Newcomer Heidi Emberling, a parenting educator and former PTA president at Juana Briones Elementary School, has announced her candidacy and is actively campaigning.
Two other incumbents, Barbara Klausner, first elected in 2007, and current board President Camille Townsend, first elected in 2003, said they have not decided whether to seek re-election.
The candidate-filing period opens July 16 and closes Aug. 10 for the Nov. 6 election.
In Palo Alto's last school board election, in 2009, incumbents Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom ran unopposed.
There's been talk of a candidate emerging this year from the vocal parent group We Can Do Better Palo Alto, but so far, none has materialized. The group has tenaciously lobbied for more than a year for measures it says will reduce academic stress, including a Palo Alto High School-style "teacher adviser" program for Gunn High School and closer attention to testing calendars.
Group member Wynn Hausser, who was narrowly defeated by incumbent Townsend when he sought election in 2007, has said he does not intend to run this year. We Can Do Better cofounder Ken Dauber, who in the past said he would consider running, answered a query this week with an email saying, "Election long ways off."
Caswell said she wants to return to the board in particular to grapple with the financial challenges and to see through the district's strategic plan, which she helped to initiate in 2008.
That year, business consultants McKinsey & Company took an exhaustive look at the district and helped develop a strategic plan, which has guided board discussions in the time since.
"We all agreed these would be very good goals, and a lot of the things we're hearing about right now, particularly from We Can Do Better Palo Alto, were in there," Caswell said.
"We made a lot of effort to put a good plan together, and I'd like to see it through. I've done five years of work, and I don't feel like it is done, not that it would ever be done."
Emberling has initiated fundraising and campaigned at house parties, emphasizing the opportunities for shared use of Cubberley Community Center as new campuses to accommodate more students and the need for better communication of "big picture" school issues.
With an eye toward an uncertain fiscal outlook and continued enrollment growth, Emberling states on her website: "In the next few years we must evaluate homework load and its relationship to student stress, the persistent achievement gap and our ongoing commitment to fulfilling A-G requirements for our high school graduates.
"We have also made a concerted effort in the past year to focus on student health through the introduction of the Developmental Assets, a framework for assessing student well-being. We need to continue this important work, ensuring that students feel connected to caring adults in school, around the neighborhood and in the larger community."
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