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Editorial: Eight is enough

Original post made on Jan 19, 2018

The Palo Alto school district has a rare opportunity to put a term limit measure on this November's ballot without it being personal or affecting any of its "young" members.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 19, 2018, 6:57 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 19, 2018 at 9:49 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I agree that now, while no sitting board member's plans to continue service risks being a distraction, is the time to pass a school board term limit. There is so much capable talent and eagerness to serve in Palo Alto that at a time when Palo Alto is rapidly changing it is both possible and desirable to assure regular turnover on the board.

As for the cost, it's worth it and won't impact programs because there are more than adequate reserves.


Posted by make your own bed
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 19, 2018 at 10:24 am

Yep, let's do this and make it a one term limit.
As this board has shown, four years is enough to monumentally mess up the district!


Posted by Observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 19, 2018 at 11:42 am

They could offset the cost by adding a rider to require school special taxes to be put on general election ballots rather than special election ballots. This community has shown a high degree of support for schools, and approve good proposals in general elections. Turning to costly special elections has been a cynical end run around truth and standards, as we saw in the last tax ask most recently.

This article is right on the nose, as the results in the last election couldn't be more telling, that Caswell had about as many votes as the guy who withdrew early on plus the nonserious candidate who always runs, despite her incumbent advantage. Especially since the board is now a smaller body, term limits are important. So is an ombudsman who serves and advocates for our children and is not serving under the district administration. Note: residents can bring such a proposal forward as a City of Palo Alto charter amendment to the part of the City charter that establishes the district, superintendant and board.


Posted by Frank Facts
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2018 at 10:47 pm

We have effective school board term limits already. They are enforced by elections.

Furthermore, the number of candidates this past election shows that there is no merit to the “chilling effect”. In fact, there were less competitors in some past elections, including cases where no election was held at all.

Finally, the Palo Alto Council shows term limits don’t work to keep professional politicians out of power. They do something else for a few years and then come back.

Let’s get back to the real issues.


Posted by stepping stone
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2018 at 12:08 am

Serving on a local School Board is typically seen as a stepping stone to serving on city council and, subsequently running for mayor or state senator. By imposing term limits, we'll simply speed up the rate at which our current School Board members throw their hats into the City Council race.


Posted by Mr Rogers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 12:28 am

@stepping stone - it could be that way, but it's not. School board members have very rarely gone on to other offices. A handful of folks (Price, Schmid) have gone on to a term on city council; you have to go all the way back to Simitian and Kniss, 30 years ago, for people who went beyond that.

@Facts - there were two (serious) challengers for three seats last year. With two incumbents running, others didn't want to try. If Caswell hadn't run, there likely would have been two or more additional candidates, and more diversity and new blood on the board. That's exactly why term limits would be helpful.


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:57 am

Unlike some political positions, like mayor of a big city, or, state or Federal representative, etc., school boards are not a jumping off place for amibitious politicians. It seems to me that if someone is willing to serve for a longer period, and, the public wants them to serve (indicated by re-electing them), why artificially limit service to 8 years? I would like to see more continuity, not less, when it comes to the budget, and setting budgetary policy. More continuity with respect to special ed and other statutory requirements.


Posted by Know The Facts
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:59 am

Schmid, Barton, Price, Kniss, Simitian are all former PAUSD School Board Members who went on to Palo Alto City Council.

Kniss and Klein both came back to Palo Alto City Council after a few years off which got them around term limits. This is standard practice in many towns with term limits on their City Councils.

Very few districts in the state and nation have term limits for school boards. The most effective school board members are active in regional and state school board committeees, are active in the school communities and know the day to day issues and challenges at their school sites.

Palo Alto’s Board of Education is not reducing it’s number of seats. It has 5 seats which is standard for school districts of its size. However, the Palo Alto Council is going down from 9 to 7 seats in the next election.


Posted by Mr. Rogers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 4:19 pm

@Facts - yes, those five people did go on to serve on City Council. That's not a lot considering all the Council members over the last 30 years ;-) The only ones who went beyond City Council are Kniss and Simitian, who servd on the school board literally 30 years ago. Many, many more people came to city council or higher office through other routes than school board.

It's strange, you argue like we'd be giving something up - but we won't. Up until 5 years ago, no one on the PAUSD board served more than two terms for the last 40 years! And we did fine. The problem is that the norm has been broken, and we now need a rule to return to where we have been for decades.


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

In a democracy, the voters decide when to replace an elected official. Term limit advocates are elitists who do not trust those hoi polloi voters. It's that simple.


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