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Two declare candidacies for Palo Alto school board

Original post made on Apr 12, 2018

The race for two open seats on the Palo Alto school board is starting to heat up, with one incumbent planning to run for re-election and one newcomer declaring his candidacy.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 12, 2018, 9:00 AM

Comments (22)

48 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 12, 2018 at 11:35 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Dharap has my early vote. Need to get people who haven't been tainted by the system. Seems to actually care about students and understands that not all PAUSD students are meant to go to a top 50 college. It's something the teachers should take to heart, as well.

If Kathy runs, she has my vote too. It has become obvious that Kathy is scratching the surface of a MUCH deeper issue that PAUSD and most parents want to keep quiet. It's all about appearances. PAUSD wants to talk up their programs but doesn't want to let anyone inside to see what they're really hiding.

I like Ken Dauber. I'd rather vote out Caswell.


68 people like this
Posted by Downtown parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 12, 2018 at 11:52 am

Can anybody remind me, which of the current Board members voted in favor of the ridiculous school renaming. This will me my deciding factor for any future Board election/re-election.
Thanks in advance!


30 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2018 at 11:58 am

I tend to think that the schools being renamed will be a big factor in this election. For any candidate we have to know how they voted or how they would have voted.

This topic is not going to lay down and die.


14 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Samuel L.: Seems to actually care about students and understands that not all PAUSD students are meant to go to a top 50 college. It's something the teachers should take to heart, as well.

Samuel, can you give some evidence that supports the idea that teachers think all PAUSD students are meant to go to a top 50 college?


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Dharap sounds like an interesting candidate. He has personal insights through his local education and a personal story that seems to be a very positive model for many of our students. His ideas for the district seem deep, well thought out and well articulated.
Also, I re read Samuel’s statement and it says that teachers should take to heart that not all students need to go to a top 50 college. I agree and I know that many of our teachers also feel that way. I do think this is an an area that parents teachers and the administration have not embraced adequately.


19 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2018 at 12:17 am

Dharap has 'been there, done that" and has my vote. Kathy Jordan would also be reasonable and her daughter just graduated last year from Paly; she would be vocal and reasonable. Godfrey's idea was Trackwatch; good riddance.

AP classes are over-the-top. And while some students score 4/5 on the AP exam, they are given a grade of C in the class, a GPA tank. Grading should be re-evaluated.In some classes, students are working extremely hard to just earn a "B" grade. I don't think the teachers really know how rigorous college admissions are now. Look at the UC freshman profiles, where the majority need 4.0 GPAs: Web Link Our students are at a disadvantage because of the rigor.

There are some regular lane teachers that expect too much. My daughter (who writes well) would have never gotten an A in some classes if I hadn't helped proofread. Jordan English teachers are bad and Paly teachers don't understand that. Some Paly teachers only give 1-3 grades of A per class. Some teachers disregard that students have 6 other classes with homework. The Board-approved homework guidelines aren't enforced and don't apply to AP classes. Remember that students have extracurriculars and community service needed on college applications too so their time is limited.

The rule about no AP classes prior to 11th is a joke because people just petition.

Coaches require athletes to watch other games (freshmen have to stay and watch both JV and Varsity games). This is a college prep district and the students have to attempt to do their homework in the bleachers.

My children are at Top 50 universities and say that their classes are easier than Paly AP classes because the professors are more organized and structured, clear in their expectations. They don't change deadlines, give incorrect review sheets, or cram info in at the end of the semester. Teens cannot handle stress like adults. My children needed tutors at Paly but none in college. The AP teachers somehow think it's okay to push our students to adult levels of stress because "they chose to take AP."

All that said, there are good teachers who do understand the stress and are lenient on deadlines, give homework passes, extra credit, test drops, but they are regular lane teachers. Teachers are doing a disservice when they overwork the students; this encourages cheating and the students not don't learn as well because they are always in panic mode.

Meanwhile, so glad that the bell schedule is revised. Tutorial is every day; so many teachers are inaccessible after school due to rush hour or train schedules. And the students will get extra sleep with the start being 8:30/10:00. Yes, 10:00 is the start of classes, perfect for the teen body.


20 people like this
Posted by Inconsistency causes stress
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2018 at 11:13 am

Agree with much of what Paly Mom states about curve grading in some high school courses. There can also be a huge disparity between different teachers for the same course that can make or break a student's year and GPA.

