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Readers: Contribute questions for school board debate

Palo Alto Weekly to host first Board of Ed debate on Sept. 20

The Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online is hosting the first Board of Education debate of the election season on Thursday, Sept. 20, 7:30-9 p.m. at the Palo Alto Art Center and is seeking reader-submitted questions for the candidates.

All six candidates for the school board — special-education advocate Stacey Ashlund, after-school-program director Christopher Boyd, incumbent Ken Dauber, attorney Shounak Dharap, parent Kathy Jordan and recent graduate Alex Scharf — will participate.

Weekly Editor Jocelyn Dong and education reporter Elena Kadvany will moderate the debate. Student-editors from Gunn High School's The Oracle and Palo Alto High School's Campanile, Verde Magazine and Paly Voice also will ask the candidates questions. The debate will cover central school district topics including legal compliance, transparent governance, fiscal management, equity, instructional strategies and student wellness, among others.

To submit questions for the moderators to consider in advance, send an email to ekadvany@paweekly.com.

The moderators will also take questions from the audience.

The student publications are co-sponsoring the debate, along with youth well-being collaborative Project Safety Net, American Association of University Women (AAUW), Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS) and the Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club.

The debate will take place in the auditorium at the Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto.

The Weekly and Palo Alto Online will also host a City Council debate with the five candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Cubberley Community Center's Little Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. The candidates are council incumbents Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Cory Wolbach and challengers Pat Boone, who is a TV journalist, and Alison Cormack, who led the Measure N library-bond campaign.

Video recordings of the school board and City Council debates will be posted on Palo Alto Online following the events, which will not be livestreamed.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

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

Comments

6 people like this
Posted by ForTheStudents
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 18, 2018 at 12:25 pm

I’m wondering whether you might consider publishing a link to the questions submitted thus far? Seems like an efficient way to ensure full transparency and raise accountability while minimizing redundancy.
In addition to the great coverage we count on you to provide, it would be great to have an updated link, after the forum, with answers posted in standard Q&A format. Getting leadership commitments on the record with strong stakeholder engagement would go a long way towards putting students’ best interests ahead of CYA, administrative self-preservation, and small town politics. With a full-on mental health epidemic in our school district, timezup to remove the sustainably-sourced fig leaf. Make the system work for the students.
Thanks for the tireless work you’re doing to help get us there!


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2018 at 4:48 pm

I would like to have questions asked about the budget and other financial spending questions. How they would prevent so much money wasted on trivial items? How they would have dealt with the renaming of schools? How they would have dealt with naming a school after people rather than other types of names? How they would deal with making big decisions without taking cost of such decisions into account.

I would also like to see some honor about how the public are dealt with. Two examples, MI was supposed to be a pilot program and after the pilot time it was just assumed it would continue. There was no debate about whether it was successful, just that it would be continued. This is not honorable in my opinion to what was said at the time by the board. At the time of changing the start time to mid August (instead of late August) many people asked about the possibility of trimesters. Some official was asked to look into how this could be done at some time in the future. There has been no revisit of this topic. If the board ask for the idea of trimesters to be investigated, then a report should be made at a board meeting within a reasonable amount of time. This has never been brought up again and once again is a dishonorable way to treat the public.

Lastly I would like to ask each candidate how they would like to see American education improved to be on better international ratings tables. I doubt very much Palo Alto would try to be innovative and start something new (a very sad situation I think personally) but at least it would be nice to know how the candidates feel education should be moving in the future.


16 people like this
Posted by Lei Ping
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 18, 2018 at 6:57 pm

Will there be refreshments served afterwards?


6 people like this
Posted by Duv Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2018 at 8:31 pm

Would PAUSD repeat the same protocol that Jordan did last year when a completely fabricated rape claim was made? Or would certain protections be made so as not to destroy the boys life?


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm

"... how they would like to see American education improved to be on better international ratings tables."

My answer:

1 - reduce poverty
2 - increase income-level integration for schools and housing
3 - reduce uneven funding between rich and poor areas (which self-perpetuates, since rich people seek out the well-funded schools, e.g., Palo Alto)

After you make substantial progress on those points, check to see where things stand. BTW, even if all the above were done, I'm not sure why you would ask a self-selected group of local community volunteers for their ideas. Heaven help us if we follow them!


