' support for school board candidates so far:

Current Board
Ken Dauber: Todd Collins ($500, the largest board member donation made)
Terry Godfrey: Melissa Baten Caswell & Heidi Emberling
Camille Townsend: Melissa Baten Caswell & Heidi Emberling

Former Board
Barb Klausner: Todd Collins
Cathy Kroyman: Melissa Baten Caswell & Jennifer DiBrienza
Mandy Lowell: Melissa Baten Caswell & Todd Collins
Barb Mitchell: Melissa Baten Caswell, Heidi Emberling & Todd Collins
Amado Padillo: Todd Collins
Dana Tom: Todd Collins

15 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:23 am

Thanks for the details. Interesting that Dauber supports Collins only, while the other board members are supporting the incumbents. Dauber needs support on the board so he isn't losing 4-1 votes on spending taxpayer money wisely. I am planning on voting for Collins only when my ballot comes.

3 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:31 am

@ more details -

Jennifer DiBrienza has been endorsed by Klausner, Padillo, and Dana Tom as well. And many others including Susie Richardson, Carolyn Tucher, Julie Jerome, Don Way.

She has also been endorsed by well-respected former school board member and life-long public servant Joe Simitian.

It doesn't serve our community well to post a misleading, incomplete list of supporters. For an accurate (extensive!) list of Jennifer's supporters see her website: Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:39 am

@Fact checker, thanks for the link. The fact that Dauber doesn't endorse DiBrienza matters most to me. He's the only board member who seems to get the idea of not giving away all the property taxes and parcel taxes on high raises and is trying to actually fix the problem.

5 people like this
Posted by More endorsements and correct list
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:40 am

More endorsements and correct list is a registered user.

People should do their homework if posting details. Here is a correct and more complete list of board member endorsements:

Ken Dauber: Todd
Terry Godfrey: Melissa, Heidi
Camille Townsend: Heidi, Melissa, Todd

Barbara Klausner: Jennifer, Melissa, Todd
Cathy Kroyman: Heidi, Jennifer, Melissa
Mandy Lowell: Melissa, Todd
Barb Mitchell: Heidi, Melissa, Todd
Amado Padilla: Jennifer, Todd
Dana Tom: Heidi, Jennifer, Todd
Gail Price: Heidi, Jennifer, Melissa
Diane Reklis: Heidi, Jennifer
Carolyn Tucher: Heidi, Jennifer, Todd
Julie Jerome: Jennifer, Melissa
Don Way: Jennifer, Melissa
Greg Schmid: Jennifer, Melissa
Joh Barton: Jennifer
Liz Kniss: all
Joe Simitian: Heidi, Jennifer, Melissa

2 people like this
Posted by One More
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:51 am

One More is a registered user.

Susie Richardson has endorsed Jennifer DiBrienza

4 people like this
Posted by more details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 9:21 am

On DiBrienza: Weekly - "technically close behind Collins"

Total raised: $17,617.

Her loan, her husband's donation, and the names of her largest donors, who gave $999 each, are called out in the article.


On Collins: Weekly - "Collins leads in school-board campaign contributions...Collins has raised $20,460 to date, including a $5,000 loan he made himself"

Total raised: $20,460 but in that total is $10,000 of Collins' own money - a campaign donation of $5,000 he made in June and his $5,000 loan. Without those, Collins raised the same or less than the 3 other candidates reporting.

Unlike what was shared in the article for DiBrienza, not mentioned are the names of Collins' largest contributors, who gave $1,000 each, and what his family donated.

Like this comment
Posted by more details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2016 at 10:39 am

Almost correct posts on former school board members

Donations (add)

Kniss: Melissa Baten Caswell

Tucher: Heidi Emberling

Endorsements (these are corrections to "More endorsements and correct list"'s post)

Carolyn Tucher: endorsed all 4
(she endorsed Caswell as well)

Greg Schmid: endorsed Caswell & Collins
(he is not listed as endorsing DiBrienza on her website)

Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 2:09 pm

"Todd Collins has raised $20,460 to date, including a $5,000 loan he made himself'

Who pays back this loan?

4 people like this
Posted by Bias
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Weekly's biased "reporting" at its finest! Pretty clear they are supporting Collins by saying that he leads the pack with 20 K, half of which he has contributed! They also leave off many of Jennifers endorsements. The weekly has really become a mouthpiece for Dauber who Wants Collins to help him beat up the other board members and the district staff.

15 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Exactly why I want Collins on the board with Dauber. We need another board member who is independent of staff. If he will vote with Dauber to refuse excessive raises and fire the PR flack, all the better.

1 person likes this
Posted by info
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 2, 2016 at 9:15 am

It's re-paid from all the raised campaign funds.

Nothing implicitly wrong with using a loan as it easy cash-flow problems with fund-raising. Though it's certainly ironic that such a large percentage of Collin's campaign funds are in the form of a loan given Collin's claims that the district is living above its means!

3 people like this
Posted by Education Eagle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm

I'm not sure I'm convinced Collins is independent of staff. I just don't know. But, I'm inclined to vote for anyone but the incumbents who have been unrepentent disasters. Even Jay Cabrera is beginning to appeal to me. He went to school in the district, cares about the special ed dept actually serving families (unlike Caswell's disingenuous claims, she knows very well her family is getting treated with kid gloves). I've spoken with Cabrera, and while he is idealistic, he also comes across as genuine and smart, two things we could really use. I think he would be a refreshing addition, frankly. As a fifth voice, we could do worse (the incumbents).

I will vote for Cabrera, and if I am concinced Collins is not a sleeper for district staff, Collins and DiBrienza. It's hard to see how anyone could be worse than Emberling. (I say this assomeone who voted for her, to my great regret). Caswell should have stepped down.

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