DiBrienza, Collins win seats on Palo Alto school board | News | Palo Alto Online |


DiBrienza, Collins win seats on Palo Alto school board

Two incumbents vying for third seat in close race; Baten Caswell pulls to slight lead

Two-term Palo Alto Board of Education member Melissa Baten Caswell appears to have been elected to her third term, based on unofficial election results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Two challengers in the Palo Alto school board race, Jennifer DiBrienza and Todd Collins, have secured wins, while incumbents Heidi Emberling and Melissa Baten Caswell continued to be in a tight race for the third seat as of Wednesday, according to unofficial election results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Though the Registrar said all 48 precincts had reported their numbers as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, mail-in ballots are being received and counted through Friday.

Jennifer DiBrienza, a former teacher who billed herself as a much-needed educator's voice on the board, held a healthy lead ever since early tallies were released at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Three hours later, she had 28.4 percent of the votes, or 11,785. By 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, she had pulled in 13,005 votes.

Collins, a private investor who made the school district's current budget deficit the focus of his campaign, was consistently following DiBrienza throughout the evening. By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, he had accrued 9,329 votes.

Baten Caswell and Emberling were in a near-dead heat Tuesday evening, trailing Collins closely. After 11 p.m., current board President Emberling was barely ahead with 7,914 votes compared to Baten Caswell's 7,885 (both about 19 percent of the vote).

By Wednesday morning, Baten Caswell had pulled ahead, however, with 34 more votes than Emberling at 10:30 a.m.

Srinivasan Subramanian, who withdrew from the race in September, has netted 8.7 percent percent of the vote, close to 4,000 votes.

Subramanian tweeted his congratulations to the candidates Wednesday morning, writing, "Thank you all for your support and encouragement! I'm humbled and deeply grateful!"

Results consistently showed contender Jay Cabrera, who ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 school-board race, pulling in about 4.6 percent of the vote.

At an election party at the Garden Court Hotel in downtown Palo Alto on Tuesday night, DiBrienza said she was "really excited that my message and my expertise and what I want to bring to the board resonated with voters."

Community members have told DiBrienza, she said, that they saw a more diverse set of people campaigning for her across Palo Alto throughout the election people who haven't traditionally been involved in the local race.

"I'm not sure what it was because I have kids in elementary school, because of my PhD (in education) but I pulled in more people that hadn't been pulled in before, and that showed tonight," she told the Weekly.

Emberling, who was also at the Garden Court with her supporters for part of the night, was less optimistic early in the evening.

"We'll see. Elections are unpredictable this evening," she said, referring to the presidential race.

Collins, reached at his home after 9 p.m., said, "If I'm lucky enough to be elected, I look forward to working with whoever else is on the board to put kids first."

Baten Caswell, also at the Garden Court hotel, was waiting for more concrete results, even after 9 p.m. when the majority of precincts had reported.

"It's not over until all the precincts come in," she told the Weekly. "It's a night of surprises."

If re-elected, Emberling, a former journalist and now parent educator, would be serving her second term. Baten Caswell would be entering her third. A former business manager and now software-firm CEO, she first won a seat in 2007.

As of Wednesday at 7 a.m., Registrar of Voters stated that 57 percent of Santa Clara County ballots had been counted, though all of Palo Alto's precincts had reported their in-hand results by 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of the school-board election. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.


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24 people like this
Posted by Escondido mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 9, 2016 at 7:02 am

Good to see new people on the school board. Please look at fixing special Ed. Melissa and Heidi ignored problems for years, it's time for a fresh start.

18 people like this
Posted by Good direction
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2016 at 10:47 am

So with 48 precincts reporting is that it? Did Heidi Emberling lose to Melissa Beaten Caswell? That was a tough one deciding which one would have to go. Both needed to go. [Portion removed.] Happy that Todd Collins is on the board, worried that Jennifer DB is going to shill for PAEA.

15 people like this
Posted by Too close to call
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 9, 2016 at 10:58 am

Emberling and Caswell's race is way too close to call at this point. Interesting that Srinivasan got almost 4,000 votes after dropping out, a little less than half the incumbents. Had he run for real, he probably could have beat them and swept out all of the incumbents. As it is, it looks like people parked their third vote with him to avoid voting for Emberling or Caswell. A big repudiation of the incumbents.

7 people like this
Posted by Town Square Moderator
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2016 at 11:12 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Missing from these vote counts are ballots that were mailed and postmarked by yesterday but didn't arrive prior to Election Day. They will be processed as they arrive over the next three days, in addition to other provisional ballots cast at polling places.

19 people like this
Posted by Karen G
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 9, 2016 at 11:25 am

Congratulations Todd and Jennifer! Looking forward to having you on the board!

18 people like this
Posted by Uh-oh
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 9, 2016 at 12:12 pm

I have a lot of confidence in Todd, next to none in Jennifer, Absolutely ZERO in Heidi or Melissa or any incumbent other than Ken!

Jennifer needs to go back to teaching-- that was what she did well. On PAUSD matters, she flip flops and vacillates

11 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Congrats to Todd and Jennifer. Hope you and Ken will fix the mess we're in.

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2016 at 5:30 am

In the first of work fix the gpa grading at Paly giving all choices waited gpa. No more writing letters. Send the staff at pally to work on the paperwork.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2016 at 7:23 am

I am pleased that Collins was elected.

I find it interesting to see how many voted for Srinivasan even though he dropped out, he was my first choice. I sincerely hopes he finds it in himself to stand next time around. I think it is important to see the bigger picture and I think that he and Collins were the only two that would have done this. The colleges have to get a message from school districts to what they are doing to our teens and they seem to be the only ones with this vision.

3 people like this
Posted by go for it Todd
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2016 at 3:10 pm

go for it Todd is a registered user.

Really hoping to get management that knows how to run a school district. Not wanting to hear any more of all the controversies of the last few years. Hopefully Ken and Todd, possibly 1 more can get policies through and make decisions without tormenting families and children needlessly.

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