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UPDATE: DiBrienza, Ladomirak, Collins win seats on school board

Two incumbents reelected to second terms alongside parent-challenger

Jennifer DiBrienza, Todd Collins and Jesse Ladomirak have won seats on the Palo Alto school board. Photos by Magali Gauthier.

UPDATE: Todd Collins has won the third seat on the school board, with a 1,817 vote lead over Katie Causey and 99% of the county's ballots counted as of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m. This will be Collins' second term on the board. "I appreciate the community continuing to place its trust in me and I look forward to serving our kids and community," Collins said. "We have a lot of work to get through this year, after which we'll still have the issues that we faced before, plus some additional ones, including larger achievement gaps and increased financial pressure."

Causey said she didn't expect to the results to change this week but as ballots continued to be counted she felt a sense of "underlying anticipation, as nothing has happened normally in 2020." She's not sure yet whether she'll run again for local office in 2024. "I want our students to know that running is so fun and rewarding and it is such an honor to help your community," Causey said.

As of Nov. 19, Jennifer DiBrienza maintained her first-place finish with 20,567 votes, or 24.4% of the votes counted; Jesse Ladomirak remained in second place with 17,694 votes, or 21%.

Incumbent Jennifer DiBrienza appears headed toward reelection and challenger Jesse Ladomirak toward winning a second seat on the school board, while the third seat is still too close to call, according to unofficial election results.

The preliminary results, with 67% of ballots counted in Santa Clara County as of Thursday evening, show DiBrienza with 25% of the vote, holding a more than 2,000 vote lead over Ladomirak.

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Ladomirak, a parent and remodeling company co-owner who ran to bring a parent perspective to the school board, trails with 21%, or 13,654 votes. Board President Todd Collins is in third place with 17% of the vote, about 1,500 votes ahead of challenger Katie Causey. Causey has won about 15% of the vote so far.

Attorney and parent Karna Nisewaner has won about 13% of the vote and former district principal Matt Nagle 8%.

The six candidates are vying for three open seats on the board during an unprecedented time for public education. The campaign was largely focused on the district's response to the pandemic and how and when to reopen schools. Causey, a Palo Alto High School graduate and community advocate, and Nagle were the only two candidates to oppose bringing students and teachers back to school in person this fall.

DiBrienza, a former teacher who is seeking a second term on the board, led by about 2,000 votes as of midnight on Tuesday evening. She remained cautiously optimistic about the early results.

The defining issue of the campaign, DiBrienza said, was the coronavirus. This was underscored by the fact that two candidates — Ladomirak and Nisewaner — ran expressly because of their own families' frustration with school closures in the spring.

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"I think that while it's always been important that people on the board have kids in the district or had kids in the district, right now uniquely it matters that those of us going through it have a voice with the district," said DiBrienza, who is the only current board member with children in district schools.

Ladomirak, who raised more campaign funds than all of her competitors, described the school board race as "competitive."

"There was a number of high-quality candidates in the race. Honestly, at this point, it's been an honor to run and to earn the votes of so many people, and I feel comfortable that our district's going to be in good hands regardless of the outcome," she said.

Collins declined to make himself available for comments on the results.

Causey, the youngest candidate, who ran a campaign focused on youth voice and civic engagement, said she hopes her campaign set an example for young people in the community.

"I got to spend the last months helping students, educators and community members be heard — that is everything I've wanted to do since I was 15," she wrote in an email. "The number one thing I want to come out of tonight is that I hope our students feel like they can run for office after they graduate."

Nisewaner said running for a seat as a newcomer was more challenging during a pandemic.

"It makes it a lot harder if you're not an incumbent, if you don't already have a structure in place. It's difficult to connect" with voters, she said.

If she loses, Nisewnaer said she's not sure whether she will run again in 2022 but feels more prepared to do so.

"I now have at least the infrastructure of a set of people who are supportive, and I know what's necessary. I understand now how important endorsements are from parties, even in nonpartisan elections, and I also understand how much is driven by revenue and how much money you bring in," she said. "That's definitely something that I now better understand in terms of how local politics here work and that this is a more aggressive local political scene than you might find in other areas."

Nagle, a longtime educator and former principal of Juana Briones Elementary School, said he wasn't surprised by the early results. He focused his campaign on improving outcomes for minority and low-income students. He has been a vocal critic of the current board's efforts to close the achievement gap and also of the district's response to the pandemic.

"That's the question you have to ask: Do you trust the school board to get these classrooms open safely? I'll be frank with you: I don't think they have it in them, from what I've seen," Nagle said Tuesday night.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

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UPDATE: DiBrienza, Ladomirak, Collins win seats on school board

Two incumbents reelected to second terms alongside parent-challenger

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 9:21 pm
Updated: Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 5:26 pm

UPDATE: Todd Collins has won the third seat on the school board, with a 1,817 vote lead over Katie Causey and 99% of the county's ballots counted as of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m. This will be Collins' second term on the board. "I appreciate the community continuing to place its trust in me and I look forward to serving our kids and community," Collins said. "We have a lot of work to get through this year, after which we'll still have the issues that we faced before, plus some additional ones, including larger achievement gaps and increased financial pressure."

Causey said she didn't expect to the results to change this week but as ballots continued to be counted she felt a sense of "underlying anticipation, as nothing has happened normally in 2020." She's not sure yet whether she'll run again for local office in 2024. "I want our students to know that running is so fun and rewarding and it is such an honor to help your community," Causey said.

