School board race expands with two newcomers, one incumbent | August 7, 2020 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 7, 2020

School board race expands with two newcomers, one incumbent

DiBrienza to seek second term; two parents also to run for open seats

by Elena Kadvany

The Palo Alto Unified school board race is heating up, with two additional newcomers in the running and an incumbent announcing her re-election bid.

This story contains 1152 words.

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Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at [email protected]


Posted by katherinecausey
a resident of University South
on Jul 31, 2020 at 8:37 pm

Welcome to the race ladies I am so excited for November!

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 1, 2020 at 12:37 am

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Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 1, 2020 at 2:17 am

Karna sounds amazing and I look forward to hearing more about her plans. We absolutely need fresh voices and big change on the School Board, and as a fellow lawyer running for local office, I agree that legal experience brings a lot to the table. Thank you for running for this challenging role! I look forward to working with you in 2021.

Posted by Sally-Ann Rudd
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Anyone running for school board should have all their children in public schools in Palo Alto.

Posted by Giselle Galper
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2020 at 9:27 am

@Sally-Ann Rudd,


Posted by Martha
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Aug 3, 2020 at 5:47 am

There should be a law that only parents of students at PAUSD can run for board.

Why are parents of the school district being represented by a board which is predominately made up of members who are not stakeholders??
Beyond comprehension!!!

Otherwise, there should be a separate parents’ union like the teachers’ union to voice parent concerns and make themselves heard!

Posted by LG
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2020 at 10:15 am

I agree with Sally-Ann Rudd. Those running should enroll their children in PAUSD.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 3, 2020 at 11:05 am

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Posted by Heidi Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 3, 2020 at 11:05 am

Where is Jennifer DiBrienza‘s child enrolled? [Portion removed.]

Posted by JLS mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 3, 2020 at 11:08 am

What did diBrienza do last spring to improve on the disaster that was asynchronous education? Seems like the entire board was asleep at the wheel - if there was any disagreement with the administration's approach, I haven't seen it. I won't vote for any of these folks again, for any elected position.

Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2020 at 12:08 pm

I agree last Spring in PAUSD, esp. for secondary school kids, was a poor experience. Lack of instruction (i.e., teacher engagement) was the main problem. I would like to hear the Board candidates propose ideas for doing better.

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2020 at 5:14 pm

Gunn Parent is a registered user.

I hope everyone remembers how long the board drug their feet and missed several opportunities to close the schools when it was already quite clear the virus was prevalent in the community. diBrienza and her colleagues even approved continuing school the day before Santa Clara put a lid on things. If the existing board, including diBrienza, had shown leadership we could have avoided many infections and hospitalizations (and possibly deaths) and students may well have been able to enjoy graduation like many of their European counterparts. Waiting until the county tells you to close the schools is no leadership and was not reflecting the concerns of our community or the safety of our teachers and students alike. Not sure who is the right candidate to replace diBrienza, but someone new deserves a chance to do better.

Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2020 at 6:45 pm

Curious is a registered user.

Hi Gunn Parent,

Just curious where I could find the data you used to conclude “many infections, hospitalizations (and possibly deaths)” could have been avoided because of the lack of leadership by our Board.

Posted by Greene Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2020 at 10:48 am

Greene Parent is a registered user.

The 2 board members knew that the community would question their decisions since it is a year of elections.
The board gave up control to the Superintendent who then had TOTAL power to do as he pleased, which meant that there was no need to give any REAL instruction.
Now the incumbents don't have to respond since the failure of the spring isn't on them. They are NOT a voice of the community, they aren't even invested in the community since they don't have all their kids going to our schools

Its time for change!

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:37 am

Paly Parent is a registered user.

I have known Jennifer DiBrienza for years and she is an extraordinarily bright, thoughtful, and caring leader. She listens to the community, responds to questions and welcomes discussion. Jennifer has been involved in The Black Lives Matter movement for years. I remember her asking if anyone wanted to carpool to Oakland for a BLM meeting many years ago. When my older daughter was a 5th grader at Ohlone, Jennifer came in and guest taught some math classes. She chaperoned school camping trips. Jennifer DiBrienza is involved in the Palo Alto community on every level. We are lucky that she wants to run again.

