Emberling concedes in Palo Alto school board race

DiBrienza, Collins, Baten Caswell to be sworn in Dec. 6

One-term Palo Alto Board of Education incumbent Heidi Emberling has conceded victory in the Nov. 8 election to fellow trustee Melissa Baten Caswell after close to a week of vying for the third open seat.

She sent a message to her supporters on Monday morning thanking them for "all the house parties, contributions, lawn signs and great conversations I've had with you over the past few months about issues that matter to our families, teachers, and students.

"Although I didn't get enough votes to win this time, I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your elected school board representative for the past four years," she wrote.

Referencing the presidential election, Emberling said she has been telling her children "not to lose hope in the democratic process, even in the face of a heartbreaking loss."

Baten Caswell said she was "honored to serve another term"

and thanked the numerous people who supported her campaign.

"I wouldn't have done this if I didn’t feel that I was able to add value and I’m honored that the community gives me that vote of confidence," she said.

Emberling had a slight lead on Nov. 8 when early, unofficial election results were first released, but Baten Caswell pulled ahead in the ensuing days. She appeared to secure her seat by Thursday but votes continued to be counted. By Monday morning, with 81 percent of ballots counted in Santa Clara County, her lead grew to 197 votes, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Baten Caswell will join newcomers Todd Collins and Jennifer DiBrienza, who won the other two seats on the board. DiBrienza, who received the most votes, still holds a commanding lead with 28.75 percent of the votes, or 17,967.

Collins has trailed DiBrienza since last Tuesday. He has now pulled in about 21 percent of the vote, or 13,080 votes.

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

A longtime schools volunteer and former business manager, Baten Caswell is now the CEO of a fledgling software company.

"Palo Alto is fortunate to have passionate, intelligent, dedicated people serving on the Board of Education," Emberling wrote in her message. "I am honored to have served alongside them, and I welcome and congratulate our newcomers. Our schools benefit when parents are involved in the education of their children, and we are stronger as a district when we all work together towards our common goals."

The three new board members are set to be sworn in at the school board's last meeting of the year on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

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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9 people like this
Posted by Schools and kids
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

"A longtime schools volunteer and former business manager, Baten Caswell is now the CEO of a fledgling software company."

It should be expected that the fledgling software company is going to consume most of Baten Caswell's time and energy, the CEO of which which she became in 2015. Can she continue to contribute with same dedication that she did prior to this role?

Btw, a google search will show the fledgling software company is CollegeMojo, which launches itself as "Do College Applications feel overwhelming? CollegeMojo can help."

After finding this out, I no longer feel MBC's top priority is our school system. Maybe she should have been the one to concede.

5 people like this
Posted by Schools and kids
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 10:49 am

Should also note that MBC is not just the CEO of Collegemojo, but the founder.
I do not necessarily see any issues with someone with PAUSD board experience setting up a business in education field; but I do see a problem with expecting continued dedication from someone who just founded a startup, the success of which might benefit from her role on the PAUSD board.

37 people like this
Posted by Megan Fogarty
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2016 at 10:59 am

Let's remember that Board of Education is a civic role not a job. David Packard served while running HP. Let's give the same respect to our current civic leaders.

28 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 14, 2016 at 11:19 am

Be Positive is a registered user.

Thank you Heidi for all your time as a Board member and community volunteer!

18 people like this
Posted by Term Limits Please
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Good step for the next board: term limits. Same as for city council, county supervisors, state assembly, state senate, and the governor. If the school board members aren't sensible enough to abide by long-standing custom, looks like they need a rule.

5 people like this
Posted by Term Limits Please
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 12:37 pm

BTW, I hope Emberling continues to contribute to the schools. Her perspective on early education is valuable, and an area where they almost certainly need to do more, esp. to address the performance of low-income students.

2 people like this
Posted by Ummm...
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm

It's not a problem that she is the CEO of her company which doesn't make EpiPen.
The competitors of her company have already established the same contents. I don't think she has a chance.

9 people like this
Posted by Sheers for a Better School Board
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 4:52 pm

At least one of them Camile and Heidy will be gone. Hopefully next election will get someonw to replace Melisa. Unless this time she is there for the kids, not for the administrators. She needs to work with the rest of the board members. She could be great if she stops trying to protect the district instead of working in the benefit of our kids.

15 people like this
Posted by Are we in Palo Alto?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2016 at 6:00 pm

@schools and kids

Wow -- I'm stunned by your comment that Melissa Baten Caswell can't hold a job and serve on the board at the same time. Really? A woman can't hold a full-time job when serving on school board? Gee, I thought we were living in enlightened Palo Alto. Would you really have made that comment about a man? Did you ever question whether Ken Dauber or Todd Collins could serve on the board while holding a full-time job? Time to wake up. This is 2016. Women have long been able to multi-task -- often better than men.

3 people like this
Posted by Meadow Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2016 at 12:12 am

Thank you to Heidi for her time and dedication to improving our schools. Your 4 years of service will be remembered fondly Congratulations to Melissa, Todd and Jennifer. As Palo Alto parents, we owe you all a debt of gratitude for the service to the community.

Like this comment
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 15, 2016 at 4:46 am

Congratulations Melissa.

Heidi, thanks for being a good sport and for your service.


4 people like this
Posted by Penny
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Penny is a registered user.

Thank you, Heidi for your service. I know you always had students at the front and center of your thoughts. Best wishes to you...and to Melissa and our other new board members, too.

Everybody, please remember our board members are volunteers. They give thousands of hours of their time to our community. I, for one, am grateful.

9 people like this
Posted by Fool me once
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Nov 16, 2016 at 6:38 am

It wasn't a good four years for Heidi, she seemed to not be a good fit.

8 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:58 am

Heidi was better than Melissa.

1 person likes this
Posted by Parents
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 16, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Gracious concession.

Sorry you fell victim.

No new schedule at Gunn!!!!

5 people like this
Posted by Slippery
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 20, 2016 at 2:10 am

Do you think Caswell will remember that she was only re-elected because there were no other competitors and the Weekly didn't endorse the guy who wasn't even running anymore?

I heard Caswell showed up at Paly just before the election and promoted her candidacy. If true, wouldn't that violate fair political practices? Given how close the race between her and Heidi, I hope Emberling takes it up with Fair Political Practices... Oh wait, getting help from anyone outside the district is a nonstarter.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm

Caswell is particularly proud of her "institutional knowledge" - she can rarely address an issue without talking about how it has come around before (as they all have, of course). Hopefully she can realize that while her knowledge is helpful, votes found her judgment was unsound, hence her 3rd place finish.

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

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