Palo Alto school board member Barbara Klausner has announced she will not seek a second term on the five-member board, leaving what appeared to be a "safe" incumbent seat up for grabs.
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."
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," Klausner said in a written statement.
"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."
Hours after Klausner's announcement Thursday morning, school board President Camille Townsend, first elected in 2003, declared her intention to seek a third term.
Klausner and Townsend's declarations leave the race so far a non-competitive field of two incumbents and one newcomer seeking three available seats.
Melissa Baten Caswell, a one-term incumbent, qualified for the ballot July 24. Newcomer Heidi Emberling, a parent educator and active volunteer, has taken out nominating papers and is actively campaigning for a board seat.
In the event of an incumbent not filing by the nomination deadline of Aug. 10, the deadline is extended to Aug. 15. The election is Nov. 6.
In her written statement, Klausner, who served as president of the board in 2009-2010, praised 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 the 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."