Town Square

PAUSD candidate forum

Original post made by Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Sep 28, 2012

In the hopes of having a discussion on the topics and the various candidates views, I would like to be able to read what others gleaned from the meeting at Terman.

I hope that those who attended can let the rest of us know what was brought up, how the various candidates responded to the hot topics and how well the event was attended.

I trust that PA Weekly will not prevent those of us who were not able to attend to get an unbiased view from different perspectives.


Like this comment
Posted by Terman Parent
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 28, 2012 at 10:19 am

I thought it was interesting that the two current School Board members did not know (or did not want to talk about) the Spanish Immersion proposal at Barron Park Elementary.

I liked Ken Dauber and Melissa Baten Caswell's attitudes the best. They seem to be the most objective, results-oriented of the four. Ms. Townsend struck me as someone who smiles a lot but gets little done. Mr. Dauber's attitude of evaluating school support needs based on results (vs. per pupil spending) was refreshing.

Ms. Emberling came across as somewhat involved but I didn't see her as someone capable of intense debate on serious policy issues.

Like this comment
Posted by Impressed by Dauber
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

I thought Ken Dauber came across as extremely knowledgeable, calm and reasoned. He seems to have a full grasp of the issues and backed his points up with statistics. I can definitely see him being effective on the board.

Based on the fact that she consistently bumped up against the time limits, I'll bet the board meetings would immediately get shorter if Camille Townsend is defeated.

Like this comment
Posted by Briones mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I know Heidi and she is really sweet. But she did not seem to answer the questions. She just agreed with whatever Camille said a lot. Her answers lacked content even when the question called for a specific. I think she doesn't want to disagree with anyone because she is so nice! But I have to say that she didn't seem very informed or knowledgeable especially compared to Dauber. I still support her hopefully she can learn on the job.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Thank you to those who commented.

I hope that the Weekly will report on this week's forum better than they did on the last forum.

I want the Weekly to tell me what the candidate's answers to specific questions so that I can choose who will get my vote. This is supposed to be more designed for elementary school issues, I assumed that the last was for middle school issues, but reading the article it appears that was not the case.

It is impossible for me, or anyone, to attend all the forums. I would like the Weekly to report the questions and the answers from all candidates. I assume the same areas covered last week will not be covered again.

I still have very little information on one candidate and no idea on her views on specific topics.

As far as I am concerned, the candidates' views on specific topics are the most important criteria. These include calendar pilot, FLES, enrollment and site use, counselling, curriculum and now site based decision making. I am sure all the candidates are well rounded individuals who plan to devote their time and energy to the wellfare of our children, but it is specifics that count in my book.

What are their views?

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Anyone who attended last night's meeting like to comment on this event?

What were the subjects discussed? Were they just elementary issues?

I thought there was another thread about this, but I can't find it.

Was a reporter from the Weekly in attendance? Does the Weekly intend to report on this PAUSD election and give us some information?

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thank you PA Weekly for promoting tonight's forum on the front page.

Unfortunately, there is no way of commenting there apart from registration. Strangely, I see a thread of comments about the previous forum which I had hunted for a couple of days ago and they have now appeared.

I would like to understand the reasoning behind making it difficult for those of us interested in the PAUSD candidates from commenting or finding out how the candidates think on various topics. It seems that there is no such objections to weighing in on city council elections so why for school board?

It is not possible for busy parents to attend all the functions. The websites of the various candidates are very bland on real issues. I would like to get a feel for all the candidates and am finding this very difficult. I would expect the PA Weekly to interview the candidates and get their views, just the same as city council.

Am I missing something?

Like this comment
Posted by involved parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:52 am


The forums so far have been very interesting and I hope that those who cannot attend will be able to come out. So far the biggest surprises are that Ken Dauber is an extremely nice guy who seems to have a very friendly and good relationship with all the other candidates, and the incumbents. They joke around and laugh together. Last night he told a story about meeting with Dr. Skelly to work on the achievement gap on a Sunday at a coffee shop that was good on both Ken and Dr. Skelly because it showed how even though they have some policy disagreements they are both professionals who can work together for our kids. That was very reassuring to me and others, about both of them. They are both good men.

