News

UPDATE: Mah wins fourth term on Santa Clara County school board

Challenge for Area 1 seat grew controversial leading up to Election Day

Grace Mah and Melissa Baten Caswell are vying for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Courtesy photos.

UPDATE: As of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m., Grace Mah's lead of Melissa Baten Caswell for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education stayed at 4,075, according to the latest election results based on 99% of ballots counted by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

In a Nov. 17 statement, Baten Caswell thanked supporters of her campaign. "While the results are not what we hoped for, I'm proud of the people-powered campaign that we were able to run under these extraordinary circumstances." She also offered a positive message to Mah. "I wish my opponent all the best as she enters into uncharted waters with her fellow trustees, working to address the challenges of COVID-19 to ensure our students, teachers and staff are equipped with the tools they need to be successful."

Mah won 52,962 votes, or 52% of the votes counted. Baten Caswell trailed with 48,887 votes, or 48%.

The race for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County school board continues to be too close to call with incumbent Grace Mah holding a razor-thin lead over challenger Melissa Baten Caswell.

Since election night, they've been one or two percentage points apart. With 67% of ballots tallied in Santa Clara County as of Thursday evening, Mah, who's seeking a fourth term, has won 51.26%, or 38,718 votes. Baten Caswell, a current trustee on the Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, has won 48.74%, or 36,821 votes. Those numbers remained unchanged on Thursday morning.

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This race grew controversial in recent weeks as outside money from charter school proponents poured into Mah's campaign. She received $243,400 in contributions during the most recent campaign finance reporting period, primarily from charter school organizations and representatives, bringing her campaign total to over $300,000. Baten Caswell raised about $180,000, including significant contributions from outspoken critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos.

On Thursday, Mah said she's "keeping her fingers and toes crossed" as ballots continue to be counted. She said this was the most competitive race she's had in 13 years.

"It's been a very challenging race ... having to raise more than 10 times what I've raised in my previous races," Mah said. "I still wish the money could have been spent on students and classrooms but it's kind of the nature of politics."

Baten Caswell, who ran to challenge the status quo of a three-term incumbent, said on Tuesday evening that she remains optimistic about the outcome of the race.

"I think I had an unbelievable outpouring of grassroots support and hopefully that will carry me through," Baten Caswell said. "Hopefully money won't win the day."

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Polling place and early vote-by-mail ballots are counted on election night, while vote-by-mail ballots received after Nov. 2 and provisional ballots are counted after election day, according to the Registrar of Voters.

The Registrar of Voters conducts manual recounts in races where the margin of victory is either less than 0.25 percent of the ballots cast or less than 25 votes.

Baten Caswell is familiar with the experience of waiting for an election outcome. In 2016, a narrow margin between her and another incumbent for the third open seat on the Palo Alto school board triggered an automatic recount. Though the other candidate conceded a week after the election, it wasn't until late December that Baten Caswell was declared the official winner and elected to a third term.

Area 1 includes the Palo Alto Unified, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High school districts, a majority of the Sunnyvale School District and corresponding portions of the Fremont Union High School District.

Mah, a former engineer and Palo Alto resident, has represented these districts on the county board since 2007.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

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UPDATE: Mah wins fourth term on Santa Clara County school board

Challenge for Area 1 seat grew controversial leading up to Election Day

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 3, 2020, 9:30 pm
Updated: Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 5:22 pm

UPDATE: As of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m., Grace Mah's lead of Melissa Baten Caswell for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education stayed at 4,075, according to the latest election results based on 99% of ballots counted by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

In a Nov. 17 statement, Baten Caswell thanked supporters of her campaign. "While the results are not what we hoped for, I'm proud of the people-powered campaign that we were able to run under these extraordinary circumstances." She also offered a positive message to Mah. "I wish my opponent all the best as she enters into uncharted waters with her fellow trustees, working to address the challenges of COVID-19 to ensure our students, teachers and staff are equipped with the tools they need to be successful."

Mah won 52,962 votes, or 52% of the votes counted. Baten Caswell trailed with 48,887 votes, or 48%.

The race for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County school board continues to be too close to call with incumbent Grace Mah holding a razor-thin lead over challenger Melissa Baten Caswell.

Since election night, they've been one or two percentage points apart. With 67% of ballots tallied in Santa Clara County as of Thursday evening, Mah, who's seeking a fourth term, has won 51.26%, or 38,718 votes. Baten Caswell, a current trustee on the Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, has won 48.74%, or 36,821 votes. Those numbers remained unchanged on Thursday morning.

This race grew controversial in recent weeks as outside money from charter school proponents poured into Mah's campaign. She received $243,400 in contributions during the most recent campaign finance reporting period, primarily from charter school organizations and representatives, bringing her campaign total to over $300,000. Baten Caswell raised about $180,000, including significant contributions from outspoken critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos.

On Thursday, Mah said she's "keeping her fingers and toes crossed" as ballots continue to be counted. She said this was the most competitive race she's had in 13 years.

"It's been a very challenging race ... having to raise more than 10 times what I've raised in my previous races," Mah said. "I still wish the money could have been spent on students and classrooms but it's kind of the nature of politics."

Baten Caswell, who ran to challenge the status quo of a three-term incumbent, said on Tuesday evening that she remains optimistic about the outcome of the race.

"I think I had an unbelievable outpouring of grassroots support and hopefully that will carry me through," Baten Caswell said. "Hopefully money won't win the day."

Polling place and early vote-by-mail ballots are counted on election night, while vote-by-mail ballots received after Nov. 2 and provisional ballots are counted after election day, according to the Registrar of Voters.

