Among the many reforms undertaken by the current Palo Alto Board of Education over the last two years was to place a term-limit measure on the ballot that will limit members to two, four-year terms in office.
If passed by a simple majority of voters, this will mirror the same two-term limit that applies to the Palo Alto City Council and many other elected bodies.
While a strong school-board tradition of voluntarily limiting service to eight years has prevailed for decades, it was ignored twice in just the last six years — by former member Camille Townsend, who served 13 years, and current member Melissa Baten Caswell, who will end up serving 13 years when her term expires in 2020. We think that's too long in a community with so many qualified and engaged residents interested in serving.
The electoral advantages of incumbency are so great that those in the community who are interested in serving are discouraged from running until an incumbent chooses not to run. Without term limits, no one can plan for an election with an open seat.
The standard argument against term limits is that voters should be able to decide if they wish to keep returning incumbents term after term and benefit from the historical knowledge a long-serving official brings.
We think the benefits of turnover far outweigh the incremental value of a few more years of institutional memory. Vote "yes" on Measure Y.