Ken answers all the questions directly which is very refreshing and he clearly knows the most about all the issues. He's a little wonky and has a lot of policy and statistics and talks about the academic literature a little much. But on the other hand, don't we want informed leaders? He clearly has a lot of data and statistics to share, and that sounds good to me. What else? He of course goes on about social-emotional but also I learned that his son is at Priory because he likes their social emotional program and he thinks that middle schools (except for Connections where Melissa's son is in the program there) is not very strong for social emotional. Ken also said he was for term limits on the school board, which is relevant because Camille is running for a third term.

Heidi seems like a very nice person, echoing what was said above. She seems just lovely. She never answers questions though. I still after going to 2 forums have no idea what she things about anything except that she wants one uniform anti-bullying program implemented in middle school and not 3 different ones. She seemed not to understand that site based control is the reason we have 3 different ones because in a later question she supported site based control and so that was kind of a mess. She didn't answer the calendar question. I am against the new calendar and if you are against it, be suspicious! Dauber is for the new calendar which is a reason to be against him, although he said he wanted to look for a lighter weight solution than the current calendar. Is Heidi for it or against it? No idea. She also won't say if she is for or against TA at Gunn, term limits, site based control or anything else. But she seems very nice. Kind of like a younger Camille, and they seemed to get along well.

Melissa Caswell is very impressive of course. She talks a lot about the strategic plan which is one of her accomplishments. She never discusses whether they met any of the goals or if so which ones. She also never says how she will make sure anything happens. Ken asked her a good question about having better decision making last night, which she answered very well. Ken and Melissa are clearly the smartest and best informed candidates and seem pretty similar.

Camille emphasizes her experience, and her vote against the calendar. She believes that it is OK to have a third term because Barbara Klausner decided not to run so she is basically just taking Klausner's second term and providing experience rather than having Ken and Heidi on the board. But Camille is not Barbara Klausner and they don't agree on anything so it's not clear why she thinks that would even make sense. Klausner supports Ken Dauber, and so that doesn't really make any sense that she would want Camille to take her spot so that was confused. But Camille is experienced and does bring that and she emphasized that. She also discussed her desire to work collaboratively with stakeholders in the community and to focus on improved physical health, and also that she still supports Manderin Immersion.If she is re-elected I think that we can count on having an MI strand in one of the middle schools -- maybe the new ($60 MILLION) middle school that they are planning to build (?!).

That's my report I hope others comment and weigh in. This is just one person's observations -- I am trying to be objective although I do oppose the new calendar.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Thank you informed parent.

Your comments are very helpful and informative!

Like this comment
Posted by Debate watcher
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm

A few additional comments to the Involved parent discussion -

A substantive difference between the candidates on the issue of site management pros and cons. Both Melissa and Camille are strong supporterss of site management, where individual schools can experiment and choose elements of their own approaches. In other word, not every school has to be the same. Ken lines up almost exactly opposite, as he wants a more unified approach. Not clear how to observe creativity. I don't recall Heidi's position on that.

A very strong endorsement of Kevin Skelly by all the participants. The question began with Melissa, who praised Skelly's incredible diligence and commitment. Heidi endorsed as well, mentioning how Skelly knew her child was a fifth grader. Camille also strongly supported him. Surprisingly, so did Ken. I say surprisingly as he had once called for Skelly's firing in an editorial - apparently he has changed his mind.

Like this comment
Posted by walter hays feedback
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm

@Involved Parent, Ken does have a lot of statistics and does well in the debates. Heidi usually starts with an anecdote so you need to listen to what she says. Sort of like the Obama-Romney debate last night.