The Registrar of Voters conducts manual recounts in races where the margin of victory is either less than 0.25 percent of the ballots cast or less than 25 votes.

Baten Caswell is familiar with the experience of waiting for an election outcome. In 2016, a narrow margin between her and another incumbent for the third open seat on the Palo Alto school board triggered an automatic recount. Though the other candidate conceded a week after the election, it wasn't until late December that Baten Caswell was declared the official winner and elected to a third term.

Area 1 includes the Palo Alto Unified, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High school districts, a majority of the Sunnyvale School District and corresponding portions of the Fremont Union High School District.

Mah, a former engineer and Palo Alto resident, has represented these districts on the county board since 2007.

This story will be updated as more results come in.

Comments

Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2020 at 9:57 am
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 6, 2020 at 9:57 am
39 people like this

As a grassroots supporter of Grace Mah in this elections, especially because of personal experience as a former district parent observing both candidates, I think Caswell's statement about money -- when she's the one who made this a big-money race -- is reason enough that she would be [the wrong] person for this job.


Bought and paid for....
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2020 at 11:01 am
Bought and paid for...., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 11:01 am
4 people like this

Grace Mah's advocacy for charter schools goes back well before she was ever on the County Board. [Portion removed.]

Charter schools are parasites on the public dole, using our public funds with little oversight. This is a very bad outcome for public school education, the backbone of democracy.


Kathy
Evergreen Park

Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm
Name hidden, Evergreen Park

Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:57 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:57 pm
23 people like this

I'll help post this message:

Charter schools are public schools, so by definition they do not take resources away from public schools. They do, however, take resources away from unions, as most public charter schools are non union, which is why there is so much vitriol directed against these schools. Public charter schools permit low income students to escape failing traditional unionized public schools, as they are doing in East San Jose, and East Palo Alto, for example.

Talk about bought and paid for --- take a look at the teacher's unions, which buy and pay for and 'hire' their bosses through their dues and campaign contributions and peer pressure and bullying and their retired teacher networks and so forth. All to protect adult perquisites, rather than to educate children. Take a look at student academic performance in CA public schools -- Web Link --- only 51% of students are proficient in English and only 39% are proficient in math. Thank God that public charter schools are working to serve students and not teacher's unions.


Come on!
Registered user
another community
on Nov 18, 2020 at 1:39 pm
Come on!, another community
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 1:39 pm
4 people like this

@citizen, besides being full of vitriol and misinformation, your post is simply ideological nonsense. This is not the way that charter schools or unions work.

Charter schools use public money, but make up their own set of rules. They are pseudo-public institutions. They funnel money from traditional schools and and weaken them so that people like you can then say, "see public things are bad!" It is very much a"starve the beast" mentality. The Charter school movement may have had good intentions when it began decades ago, but now it is just another rightwing anti-union movement masquerading as an "equity champion."

Unions allow teachers and students to work and learn in safe, fair, and acadmic freedom environment. Unions make the working and middle class strong. They give workers rights, instead of perpetuating a feudal society (even though you may prefer the latter). The decline of the middle class in America can be directly traced to a decline in union membership, which started under Nixon.

People, please don't listen to anti-worker people like @citizen!


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:28 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:28 pm
14 people like this

@Come on - what a bunch of baloney.

States permitted public charter schools to form and not be subject to the same set of regulations as other public schools- because of failing traditional unionized public schools.

Public schools are to educate students, not serve teacher's unions, but you wouldn't know it from the poor academic performance the traditional unionized public schools in CA are producing. Look it up yourself - google caaspp results 2018-19 and you'll find state assessment test results for CA public schools.

You can also check the academic performance of public charter schools versus traditional unionized public schools there as well. Charter schools are public schools. The teacher's union just wants to stamp out their competition.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:32 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:32 pm
2 people like this

@Come on - what a bunch of baloney.

States permitted public charter schools to form and not be subject to the same set of regulations as other public schools- because of failing traditional unionized public schools.

Public schools are to educate students, not serve teacher's unions, but you wouldn't know it from the poor academic performance the traditional unionized public schools in CA are producing. Look it up yourself - google caaspp results 2018-19 and you'll find state assessment test results for CA public schools.

Teacher's unions just want to eliminate non union competition.


Alex
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:24 am
Alex, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:24 am
1 person likes this

Oh please. Charter schools provide outcomes on par with public schools but with no accountability since the public doesn’t have a voice in who runs them. There’s no reason to have them, especially in an area like Santa Clara County.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:11 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:11 pm
5 people like this

@Alex - more baloney. Low income kids in East San Jose are escaping failing traditional unionized public schools for non union charter schools. And thank God. These students need to get an education, not further a union monopoly.


Unions Serve Teachers Not Students
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2020 at 2:12 pm
Unions Serve Teachers Not Students, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2020 at 2:12 pm
8 people like this

I had a sign promoting Melissa on my front lawn. I voted for Grace Mah. Glad Mah won!

Why? First, I voted for Mah because Melissa failed our Palo Alto secondary students by voting to send secondary back in January, four months after they were approved by SCC to open, thereby caving to Teachers Union pressure to keep secondary online with Distance (lack of) Learning the entire first semester (when DL was neither necessary nor required by SCC). Now, due to the slow phased opening, which was a huge mistake by the Board, secondary students will never open and remain online this entire school year when the data on every level does not support it. Criminal. Second, I voted for Mah because Melissa received major funds from the Teachers Union, which of course sends us back to my first point.


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