Under a proposed administrative regulation, a donor who gives more than $50,000 to the Palo Alto school district but wants to remain anonymous will be required to disclose his or her identity to the school board.
The school board will vote on Tuesday night the proposal, which was spurred by a sizable anonymous gift made to Addison Elementary School last year. The gift sparked debate on the board about balancing public donations from donors who wish to remain anonymous with transparency.
Under the proposed administrative regulation, which accompanies board policy on gifts, the superintendent would "ascertain" the identity of any donor who gives more than $50,000 but wants to remain publicly anonymous and inform the board confidentially. This requirement for identifying an anonymous donor may be waived by a vote of the board, in a public meeting.
In the Addison case, the donor has remained completely anonymous to the school district. District staff have worked with a representative from Goldman Sachs who communicated on the donor's behalf his or her intention to cover the full cost of a major renovation of the school that could cost up to $17 million. Last March, the school board unanimously accepted a $1.3 million gift from the donor, the first of what is expected to be several donations to fully fund the project.
District Bond Program Manager Bob Golton said the district anticipates receiving about $15 million from the donor in June.
The board's policy review committee, which reviewed the proposed regulation on Nov. 17, is recommending that the board waive the requirement for the Addison gift since it was initiated before the proposed policy emerged.
"We do want to be clear that we'd like to get this (the administrative regulation) on the books but we don't want to affect that original gift," board President and committee chair Terry Godfrey said at the Nov. 17 meeting.
Teri Baldwin, president of the teachers union, however, did not support the disclosure requirement.
"I personally feel if the money is vetted and the person's anonymous … who are we to judge?" said Baldwin, who sits on the policy committee. "Quite honestly I think in some ways having it anonymous is helpful … nobody feels beholden to somebody else."
Under the proposal, school principals could approve and accept gifts up to $25,000 and the superintendent or a district designee could approve and accept gifts of up to $50,000.
Donations that are more than $50,000 or that "may have a significant effect on the future expenditures or direction of the district" would be subject to board approval. In the Addison case, the district was in talks with the donor's representative for almost a year before bringing the item to a board meeting for discussion.
The nature of the gift, the donor's identity and the kind of program that the gift is intended to support must also be "carefully evaluated," the policy states.
In other business Tuesday, the board is set to approve a comment letter in response to Santa Clara County's draft environment impact report on Stanford University's proposed general-use permit; approve a contract with a firm to oversee its search for a new superintendent; discuss student data on A-G college requirements; and discuss a board member's proposal to implement term limits for board members, among other items.
The board is also set to elect a new president and vice president for 2018. The new president will assume the position immediately following the vote.
The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. Read the full agenda here.