Baten Caswell appears to secure re-election to Palo Alto school board

With votes still being counted, Baten Caswell's lead increases over Emberling

Two-term Palo Alto Board of Education member Melissa Baten Caswell appears to have been elected to her third term, based on unofficial election results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Since Tuesday night, she's been in a battle for the third open seat with current board President Heidi Emberling. Challengers Jennifer DiBrienza, a former teacher who billed herself as a much-needed educator's voice on the board, and Todd Collins, a private investor who made the school district's current budget deficit the focus of his campaign, came in first and second, respectively.

As of Thursday morning, Baten Caswell has received 9,748 votes to Emberling's 9,593, widening to 155 a gap that yesterday hovered around 40 votes. By Friday morning, the gap had narrowed slightly to 135 votes; by Saturday evening, it grew to 178.

Baten Caswell did not return a request for comment.

Emberling told the Weekly Thursday morning that she was not yet ready to concede, and planned to wait until more ballots are counted throughout the coming days. The Registrar of Voters reported Thursday that 64 percent of ballots had been counted, though all 48 precincts voting in the Palo Alto Unified School District race had reported as of 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

All vote-by-mail ballots and early-voting ballots received prior to Election Day have been counted, but “last minute” mail-in ballots are still being processed, the Registrar said Wednesday.

Emberling, a former journalist and now parent educator, was first elected to the board in 2012. Baten Caswell, a former business manager and now software firm CEO, first won a seat in 2007.

Baten Caswell is only the second school board member to seek a third term in the past 40 years. Fellow board member Camille Townsend, who decided not to run for re-election, is currently ending her third term.

The Registrar will continue to post election results on its website twice daily, around 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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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14 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

Penny is a registered user.

They are waiting for final counts. Caswell and Emberling are not, and never have been, combative with each other. They are colleagues and friendly, as your photo attached to the article shows. There is no "battle"...simply the act of waiting for an election outcome, though I realize that makes less stirring copy. Either one of them will maintain similar relationships with their future Board colleagues.

Just the facts, please.

33 people like this
Posted by CME dad
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 10, 2016 at 11:55 am

Neither Melissa nor Heidi are good representatives of our community, given the recent budget debacles and unwillingness to tackle the problem aggressively.

But at least one of them is only running for a 2nd term, whereas the other one is running for a third term. I don't believe in squatting. Give other people a chance.

18 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm

I don't want Melissa to win. She just believes in more, more and more rigor for our students. Notice her daughter went to Castilleja, where there are no AP classes.

14 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 10, 2016 at 3:29 pm

@Parent: Melissa wants more rigor fir PAUSD to keep the reputation but sends her own daughter to Casti? I agree there is too much stress in PAUSD.

23 people like this
Posted by Poison or hanging
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2016 at 4:43 pm

It's hard to care much about this one.

2 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Castilleja actually does have APs, but did redesign [I think] their own advanced science courses. Perhaps it is Nueva that does not have APs?

7 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 11, 2016 at 4:11 am

Is it too much to hope that they each lose to the other? So we can move the school district forward again?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Los Altos

on Jul 25, 2017 at 11:54 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Terman Middle School

on Aug 1, 2017 at 11:07 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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

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