Klausner out, Townsend in for fall school board race | July 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 27, 2012

Klausner out, Townsend in for fall school board race

Townsend seeks third term while Klausner cites 'mismatch' between passion for pedagogy and limits of board role

by Chris Kenrick

This fall's election for Palo Alto's Board of Education came into sharper focus this week as two incumbents declared their intentions.

Barbara Klausner Thursday announced she will not seek a second term on the five-member school board, leaving what appeared to be a "safe" incumbent seat up for grabs.

Hours later, board President Camille Townsend, first elected in 2003, said she will run for a third term.

In bowing out, Klausner, a Yale-trained lawyer who taught math in the district before her election to the board in 2007, cited a "mismatch between the role of the school board in our community and my professional interests, skill set, and hopes of what I could accomplish as a board member."

Touting her seniority Townsend said, "the current budget challenges, ongoing building projects, and exciting education possibilities all make board experience more important than ever."

Thursday's declarations leave the race so far a non-competitive field of two incumbents and one newcomer seeking three available seats.

One-term incumbent Melissa Baten Caswell qualified for the ballot July 24 and newcomer Heidi Emberling, a parent educator and active volunteer, has taken out nominating papers and is actively campaigning for a board seat.

With Klausner not seeking re-election, the nomination deadline for new candidates has been extended from Aug. 10 to Aug. 15. The election is Nov. 6.

In a written statement accompanying her announcement, Klausner said that as a board member she had been unable to pursue her passion for classroom innovation as much as she had hoped because of the school district's policy of site-based decision-making — deferring to principals and the superintendent on classroom issues.

"For me as an educator ... the area of strongest interest is pedagogy, and in these matters, the board carefully circumscribes its role," she wrote.

"In this district, with its strong culture of site-based decision-making and concomitant deference to the superintendent, key pedagogical and programmatic decisions are developed, refined and evaluated primarily within our schools, and the board, as a reflection of our community's values, has adapted its role to fit that culture."

Klausner, who served as president of the board in 2009-10, went out of her way to praise fellow board members, Superintendent Kevin Skelly, teachers and others in the district.

"Many wonderful things have been happening in our classrooms and in our schools," she said.

But her statement implicitly called into question the district's adherence to the site-based decision-making model.

"As a board member, my primary goal was to support our teachers and staff by encouraging an open-minded spirit of innovation and improvement and to help bring about a way for us to make the most of our best educational practices by sharing them more efficiently and equitably throughout the district," she wrote.

"I have come to understand the role that the board has chosen for itself and I recognize its merits," Klausner said, adding that she plans to return to her "roots in education and work with fellow educators to improve the lives and prospects of students."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.


Posted by Pausd parent , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

I am pleased to hear Camille will be running. Since we are losing Barbara at least we will have Camille sticking it out to finish her work particularly on the budget.
I think she and Melissa should be applaudde for running again
With all that is going on in our district. Thanks Camille for being so dedicated.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

I would like to thank all our present board members for doing what is a thankless task which many of us would be unwilling or unable to commit our energies as well as they have done.

I agree with the criticisms of Camille being long winded and did not agree with her stand on the MI issue, but nonetheless I have found her a dedicated board member and very personable to talk to.

But, I think we need some new faces on our school board. The last election was a non event due to no new candidates. This time we have one fresh face in Heidi, but I do not think she should be an automatic replacement.

In the not too distant past we have had some excellent candidates who narrowly missed succeeding. I am thinking particularly of Wayne Martin and Claude Ezran who have both been very visible in Palo Alto issues since losing. I would love to see either of them or others also enter the race. I would also like to get down to candidates discussing the issues which are presently hot topics in PAUSD, namely calendar, curriculum, counseling, enrollment and Cubberley/new schools.

Posted by parents, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm

She is simply too controversial.

Posted by PaloAltoParent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 11:35 am

Anyone wonder why a PAUSD board member would opt to send her own child to a private school while meddling in the affairs of public schools? Should they even seek another term let alone be elected again?

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

Of the current candidates, as far as I know, they all have children either in PAUSD or who have graduated from PAUSD.

As far as sending a child to a private school - many parents who are extremely active in PAUSD send some of their kids to private schools that can provide something that PAUSD can not. PAUSD does not have a gifted school, an all girls school, a performing arts school, etc.

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