Laurene Powell Jobs donates to school-board incumbent's campaign

Melissa Baten Caswell surprised by 'totally unexpected' contribution

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the amount that Laurene Powell Jobs contributed to Melissa Baten Caswell's campaign. There was a single $2,500 donation, which was reported in two separate filings, rather than two separate $2,500 donations.

With less than a month left until Election Day, Palo Alto school-board trustee Melissa Baten Caswell’s campaign for re-election has received a large cash injection from Laurene Powell Jobs, Palo Alto resident, education-reform leader and widow of technology pioneer Steve Jobs.

Powell Jobs contributed $2,500 on Oct. 14, according to campaign finance documents. Powell Jobs is the president of the Emerson Collective, a social justice-minded organization focused on reform in education, immigration and other areas.

The contribution came after the close of a reporting period, which ended in late September. The Political Reform Act requires candidates to report contributions of $1,000 or more from a single source during the 90 days before an election.

Baten Caswell told the Weekly Monday that she was surprised by the generous yet "totally unexpected" contribution. She said she has known Powell Jobs for a long time -- their children went to preschool together -- but they had not discussed her campaign finance needs.

"This was very generous of her. I didn't expect it, but I'm really grateful that she continues to have confidence in my service to the community and to our students," Baten Caswell said.

She said that Powell Jobs contributed to her previous school-board campaigns but not at this level. Baten Caswell was first elected to the board in 2007 and again in 2012.

The cash will allow Baten Caswell to fully execute a "pretty modest" campaign plan that, before receiving the contribution, she wasn't sure she would be able to accomplish, she said. The plan includes more advertising and direct mail to voters.

Her total campaign coffers are still under $20,000, Baten Caswell said.

As of late September, Baten Caswell had raised $12,814 with minimal spending (about $600 on T-shirts and kickoff party expenses). At the time, her total lagged behind contenders Todd Collins' and Jennifer DiBrienza's by several thousand dollars.

As of Monday, none of the other four school-board candidates had filed late campaign-contribution reports, according to online records.

The next campaign-contributions reporting deadline is Thursday, Oct. 27.

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


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40 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:27 am

I encourage fellow readers to read the Palo Alto Weekly editorial last week. We need more accountability than we have gotten from the 2 incumbents running for school board (and this is the 3rd bite at the apple for Melissa Baten-Caswell).

Giving an incumbent 2 terms when governance has been demonstrably poor over the past few years is bad enough -- please read the editorial for examples -- but to give someone a 3rd term? Come on folks. Palo Alto can do better than that.

17 people like this
Posted by In-the-know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

Melissa is an Ivy League graduate who believes in more rigor for PAUSD high schools. She was the one who pushed for the mandatory 2 years of World Language requirement for graduation.

Don't vote for another elite school graduate. [Portion removed.] Besides the current Ken Dauber (who has a degree from Yale) the Ivy League graduates just want more rigor for our already overloaded students. Almost ever student in AP math or AP science classes has a tutor. Students even have tutors in regular lane because of the poor teaching.

If Melissa works on teacher tenure, I'd be impressed.

17 people like this
Posted by Out of It
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Out of It is a registered user.

Laurene Powell (she rarely uses Jobs) has not had any children in PAUSD for a very long time. She herself splits her time between DC and Silicon Valley, so she is pretty out of it regarding the local schools.

Ignore her backing for Melissa. Don't vote for her! [Portion removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by Been There
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Melissa will provide valuable history to the School Board, which is why she is running again. Vote for Melissa!

15 people like this
Posted by Parent 2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:16 pm

@Been There,
Melissa can still volunteer as s community member to her heart's content, it is not necessary for her to continue to dominate the board. I encourage everyone to read the Weekly editorial and endorsements.

5 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2016 at 12:20 am

There was a Jobs in the graduating class of 16. That was months ago, not so long in my book.

5 people like this
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Uh-Oh is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

15 people like this
Posted by Accountability, Please
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Nine years of consistently embarrassing governance - and she wants another term to provide the "institutional knowledge"? I give her credit for moxie. Read the editorial for the particulars of the indictment: Web Link

Holding our local elected officials accountable for their performance in office is not something we do very well in Palo Alto.

There is no way to sugar-coat our views on the performance over the last four years of Baten Caswell and Emberling; their actions on the school board, while surely well-intended, have allowed the district to gyrate from one crisis or controversy to another, undermining trust and confidence in the board, in Superintendent Max McGee and in the operation of the district.

3 people like this
Posted by just a friend
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 19, 2016 at 6:01 pm

just a friend is a registered user.

People also contribute to campaigns, especially small, local ones, because they are simply friends with the candidate. You don't always need to read more into it...

8 people like this
Posted by Comment
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Laurene's daughter graduated from Paly last year. She has been a longtime advocate of education founding College Track in EPA and recently funding +$100 mil towards education initiatives with XQ which strives to rethink our education system. Make your own decisions on a candidate but don’t knock someone who has been a longtime advocate for education.

2 people like this
Posted by Scary
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Scary is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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

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