Smoothing out some serious inconsistencies in grading and course quality would probably go further in addressing stress-related mental health issues than all the SEL programs and assemblies kids now must make time to attend. We have so many excellent, caring, and professional teachers, yet the grapevine is ripe with stories of the GPA-wreckers.

If you think about who comes to PAUSD - families who are intelligent, motivated, and value an excellent public education - it should not be the case that only a handful of students can earn an A in a course. Sadly, overly tough grading by some teachers can really disadvantage a child in admissions at the public universities who may not even look at applications below a certain ever-rising minimum GPA.


6 people like this
Posted by #BoardSoWhite
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 13, 2018 at 1:34 pm

If that wasn't enough, here's 6,000,000 more reasons not to re-elect the incumbents. Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2018 at 2:34 pm

@#BoardSoWhite: A few year ago there was Dana Tom and Barbara Klausner, who are Chinese and they didn't fight for Asians, if that's what you mean. They in fact, voted to adopt Everyday Math, which is a bad math program. All the Chinese favor Singapore Math or more rote math rather than Everyday Math. Ken Dauber and Kathy Jordan would fight for what is right, not ethnicity-based decisions. Postings like yours are divisive. Caswell is pro-rigor (ugh, 2 more years).


39 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2018 at 2:54 pm

@ "#BoardSoWhite" - What's with your screen name? It is almost as if you're implying that there is something wrong with "white" people or that the board is flawed because of the race of its current members. I'm not sure if that is intentional, but it comes across as insensitive and somewhat condescending on the basis of race.

I find few things to be as irritating than when people complain about race or gender when there is no evidence that race plays a detrimental factor in the decisions or leadership.

I'm a Hispanic immigrant. My background doesn't cause me to favor those who look or sound like me. I prefer to vote for the INDIVIDUAL that I believe is best qualified with no accounting for their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

Sometimes, I wish that we never saw the photos of the people who were running for office. I sort of miss the idea that our colors would eventually "bleed into one" in this nation. Personally, I wouldn't want someone to vote for me as the Hispanic or brown "alternative" as though being non-white is somehow simultaneously a virtue and emblematic of victimhood.

I urge you to look at the individual candidates. As PAUSD Mom said, such posts and screen names can be divisive. As the old saying goes, "divided we fall."


13 people like this
Posted by Self-directed learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2018 at 6:06 pm

@PAUSD Mom,
Thanks for your deeply honest post, which confirmed for me yet again that we made the right choice to homeschool. Since then, my teen has been able to do so much more, gets more sleep, has more time to spend with friends, has taken more interesting/challenging/more diverse classes than offered in high school with just other kids who are excited about learning, has been able to go deeper in projects and interests, has a better relationship with everyone in the family (and the ability to take off for elderly family members visiting), and has taken more advanced coursework than would have been possible in school, has been regularly reading again and generally excited about learning. The learning journey has been so much richer, and our student able to be far more successful even where there are grades, tests, and academic demands. This is a profoundly gifted (per testing) child who was languishing in school, made to feel inadequate, would have been shut out arbitrarily but is now well-positioned for college.

I don’t think we would have had the courage to leave if the powers that be hadn’t been horrible to all of us, but it was a blessing. I just wish the same freedom could be available to students within the district (several districts have very good homeschool programs and there are homeschool charters available to students in Palo Alto, but nothing kids can do here and remain in the district.) It’s not for everyone, but for some it is a lifesaver. Some programs allow hybrids where the kids can take a few courses at school and the rest their choice in a hybrid situation.

The biggest takeaway from this for us is that the “rigor” is not necessarily better schooling or learning for some kids, or even better preparation or test scores, especially for very creative/gifted ones, and especially not necessarily making for better experiences or records for college. Even a well-functioning homework policy isn’t enough. I would love to see the district set up a special program, because it could be in place within weeks if they wanted to, and not necessary to wait to create a special school building, etc. Independent self-directed learners take responsibility to educate themselves, so the district gets off the hook for a lot of stuff but gets to see what works and doesn’t.