For example; there was an interesting juxtaposition between Ken & Heidi on the homework question:
Ken's comment - "I was on the committee that paved the way for the homework recommendation. That recommendation, per statistics, is for 10 minutes of homework per grade level"
Heidi's comment - "I was at Paly and asked the students how the new homework recommendation was going 'cue raucous laughter from the students.'". Followed by "If you give two second graders 20 mins of homework, one child will do it in 5 and the second won't have it finished 2 hours later."

At the end of the forum Ken's three point summary for why he was running:
i) Ensure all students are taught to their potential
ii) Complete district transparency
iii) Remove site management
The first point was reiterated by all candidates. The latter two indicate Ken's main focus in running is to change the district and the board.

It's a clear choice between Heidi and Ken for third place. The incumbents were on the ball with their answers and it's unlikely they won't get re-elected.

*(all quotes paraphrased)

Like this comment
Posted by voting no
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm

After the way the Daubers treated the School District over the past few years, there's no way I can support them for school board.

The email to Dr. Young from the Daubers was extremely concerning. No one should treat our school employees that way.

Like this comment
Posted by involved parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:08 pm

@walter hays

Yes I thought Heidi's story about homework was funny! But if you think about it, it kind of doesn't help to explain what her view is.The policy hasn't been implemented yet at any of the sites -- the goal is to implement it by the end of this year. So the fact that the students at Paly hadn't heard of it yet and laughed means 2 things: (1) they need the policy because they have too much homework; and (2) the policy hasn't yet been implemented. It seemed like Heidi was saying it's not a good policy and if that's her view why is it her view? I'm not sure the parable method is the best debate strategy for a one-minute answer.

I haven't heard Ken say that he wants to end site based control. I have heard him say that he wants to limit it more than it currently is. Someone should ask him how much he wants to limit it and what he means by that?

Do you really think it is Ken v. Heidi? I think Camille could lose. She almost lost last time to Wynn Hausser, who supports Ken.

Like this comment
Posted by involved parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I just am corrected that Wynn also supports Heidi. He supports Ken and Heidi.

Like this comment
Posted by walter hays feedback
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:24 am

@involved parent, yes, that is a very good question for Ken and I hope your interpretation of his summary comment is wrong.
There's a huge difference between "I want the same programs implemented across all schools" and "I want the programs I care about implemented across all schools". If you are correct and Ken really was saying the latter, that would be a very narcissistic reason for running for the board.

Like this comment
Posted by involved parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I thought we were trying to be objective, but it's clear you have some kind of ax to grind and I don't want to get drawn into what you are doing which is name calling. I think Ken has some good points on site-based control, though I prefer a different calendar which I can do without calling names.

Like this comment
Posted by walter hays feedback
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I believe I was the one giving Ken the benefit of the doubt.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I really hope that Palo Alto doesn't buy what Mr. Dauber is selling.

Our community has something really special when it comes to our schools. Only in our district can you get such a strong education at a public school- in almost any other place, you can only find academics like ours at an exclusive, private institution. I know many people worry about the stress associated with a high academic workload, but I think many of us see the challenging nature of Palo Alto schools as an opportunity rather than an imposition. I felt like I experienced less stress in college than many of my peers because I walked into my classes fully prepared with the background knowledge and academic skills necessary, while some others floundered and felt frightened and depressed, struggling with both new academic challenges and the challenges of living away from home.

I know that some students at Gunn pile on more AP classes than they can handle, but there are many more, myself included, that took AP's but took a reasonable number and were challenged but not overwhelmed. Rather than mandating limits on homework levels, telling teachers when they can and cannot assign work, and imposing other crude, blanket rules on the classrooms, I think we would be better off helping to educate students and families about the costs and benefits of adding higher-stress classes to their schedule, and then let them make an informed decision.

Palo Alto schools gave me a real opportunity in life that I otherwise might not have been afforded. I really hope that Palo Alto votes to preserve that opportunity for students that come after me and avoids candidates like Dauber that don't really understand the complexity of young life and student learning.