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2018 at 10:00 pm

About 10 years ago, a noticeable deterioration in Special Ed services began. The results of that have been very visible in the news. I would like to know what the school board can do to restore PAUSD Special Ed to respectability.


15 people like this
Posted by Board Watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2018 at 8:38 am

@Anon - in the last 18 months, they have replaced the long-term head of special ed, hired a much stronger one, asked for and received a detailed internal program review, asked for and received a two year improvement plan, and funded the first year of it with an additional $1.5M (something like that). Plus two+ years ago they replaced the truly awful outside lawyers with a new firm that seems less awful. A lot (though not all) of this has been driven by Ken Dauber, though with broad support from the rest. We'll have to see if things actually change, but the board seems to have focused on this in the last two years and done what it should do.


3 people like this
Posted by Inquiring
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Duv Mom - Please share more about the fabricated rape claim at Jordan. As a new parent to Greene, this is the first I’ve even heard about this. Thanks.


9 people like this
Posted by Scrutinize the Candidates
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2018 at 2:35 pm

The candidates should not have access to the questions beforehand. Far better (and informative) to watch them squirm and weasel out on the touchy subjects.

They are vying for your vote...not your overall confidence or trust.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Posted by Scrutinize the Candidates, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> The candidates should not have access to the questions beforehand. Far better (and informative) to watch them squirm and weasel out on the touchy subjects.

Good liars are good at lying extemporaneously. You are mistaken if you think you can always catch them out by surprising them.

I think it is better if the candidates have time to prepare their answers to important policy questions. They are more likely to give deeper, more thoughtful answers, rather than just platitudes like "supporting" {students, teachers, parents}.


6 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2018 at 6:05 pm

> Good liars are good at lying extemporaneously. You are mistaken if you think you can always catch them out by surprising them.

>>I think it is better if the candidates have time to prepare their answers to important policy questions. They are more likely to give deeper, more thoughtful answers.

Doesn't extemporaneous lying and deeper, more thoughtful lies amount to the same thing?


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2018 at 6:11 pm

If they are lying.

OTOH, if they are telling the truth, it would be more useful to hear a well thought out answer.


Like this comment
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2018 at 7:09 pm

Can one be elected to the PAUSD or PACC as a write-in candidate?

And roughly how many votes would it take to win each one?


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2018 at 7:44 pm

People have run as write in candidates for school board before - Barb Mitchell and I think Mandy Lowell a long time ago. Neither won as a write-in, though both did win the second time around. It's kind of late though - mail ballots go out in about 3 weeks I think.

In the 2016 election, the lowest successful candidate (Caswell) got over 13,000 votes; in 2014 the lowest winner (Godfrey) had just under 10,000 votes.


11 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto family
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2018 at 7:52 pm

@Board Watcher,
As recently as last year, I made a request for educational records that should have been answered in 5 days. This on the heels of asking for the records for years. We were either retaliated against, ignored, or ignored with a false letter of the records having been filled when they were not.

The new law firm was approved by Brenda Carrillo and Holly Wade, two people who most needed the CYA. This firm's advice has been just as much about drumming up billable hours as the last one, to the detriment of district families. The tax that was promised to go for students instead went to raises after the district already gave healthy raises.

I see people who are "gone" who have just taken jobs at nearby school districts, and some of those they inculcated still here.

I want to know how each of the candidates is going to
A) sweep the rot out from under the rug finally and create some process for truth and reconciliation, because the wounded are still out here and include children who did not deserve to be treated like that, and

B) create some kind of trustworthy arbiter or ombudsman outside the district power structure who has real power to take complaints and fix things on behalf of families when they go so horribly wrong, and

c) fix the culture in the district that is so antagonistic to families.

I just spoke with a parent who has been truly traumatized by their dealings with special ed, it has created enormous stress anytime they have to deal with anyone new in an educational setting. You never know who is going to ambush you. That was totally our experience too. How are these candidates going to change that, and create healing for those who have been hurt?