As of Nov. 19, Jennifer DiBrienza maintained her first-place finish with 20,567 votes, or 24.4% of the votes counted; Jesse Ladomirak remained in second place with 17,694 votes, or 21%.

Incumbent Jennifer DiBrienza appears headed toward reelection and challenger Jesse Ladomirak toward winning a second seat on the school board, while the third seat is still too close to call, according to unofficial election results.

The preliminary results, with 67% of ballots counted in Santa Clara County as of Thursday evening, show DiBrienza with 25% of the vote, holding a more than 2,000 vote lead over Ladomirak.

Ladomirak, a parent and remodeling company co-owner who ran to bring a parent perspective to the school board, trails with 21%, or 13,654 votes. Board President Todd Collins is in third place with 17% of the vote, about 1,500 votes ahead of challenger Katie Causey. Causey has won about 15% of the vote so far.

Attorney and parent Karna Nisewaner has won about 13% of the vote and former district principal Matt Nagle 8%.

The six candidates are vying for three open seats on the board during an unprecedented time for public education. The campaign was largely focused on the district's response to the pandemic and how and when to reopen schools. Causey, a Palo Alto High School graduate and community advocate, and Nagle were the only two candidates to oppose bringing students and teachers back to school in person this fall.

DiBrienza, a former teacher who is seeking a second term on the board, led by about 2,000 votes as of midnight on Tuesday evening. She remained cautiously optimistic about the early results.

The defining issue of the campaign, DiBrienza said, was the coronavirus. This was underscored by the fact that two candidates — Ladomirak and Nisewaner — ran expressly because of their own families' frustration with school closures in the spring.

"I think that while it's always been important that people on the board have kids in the district or had kids in the district, right now uniquely it matters that those of us going through it have a voice with the district," said DiBrienza, who is the only current board member with children in district schools.

Ladomirak, who raised more campaign funds than all of her competitors, described the school board race as "competitive."

"There was a number of high-quality candidates in the race. Honestly, at this point, it's been an honor to run and to earn the votes of so many people, and I feel comfortable that our district's going to be in good hands regardless of the outcome," she said.

Collins declined to make himself available for comments on the results.

Causey, the youngest candidate, who ran a campaign focused on youth voice and civic engagement, said she hopes her campaign set an example for young people in the community.

"I got to spend the last months helping students, educators and community members be heard — that is everything I've wanted to do since I was 15," she wrote in an email. "The number one thing I want to come out of tonight is that I hope our students feel like they can run for office after they graduate."

Nisewaner said running for a seat as a newcomer was more challenging during a pandemic.

"It makes it a lot harder if you're not an incumbent, if you don't already have a structure in place. It's difficult to connect" with voters, she said.

If she loses, Nisewnaer said she's not sure whether she will run again in 2022 but feels more prepared to do so.

"I now have at least the infrastructure of a set of people who are supportive, and I know what's necessary. I understand now how important endorsements are from parties, even in nonpartisan elections, and I also understand how much is driven by revenue and how much money you bring in," she said. "That's definitely something that I now better understand in terms of how local politics here work and that this is a more aggressive local political scene than you might find in other areas."

Nagle, a longtime educator and former principal of Juana Briones Elementary School, said he wasn't surprised by the early results. He focused his campaign on improving outcomes for minority and low-income students. He has been a vocal critic of the current board's efforts to close the achievement gap and also of the district's response to the pandemic.

"That's the question you have to ask: Do you trust the school board to get these classrooms open safely? I'll be frank with you: I don't think they have it in them, from what I've seen," Nagle said Tuesday night.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

Comments

Accountability watchdog
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 4, 2020 at 7:23 am
Accountability watchdog, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 7:23 am

Just shows that track record doesn't matter in politics and only moneyed endorsements including PA weekly. The current board continues to do a disastrous job. And yet - here we are on the results. Lets hope Debrienza views this as a second chance to step it up. And not a vote of confidence on her past performance.


Paly Teacher
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:22 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:22 pm

@Accountability: First, spell her name right. It's literally the first word of the title. DiBrienza.

Second, you're targeting her even though she's earning a resounding first place? I don't agree with her on anything, but it seems like the electorate supports her. Assuming the average voter selected even a conservative 2.5 candidates, 62% voted for her.


Paly Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2020 at 2:29 pm
Paly Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 5, 2020 at 2:29 pm

@ Paly Teacher
Please look at the demographics of the people that vote! It is essentially senior citizens who don't have kids in the school system and don't know really what is going on in the schools. Which is why they look at Palo Alto Weekly to do their homework and investigation on how the board has fared and if the school community is happy.
Look around you... a good 50-60% of middle and high school families are totally frustrated with the lack of performance of the board to direct and ask the administration the tough questions.
Isnt that reason enough for this paper to have considered if the incumbents are capable of helping this school district through this difficult time?
Lowering the standards of the entire district cannot be the default response of the board!


mary ann
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 16, 2020 at 9:25 am
mary ann, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2020 at 9:25 am

Having three grandchildren in the school district does not mean I’m not informed and have an interest in the school board election. I voted for the candidates with children in the district, supported and put a sign in my front yard too. I know how badly some parents want all their children back in school with safe protocols and in person learning.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2020 at 9:42 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2020 at 9:42 pm

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