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

@Paly Parent - What has she done in her four years on the school board for PAUSD? What would be her list of accomplishments? Why should she be given another four years?

What I hear from her at most board meetings is saying thanks a lot. What has she done that should make others see that she is any different than anyone else?

Posted by Jennifer DiBrienza
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 6, 2020 at 2:33 pm

Jennifer DiBrienza is a registered user.

@Samuel L,
Hi. Thanks for the question. I will attempt to summarize here but please email me anytime at [email protected] or visit my website at

When I first joined the board, we were fighting with the Office of Civil Rights and were at the beginning of a Title IX investigation.
I oversaw a change in leadership, a re-organization of our district office, and a shift in our budgeting practices.
We repaired our relationship with the Office of Civil Rights, created a Title IX office, and increased education for students and staff about consent.
I insisted on a full-time reading specialist at each elementary school and amplified the crisis of dyslexia with a resolution and professional development plan to address it.
I've advocated for an alignment in workload, assessments, and grading practices across courses and schools for the benefit of all students.
I have been, and will continue to be, an advocate for educational justice, calling out and committing to addressing the systemic issues that exist in our district.
And now we are facing the launch of a school year in full-distance learning mode. It has been a challenge for so many families in various ways throughout the spring and summer. Guidance has changed on a near-daily basis and the needs in the district vary just as widely. I will continue to advocate for clear communication with families, high standards for distance learning, support for those struggling with isolation, and effective pedagogies for remote engagement, authentic learning, and content mastery.

Happy to continue the conversation.
Thank you!

Posted by Michelle
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 7, 2020 at 12:45 pm

Michelle is a registered user.

Jennifer DiBrienza has always served our school board with great integrity, care and intelligence. She is the lone board member who has actually worked as a public school teacher and also holds a PhD in education. We are lucky that she has chosen to serve our community for the past four years in this role and is willing to run again.
Jennifer is actually a parent of 2 current students in PAUSD schools. However, that is not why she has my vote. What impresses me most is her genuine care for students and their experience in PAUSD, along with her laser focus on ensuring our schools serve all students well not just those who have traditionally experienced success here.

Posted by Kristen
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 29, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Kristen is a registered user.

Thanks to all who are running this year—your dedication to our community is much appreciated. I’d love to support a black candidate or POC...our community is not as white as this slate would make it seem. How can we recruit and support more diversity on school board??

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 30, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

1. None of the current school board members publicly supported fixed hours of live instruction in the spring, not even for high school students.

Asynchronous was supported in the name of equity. But districts with many more low income students than our district provided synchronous learning in the name of equity.

Yes, some teachers chose to teach, but that was just lucky for those students who were taught. We need a board that requires minimum standards, not one that accepts a Superintendent who pivots from "we will lead" to "it was crisis learning."

2. We have about 10% of our students who are low income etc. And, this Board does not appear to have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests. If they have, Weekly, please publish those numbers over the last 4, 6, and 8 years and tie them to Board member actions. I have seen MBC try to support AVID, but I have seen no other meaningful efforts. What are they?

3. Why are we so sure that the other 90% are well served? It seems incredibly odd that an amazing system for 90% could just leave the other 10% behind. Are we sure it's not the parents supporting these students? Are we sure we are using the right metrics? What metrics are we using?

4. I would like Board members who support 1+ year of academic progress for every student every year PLUS catch up for those who are behind. We could measure this using nationally accepted tests, which many districts do, multiple times per year (ERB used to be offered for writing at least a few times over a student's tenure; and NWEA was offered for math). Let's find out where our students are and meet each of them where they are at.

5. Why has this Board not pushed for a waiver application for K-6 or even special ed elementary K-6? In person is not for everyone, but an enormous amount of money (I have no idea how much) is flowing to pods in this district.

6. Although JDB currently has 2 of her 3 students in the District, two of her three students have opted for private middle school. This is concerning.

Posted by Joan Gross
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Joan Gross is a registered user.

Please tell me when school board candidates nights can be seen on zoom or TV?
Also when City Council Candidates nights can be seen on zoom or T.V.?

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