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Who should run for School Board and Why?

Original post made by OhlonePar on Mar 26, 2007

The latest wishy-washy antics of the board means that the only member who would definitely get my vote is Gail Price. Camille Townsend absolutely won't. The rest, depending on whether they shape up may or may not.

Which means I'd like to see new candidates. I don't have a set agenda, but I want candidates who can think clearly, understand the ramifications of complex issues and have enough of a backbone to put the needs of the district over convenience or whim.

So, whose Tuesday nights should be wrecked?

Comments (20)

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 3:36 pm

The question is

Who *would* run for school board?

It's a pretty thankless job.

Posted by AAAG Member, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I think there are a couple of sound prospects on the AAAG. No idea what their opinions of being on the board would be but they make excellent contributions here.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:55 pm

Of course it's a thankless job. But maybe if some decisiveness and competent people could be persuaded to run it would become less so. Or at least the meetings would be shorter.

Posted by fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 8:58 pm

fred is a registered user.

OP - thanks for starting this thread. The board does seem really weak - and perhaps as a result, they hired a really weak Superintendent. My experience is that a strong Super will help guide and strengthen the Board.

As Anonymous points out, it may be hard recruiting candidates. The tenor of civic discourse in Palo Alto is really disturbing - I thought the east coast (where I'm from) was supposed to be tough, but the venom in the debate here is outside my experience.

My civic leadership thread died on the vine, but I have real concerns that without strong civic leaders stepping up, we end up with flacid governance and interest-group driven deadlock.

What can we do about it??

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 10:05 pm


Think about who lives in Palo Alto and how they got here. I think it's unusually combative right now because there's a lot of change going on and jockeying for power.

Dissonance can be the downside of diversity.

Nonetheless, I think everyone would be happier with a stronger board. Gail Price has been very consistent. I suspect even when she votes against someone's cause, there's an understanding that she's consistent and has reasoned through it.

Right now, there's a power vacuum and that sort of situation leads to strife and managment by the shrillest.

So, anyone willing to put out a couple of names? AAAG members? Someone on a site council? A managment type in early retirement who wants to fix things?

Since the job is miserable, there probably does need to be some recruitment--particularly if we don't want an agenda-led board. (Can I say "ugh" about Camille Townsend, yet again?)

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 26, 2007 at 10:56 pm

The frequency of anonymous "ugh"s and other negative personal comments online certainly isn't helping entice any candidates. At least with a letter to the editor, you have to give your name. One could argue that anyone thin-skinned enough to worry shouldn't run, but I wouldn't reduce the issue of our political climate to that "either/or" kind of view.

I'm not against anonymity or criticism, - but anyone who's seen my posts knows that my criticisms are either aimed broadly, or in direct response to a posting here. I would never post generic complaints about school board members or others by name. If you disagree with someone, argue on the issues.

Posted by fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2007 at 11:17 pm

fred is a registered user.

Thank you Al, I think you make a good point. I think we are at a point where going out of our way to be respectful to others can make a material difference in how things go.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2007 at 11:25 pm


I've been specific about why I won't vote for Camille Townsend. I use the same posting name, so if you care, you can look it up. I didn't do it here because it's a bit besides the point. But here goes . . .

And, no, I can't imagine Ms. Townsend cares deeply. Part of my "ugh" reaction stems from her casual dismissal of the anti-IM petition when Gail Price brought it up. She was rude to Gail and dismissive of people whose views she didn't share.

Then there was her shameless public arm twisting of other board members in an effort to get them to change their MI vote.

I'd say "ugh" is a gentle response to that kind of behavior by a public official. I don't agree with everything Tom, Mitchell and Lowell have done, but they haven't shown that kind of irresponsible behavior and I respect them for that.

In other words, I consider your criticism here misdirected.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 7:51 am

OP - thanks for explaining your views in that helpful detail. And as a wise wag once put it, things have come to a fine turn when a man can't cudgel his own jackass.

That said, it would be good for all of us to try to raise the tone of political discussion in PA, esp opinion leaders like yourself. You are certainly not one of the worst offenders and probably much better than most.