The largest study on homeschooling and testing found no achievement or gender gaps, regardless of the parents’ education level, which makes sense since it is customized to individuals. The benefits of this could be available in our district by next fall. All it requires is a willingness to appreciate that “joy” and “learning” do not have to be mutually exclusive.

The biggest reason to consider some kind of hybrid or independent learner program is that the “rigorous” education can actually harm a certain kind of kid, through lost opportunities, lower achievement, loss of confidence, inability to spend the teen years exploring intellectually, among other reasons.

I hope some new blood on the board will be willing to consider such programs, which can even make money for the district, as part of ending the achievement gap and reducing stress for kids who want a more advanced learning experience with less stress and overhead (“rigor”).


18 people like this
Posted by 4RealChangeStopCYA
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2018 at 10:54 am


I like what I heard from our new candidate. I hope he will bring his leadership to push for what’s right over what’s popular with some serious thought about the long-term view and possible unintended consequences or marginalized needs as part of new policy. Those with the most needs don’t have the time or resources to be hear and hence that gap gets bigger and bigger. It’s already been proven in all these AP classes and extreme efforts to maximize report cards only means you’re good at school not actually transferable to useful skills or good citizenship. A lot of today’s coursework is graded on formulas and content knowledge and content is going to be useless as we will have A multitude of devices that will encompass entire categories of knowledge in a blink (Intel’s contact lenses that are in development that surf the web for you as your work).

Already the weighted grades policy has caused for shift in choice of classes for the already stratified top lane students, created a larger gap among our populations instead of enabling more equity. As our new candidate pointed out, most policy is targeted at the extremely competitive who hope to get a place at the top 50 schools, at the expense of the rest of the student body who becomes hopeless at younger and younger ages because once you are in lower lanes, don’t accumulate honors extra gpa points, you are behind forever and can give up your aspirations for success as it is defined in our community.

As our teens are forming their opinion of themselves and finding their life’s direction during these critical formative years, in theory in the safety of their families while still living at home, they are on a rote path to maximize the gpa formula. Given, they are competing with the rest of the country as well, every angle needs to be maximized, taking the joy out of school and caught in a fast-paced system where only extreme measures guarantee success, extreme behaviors follow, not only by students but parents as well. It takes a very strong family, to help your child step off this machinery and not feel disconnected at school. Maybe that is why the Paly bathrooms are filled with students doing drugs to the point where my special needs child needs to wander for half a class period to find a bathroom that is not occupied by stoned kids.

The weighted grades policy has also demoralized some wonderful teachers and put at risk the diversity of classes that a school the size of Paly enables as students feel the pressure to opt for only classes that offer the extra GPA point. It is going to make it even harder to retain and recruit quality teachers.

While there are some galant efforts by individual teachers, most of these are done quietly because as I’ve seen these efforts become known, pressure has been applied to stick to policy, policy that is convenient for the school but not helpful to the student.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen much change over the years. Test stacking is still going on, bullying is still happening without any intervention as much as administration loves to say they have a tracking system, there is no substance behind it and more effort and dollars go into blaming the kids and families themselves. It seems drug use is up.

How is it that the school expects trust and collaboration when trust is used as a tool to gaslight?

It is possible to establish a program that could display workload impact on individual schedules. I know Facebook has a lot of software engineers that volunteer at charter schools to build programs. They could put some of their data mining and algorithm skill do use to help create schedules with balanced workloads and provide feedback as they upload their syllabuses into a system. Of course it wouldn’t be perfect ,there would be changes to the schedule but it would be much better than we are now and changes can be made with knowledge of their impact. You would also be able to see if it’s just a few students w/the crunch, and they could use the test center. This could become a killer app that state education departments would require… hint out there to all you best in the world app developers…

My child was staying up too late trying to keep up with all the volumes of assignments and test stacking and not being able to get to school in the morning. My child would constantly ask me why don’t they just give more effective assignments so they don’t have to give so much homework? His suggestion was you can give briefer complex work and achieve the same learning goals. The doctor had a real heart-to-heart with him about how his health is more important than grades to let some go, that the worst that can happen isn't so bad. Unfortunately even two or three zeros could get you down into the c grades and 4 missing assignments could take a grade all the way to an F (59%). His response to the doctor was, I have to choose between passing or going to class and sleep, I don’t get graded down for missing sleep or class. My child is sleeping more but he is unable to keep up and its uncertain how unsuccessful the school year will be.

