Christopher Boyd, who is running for a seat on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education in November's election, has been falsely claiming that his small after-school STEM program in Palo Alto is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, an investigation by the Weekly found.
Boyd is listed on his resume as the "chief educator" at the Institute for Education Management, or Insted, which he identifies on the program's website as a nonprofit to which people can donate money for student scholarships.
However, Insted is not listed in the California Secretary of State's registered business database as a corporation or LLC. A tax ID number Boyd provided to the Weekly is for the Institute for Environmental Management, a Palo Alto nonprofit that has the same initials as Boyd's program — IEM — but is otherwise wholly distinct in purpose and content. That organization's mission is to "develop and facilitate dissemination of technology for biofuels while minimizing greenhouse gas emission with special attention to municipal solid waste," a 2011 tax form states.
John Benemann, co-director at the Institute for Environmental Management, told the Weekly that Boyd "never worked for or had authorization to represent himself as working for or involved in any way with the Institute for Environmental Management (IEM)."
The Institute for Environmental Management "has had essentially no activities for several years," he added. The last available Form 990, which tax-exempt organizations are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, the Weekly found for the company was filed in 2011.
The Institute for Environmental Management was founded more than 25 years ago by Palo Alto residents Benemann, who has since moved to Walnut Creek, and Don Augenstein, whose work included biologically engineering landfills in Yolo County, California, to control methane generation. The organization's bylaws and tax filings show all of its expenditures and grants pertain to energy and the environment.
Boyd, whose daughter is enrolled in the Palo Alto school district, was for a time living in Augenstein's home. Dubbed the Pomona House, Augenstein rents rooms at an affordable rate to a roving group of international scientists, students and others, according to a website for the home. Augenstein declined to speak on the record for this story.
When asked to give evidence that Insted is affiliated with the Institute for Environmental Management, Boyd provided a 2015 email showing Augenstein set up a PayPal account to receive funds for Insted. Augenstein stated in the email that the Institute for Environmental Management was "doing business as" the Institute for Education Management. However, no fictitious business statement indicating this change is on file with the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder's Office, as required by law.
In response to repeated inquiries from the Weekly, Boyd said on Thursday that based on legal advice, "should Institute of Environmental Management (IEM) not bring the 990 up to date promptly or if IEM is found out of regulatory compliance, Insted will be rolled out of fiscal sponsorship or operating status within IEM and set up as an independent nonprofit."
In an endorsement interview with the Weekly — the first interview he granted after repeated requests since he filed for candidacy in August — Boyd described Insted as an experimental after-school program formed in 2014 by a group of district parents who wanted more progressive, innovative education for their children. In the program, Boyd said, post-doctoral students from Stanford University teach undergraduate-level courses such as chemistry, astrophysics and robotics to elementary and middle school students, primarily from Addison Elementary School and Greene Middle School (formerly Jordan Middle School).
When asked by the Weekly in a follow-up email for a list of the teachers and other Stanford-affiliated contributors, Boyd did not provide any names.
However, the Insted website mentions one teacher who was finishing his doctorate at Stanford's Aerospace Robotics Lab in 2016 and another who was a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the School of Medicine that year.
Courses range in price from $650 to $750, according to the Insted website.
Insted was advertised in a 2014 Addison newsletter as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization "started by parents and visionary educators. Insted provides an after-school, academic program that serves schools, parents and children who want to learn in a world class environment powered by premier educational technology."
Addison Principal Amanda Boyce said that the program was held off campus, so she did not know how many Addison students have participated in Insted nor did she know for how many years it has operated.
From 2014 to 2016, Insted served 10 students each year, and last year it served five students, including some from the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, Boyd said. He said he is considering moving the program to East Palo Alto this fall. The program has not yet started for this year, he said.
Boyd said Insted had a space at Greene but for the last three years has operated out of "borrowed" classrooms on Stanford's campus.
Boyd's work history differs slightly between his resume and his LinkedIn profile. Prior to Insted, Boyd states on his resume, he worked as the director of technology for the University of California, Davis Graduate Studies Department from 2010 to 2011. He worked as either a lead technology manager or a contributor -- according to his resume and LinkedIn profile, respectively -- for the Health Improvement Plan at Stanford University School of Medicine from 2011 to 2012. From 2004 to 2010, he was a project manager for the California State Compensation Insurance Fund, his resume states.
He states on his LinkedIn that he is also general partner at Automation Research, an organization for research and development related to automation. Automation Research is also not listed on the Secretary of State's business database.