But casual readers, less attentive to the context and your previous posts, might miss your point and just hear the one comment(and respond with their own). Not your fault, and maybe not your concern either, but perhaps worthy of your consideration.

Again, not singling you out, just wanted to make the general point.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 8:03 am

And OP - referring to your initial posting - how about you? You seem knowledgeable, thoughtful, and engaged. How about taking a turn?

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 27, 2007 at 9:05 am

There now... was that so hard?

Sorry I haven't been sorting posts by author from various threads to cross-reference the "ughs." ;-)

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Thanks Fred,

I'm flattered to be thought of as an opinion leader. But out in the real world, I'm a fairly obscure person. I haven't even been a class parent, yet. In other words, I could use some seasoning. I'm also, you may have noticed, a bit outspoken. I'm not sure the district needs my personality (yet).

I think there are people out there who have put a lot of real-life effort into our schools who maybe haven't thought of themselves as school board material, but would be. I'd really like to see some moderate types who have enough of a backbone to both consider and balance the needs and demands of the many groups here.

What about you? You've expressed your own views and disagreed with others without setting them off. You also think about principles, which I think matters in education.

Well, anyway, I like some of the thinking outside the box. I do know of someone I think would be excellent, but I haven't sprung it on her yet! I suppose I should sound her out before pushing her into the online limelight.

SkepticAl, it's never hard for me to write here, but I really just wanted to put in note of exasperation instead of a Camille Townsend vent.

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:44 pm

It's true we have a lot more strife than cooperation that we should have. But when I've seen meetings, I've seen a lot of well-meaning people who can't reach out to each other because they lack basic positive communication, mediation and diplomacy skills. Discussions tend to be hampered by typical traps that we humans get caught in when we disagree.

This is probably unconstitutional (with a big U), but I wonder if we couldn't make anyone who wants to appear before the city counsel or the BOE first attend some kind of mediation/communication training that the city makes available to the public? (And make counsel members take the same.) It would keep people out of negative patterns where they are reacting from emotion, reacting out of perceived negative hits to their ego, etc.

I know, I'm dreaming. ("You can say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...")

Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 27, 2007 at 2:47 pm

I'm with you, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a voice like OhlonePar's on the BOE! (And yours, too, even though I clearly prioritize language higher than you do, you at least are willing to talk and consider my side.)

Posted by Fred, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2007 at 3:14 pm

AJ, I agree, it seems like the process and framing of the issue exacerbates conflict among people who generally would rather compromise/agree. Not so hard to fix, I think, but the leadership has to come from the top (#1 the Superintendent, #2 leadership on the Board).

In the meantime, we can all lead by example (as we are in a small way doing by keeping this forum civil and on-point).

OP, I agree the #1 qualification I would look for in a Board member is understanding the role and willingness to drive the process. It isn't issues - those will change over time - it is ability to lead.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2007 at 3:30 pm

Web Link

Above is a link to a decent article by on what makes a good Board member. Great questions at the bottom.

I agree with it.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 9:48 pm

At this point, I'm much more interested in leadership abilities than issues. The issues change and the wisest response to issues can change.

In law, they talk about a judicial temperment. I think there's a good board temperment as well. Gail Price seems the most solid and principled member of the board, but I'm not looking for five Gail Price's. The idealism of some of the others has its place--as long as they're balanced by someone grounded leading the way,

The super's clearly a huge problem here--I suspect the board wouldn't be in such a pickle if the super weren't such a problem.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Why bother with an election? Just turn it over to the unions and save the cost of counting votes.

Posted by wondering, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2007 at 7:36 pm

How would a board member show leadership? The Brown Act restrictions mean only two can talk to each other privately on any particular topic. That means that on each topic, one of them has no one to dialog with. The only "discussion" is what we see and hear in public, and usually they each just take turns pontificating. There is seldom any true discussion with give-and-take, agreement or disagreement, posing of questions, etc. Without five-way discussions, how can one or the other emerge as a leader?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2007 at 12:55 am


Just because it's public doesn't mean discussion can't happen. I mean the discussion in the forum is all most of us know of one another and stronger, more leading voices appear.

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