7 people like this
Posted by Board Watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2018 at 8:07 pm

@Palo Alto family, well, aside from hiring a new Super (new in July), deputy sup (new last July), head of special ed (new last July), head of compliance (new last Oct?), new law firms, and hopefully a general counsel to manage them (recently re-approved) I'm not sure how much more anybody's going to do in the short term aside from encourage them to do their jobs and try to get some reporting on it.

Maybe some candidate will want to pursue what you're talking about (Jordan? Scharf?) but seems likely the current approach will be given a chance.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto family
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2018 at 10:49 pm

@Board Watcher,

And that attitude would be why nothing changes. You're not listening.

We already went through a new super, he was the one who wouldn't answer records requests. "New law firm" = meaningless if they were hand approved by the worst of the CYA bunch per above. And lo and behold, they have been even more expensive and the nasty defensiveness, i.e., boat-payment inducing, behavior they get our employees engaged in continues. [Portion removed.]

We need someone who is capable of acknowledging what needs to be fixed and fixing it, not more deck chair rearranging and window dressing. And we certainly don't need yet another try at thinking if we just try to treat all the damaged families as if it never happened, if we just try to ignore what was swept under the rug, we can get a fresh start and it will all magically disappear (until the lawyer needs to be paid for more CYA.)

You know what they say about the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.


5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto family
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2018 at 11:03 pm

@Seriously,
Since our board elections are everyone-in-the-pool, and the number of spots vary, it's not really possible to say from one election to the next how much the lowest vote getter has to have. But, the last election was instructive because there weren't enough serious candidates.

In 2016,
Jennifer DiBrienza got just under 21,000 votes,
Todd Collins got just over 15,000 votes,

Melissa Baten Caswell, incumbent and former Board President, barely won over incumbent Heidi Emberling by less than 200 votes, both of them with only about 13,000 votes despite both being incumbents and running against newbies.

Srinivasan Subramanian, who withdrew really early in the race, a guy who was hardly in the public eye and wasn't even running, got over 6200 votes, and if you add the votes that he got with the ones received by the guy who perennially runs but says he's not a serious candidate, the two of them got 9500 votes between them, embarrassingly close to the two incumbents above. If Subramanian had stayed in the race, it's likely he would have beaten out Caswell without breaking a sweat. So, if he had been the only alternative candidate, and people thought he would serve if he won, then it's possible he might have gotten a seat that year.


8 people like this
Posted by The Old Campaigner
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 20, 2018 at 8:47 am

>Can one be elected to the PAUSD or PACC as a write-in candidate?
And roughly how many votes would it take to win each one?

>>In the 2016 election, the lowest successful candidate (Caswell) got over 13,000 votes; in 2014 the lowest winner (Godfrey) had just under 10,000 votes.

>>>It's kind of late though - mail ballots go out in about 3 weeks I think.


Time to start canvassing the neighborhoods and/or hold a rally in some PA park or shopping center.

Could get costly if free food and live music are involved. And the time incurred going door-to-door while residents are actually home could prove counterproductive. Don't waste too much time on flyers as most folks trash them.

If going for the PAUSD, campaign at the various elementary/middle schools during afterschool hours when parents are picking-up their kids...hand out quality-made cookies in pairs to the children with your name on the packaged label (one for the kid and one the parent to read and munch on). High school will pose more of a challenge as most HS students could care less about these elections.

If running for city hall at this late date, do you know of any respected Hollywood celebrities or well-known politicians who could step up and speak on your behalf (e.g. George Clooney, Barack Obama etc.)? That would probably seal the deal. Hint: keep your endorsees on the liberal side to reflect Palo Alto's overall perspectives.

Good luck and long may you run.


Like this comment
Posted by Did anyone go?
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Did anyone go to this event? Any highlights?


10 people like this
Posted by Inquiring Minds
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2018 at 8:09 am

> Did anyone go to this event? Any highlights?

And did they serve refreshments?


2 people like this
Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 21, 2018 at 2:47 pm

They said they'd post a video here and on their YouTube channel by the end of the weekend. I won't summarize because it's impossible to do so without bias. Finally, no refreshments were served but it was popular and almost everyone stayed until the end.


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