We need change and we need school board members and administrators that are more concerned with doing the right thing than CYA, spending their budgets on school name changes, who sits where (another PAOL article), legal actions for lack of processes, following through on processes, resistance to change and just plain ego about who’s right and fighting our weakest families whose resources are already in the poverty level - just check out the number of actions against minority, low-income and special needs families. You see it right in this article, Dauber is transparent about how the homework policy stalled. I’m sure more effort was placed in the survey than in an action plan. And how about the 2017 summary of actions article Web Link . I guess the school board needs wins and they’ll take any they can get. Too bad, the millions spent on these actions could reduce class size and many other actions that would actually bring our community together instead of nitpick each other. There’s so much talent in Palo Alto so why can’t we have a less dysfunctional culture in our schools?


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Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm

kids is a registered user.

Are they able to maintain the mandated direct instructional minutes with starting at !0? and flex?


9 people like this
Posted by Self-directed Learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2018 at 2:16 pm

@4RealChange,
I’m sorry to hear you are facing this situation.

When we moved into homeschooling, we found resources for taking classes, including AP and college classes, that were taught at an advanced level and even accredited, but where the homework was optional for people who didn’t want the credit and just wanted to learn. Those who did want credit had to do a certain amount of writing, and a high percentage of the homework, but there was still a lot of choice. No short-term hard deadlines and constant quizzes. My child produced work that was original and if expanded could be master’s level work. Then without prep did well on the AP test. Same child was struggling like yours in PAUSD, doing far less substantial work because of the setup there. I use that as an example, but Gunn has an AP Environmental science class where the teacher got rid of homework and found the kids do just as well on the test, so PAUSD is not without its precedents to understand this. My teen is taking an AP class this year with other homeschoolers just for fun, and decided to opt in to the optional final, no pressure at all, just out of curiosity!

All that stuff that makes your child stay up and play for the grade isn’t making him smarter, it’s hurting sleep and costing other opportunities. I really don’t understand why Palo Alto parents do not rise up and demand at least an independent study program like we found. When given more freedom with learning and personal time, our child’s standardized test scores significantly improved, and a better GPA with more advanced and diverse work was possible. It’s just not helpful to keep kids hoop jumping like that.

I just wish I could convey that it’s not your child and does not have to be a choice between advanced work and sleep/GPA. If your child doesn’t have time to do anything interesting, or it hurts GPA, that’s a net negative on a college app. The system here is simply not the only way to provide a good education, in fact, it’s a bad way for some kids like mine and probably yours, It’s a good system for some kids, I’m not suggesting throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but I am just letting you know that there is a completely different way to do things, one that lets your child say, I’m going to take a lot of advanced coursework but I’m also going to spend next two weeks with my grandparents before a surgery, because life is short and there is nothing about that homework that requires it be done that week. With homeschooling, a kid can just get caught up, in school, mine would have flunked out on that. There is nothing gained from that kind of rigidity for many students. Schools can create flexible self-directed education programs very easily because there are successful public school district examples everwhere.


15 people like this
Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2018 at 3:20 pm

It’s such a shame that my children had to choose easier classes over the interesting classes due to the teachers and workload. College admissions is a game that doesn’t allow for any joy of learning. There’s a lot of cheating going on and many of those who are going to top schools have cheated. Even one who was caught is now attending an elite college. This district is broken. We should have better college acceptances than we do. Most of our B students would have 4.0 GPAs at other schools in the nation. There is no time to even work on social skills. One suicide victim said prior that it was the only way he’d get any sleep - high school, college, employment - he predicted he’d never be able to relax.


16 people like this
Posted by Self-directed learning
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2018 at 12:26 am

@Parent of 3,
“College admissions is a game that doesn’t allow for any joy of learning.”

But that’s just it - that’s really not necessary to do things that way to get into college. We belong to a large national homeschool group and kids are getting into colleges, including the best, taking very divergent paths. Many of the kids are able to find that joy of learning once they offload all that stress and overhead. Our district has such talented kids, they really have nothing to fear by letting some find their own path. I wish they could learn from the experiences of self-directed learners, because it really is possible to provide a top quality education, where the students not only perform well, they perform better, without all that stress. Self-directed learning doesn’t mean absence of teachers or mentors, quite the opposite. Esther Wojcicki has found it in her journalism classes.

