Katie Causey, a Palo Alto native, Palo Alto Unified graduate and nonprofit employee, announced on Tuesday that she's running for a seat on the school board in November.
In her announcement, Causey described herself as a role model for current students who's focused on student voice, mental health and diversity.
She's the first candidate to officially announce a campaign for the school board election. Three seats will be up for grabs in November when the terms of board President Todd Collins and members Jennifer DiBrienza and Melissa Baten Caswell expire.
Baten Caswell said Tuesday that she is not running for re-election in Palo Alto but is campaigning for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Collins nor DiBrienza have formally announced whether they plan to seek re-election.
Causey attended Ohlone Elementary School and JLS Middle School. She graduated from Palo Alto High School in 2012. She described her current occupation is "community advocate," including fundraising and assisting community events.
The seed to run for local office was planted when Causey was a freshman at Paly, she said, in the wake of student deaths by suicide.
"I know many alumni from that period who have had ongoing conversations about potentially running to highlight mental health and civic engagement," Causey wrote in an email.
She said she started watching local school board meetings as a college student at George Washington University, where she studied inequality and discrimination in communities and schools through a degree in women's studies. She started writing down ideas she wanted to see implemented in her own school district, she said.
In 2017, she was accepted to Emily's List's Run To Win program, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.
In response to the coronavirus shutdown, Causey and her campaign team organized a list of local alumni who current students can reach out to for support. While there are informal alumni Facebook groups and an official Paly alumni association, she said she hopes the list is a step toward creating a formal alumni-student mentorship program in the school district.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for students weighing decisions about their post high school careers to talk to recent grads about what navigating stress, networking, and higher education looks like right now," she said. "Students can directly see how professional growth doesn't look one way and isn't a straightforward path."
Last year, Causey advocated in a guest opinion piece published by this news organization for lowering the voting age for Palo Alto school board elections.
"When I was a freshman at Paly, this district faced one of its most difficult times when multiple students died by suicide, but in response, so many hardworking community members stepped up to help students," she wrote. "If I had been given the opportunity to help decide which of those community members were elected to the Board of Education, not only would I have been connected to more adults in the community offering help, but I would have felt a greater sense of control over decision making during a time when so much of student life felt out of control."
If elected, Causey said she would prioritize diversity in curriculum, hiring and training. The district should focus on strengthening its support for vulnerable students — particularly during the pandemic, her campaign website reads. She also wants to prevent school closures from exacerbating social isolation and substance abuse among students.
"No one gets left behind in a crisis," she writes on her website.
Causey identifies as bisexual and believes if elected, she could possibly be the first member of the LGBT+ community to hold this office.
Causey is a member of the League of Women Voters, through which she's worked on issues including sustainability, school meal plans and gun legislation, according to her LinkedIn page. She was also a campaign adviser and director of fundraising for Vice President Shounak Dharap's school board campaign in 2018. She recently was a chair at the Junior League of San Francisco, a nonprofit women's organization that promotes volunteering.