Please just realize, the college admissions process is not inherently a game that doesn’t allow joy of learning, because seeking joy of learning is a top reason people today decide to homeschool. Again, not for everyone. But the lesson is that it really is possible to go to a good college after taking a divergent high school path. Our district has such wonderful resources and many wonderful teachers who would be great at working with such students, the students who want a different kind of way shouldn’t have to go outside - and it shouldn’t be either love of learning or competitiveness for college, it can be both.

My student could never have taken such advanced diverse work in school. Just in the first years of high school, the hundreds of hours of volunteer work would not have been possible in school.

The other great thing about homeschooling is how it allows peeling away of all the unimportant stuff, including in colleges one considers. When we started this, we worried ahout being acceptable to colleges, and now we worry about finding a school that will be acceptable to someone who wants the same level of engaged self-directed learning, with similar peers, and a program that encourages prioritizing learning, Again, I’m not saying this to suggest homeschooling, I’m just saying that knowing about it a way to see that there can be very different ways of achieving the college track.

I am pointing out that parents can ask the district to look at creating programs that provide all the benefits while still keeping kids within district.





10 people like this
Posted by horrible place
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 16, 2018 at 6:13 am

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2018 at 12:58 pm

kids is a registered user.

Would love to see the focus back on streamling things for students in this crazy college prep world. Seems like they want them to be in college before going to college. I think the major stress for kids is that the material for tests is not all available and they have to search it out in too many different locations and that takes too much time.


8 people like this
Posted by DeniseW
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 18, 2018 at 8:31 am

DeniseW is a registered user.

This board led by Board President Ken Dauber sanctioned the resignation of Kim Diorio who was one of the most effective principals Paly has ever had. I have been a resident for a long time. To get a new principal to be as effective as Kim will take at least three years, according to studies of principal effectiveness. The board is focusing on the wrong things---like renaming schools. Who really cares? What my kids care about is their day to day life.


11 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 18, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Kim Diorio was not effective. She broke laws and board policies. She put on a good face to the public. Many students will tell you that she will not be missed and that she came off as phony.

The school will not fall apart with a true leader.

If effectiveness takes three years, then Diorio was only effective for a year. During that year she spent trying to cover her backside for all her screw ups over the previous years.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Reading through comments on this and other Town Square threads it appears that we have not had a robust principal at either of our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools since I first started taking note. It also seems that we have not had a superintendent or good quality staff at Churchill either. Come to that, our school board hasn't garnered a general feeling of competence too.

As for our school board, they are individuals who have volunteered to give up their time and devote their attentions to overseeing the schools in our district. If nothing else, our thanks should go to them for what they have attempted to do even if we haven't agreed to their policies or the way they have voted.

Saying all this, I welcome the idea of a completely new broom and in particular the idea of having a board member who is relatively close to having graduated high school and remembers what it was like in the not too distant past. Of course there are many changes since his time, technology, social media being among the list. However, someone with more in tune with how changes can be dealt with as well as the atmosphere can be helpful. Among other changes in laws and policies, a young mind may not be so entrapped in things being done the way they have always been done and this may in fact expedite positive changes too.

So thanks to those willing to run and I look forward to discussing the issues in a fair and responsible manner. But discussions and debates there must be.


1 person likes this
Posted by It's a miracle.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2018 at 2:57 pm

It's a miracle. is a registered user.

It must be a miracle that my two kids who recently graduated from Gunn got a great education, made friends, had fun and are enjoying their college experiences.

Gunn has a lot to offer. Student happiness has more to do with values instilled and support felt at home.

Student stress is a national problem. I have friends with kids at high schools all over the country who are complaining about grade pressure. Parents must have frank family conversations about this at home. Grades do not define us. Failing to go to undergrad at Harvard (or any other Ivy, for that matter) will not destroy your child's future. Failing to feel accepted, valued and loved will. Failing to learn one's own worth as a person will. Doing one's best to learn is important, but achieving perfect grades is not. Often these two things are antithetical.

Success in life is about defining one's own personal goals and doing one's best to achieve your personal goals, rather than racing to achieve arbitrary standards set for you by others.

Ivy League undergrad is overrated....big time. Businesses are starting to understand that.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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