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Christopher Boyd

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Christopher Boyd, speaking at a September school board meeting, runs an afterschool program and says Palo Alto needs to provide more progressive and innovative education to its students. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

Christopher Boyd decided to run for a seat on the school board because he sees this moment as an "exciting time" for education as a whole and in Palo Alto, he said in a September endorsement interview with the Weekly.

Since 2014, Boyd has run Insted, a small STEM-focused after-school program in Palo Alto that he started in a desire for more progressive and experimental education. Insted was his first foray into education. In the program, Boyd told the Weekly, post-doctoral students from Stanford University teach undergraduate-level courses such as astrophysics, robotics and astronomy to students as young as second grade.

The program was built on the premise of "What happens if you take the latest technologies, the smartest minds — which are postdocs and professors and people at Stanford and people in Silicon Valley — and put them all together and experiment with as many different kinds of new education, new ideas about education as possible?" Boyd said.

"We are precisely at this point in time with the modes of education ... which have lasted for 150 years — printing textbooks, putting kids in classes, having teachers in front of the classes — (and) are totally obsolete," he added. "It's the most exciting moment, I think, to be in education."

From 2014 to 2016, Insted served 10 students each year, and last year it enrolled five students, including some from the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, Boyd said.

In addition to running his after-school program, Boyd has criticized the district's legal spending, particularly on litigation with special-education families, as well as what he describes as the district's failure to protect students' civil rights and safety. He describes the district's legal approach to special-needs children as "harsh" and "hostile." Boyd opposes the hiring of a general counsel and instead has urged the district to "lead with our humanity and not use lawyers to be a sword and shield against parents advocating for their children."

He also values the board's two-meeting rule, which requires agenda items be discussed once publicly before the board can take action. The rule allows for "open discussion with the public and for reason and analysis," Boyd said.

Boyd did not respond to further questions from the Weekly about specific school district issues.

An investigation by the Weekly found that Boyd has been falsely claiming that Insted is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, also known as the Institute for Education Management. Neither name is listed in the California Secretary of State's registered business database as a corporation or LLC. A tax ID number Boyd provided to the Weekly is for the Institute for Environmental Management, a Palo Alto nonprofit whose mission, according to its bylaws, is to "develop and facilitate dissemination of technology for biofuels while minimizing greenhouse gas emission with special attention to municipal solid waste."

John Benemann, co-director at the Institute for Environmental Management, told the Weekly that Boyd "never worked for or had authorization to represent himself as working for or involved in any way with the Institute for Environmental Management (IEM)."

The Institute for Environmental Management was founded more than 25 years ago by Palo Alto residents Benemann, who has since moved to Walnut Creek, and Don Augenstein, who was for a time Boyd's landlord.

When asked to give evidence that Insted is affiliated with the Institute for Environmental Management, Boyd provided a 2015 email showing Augenstein set up a PayPal account to receive funds for Insted. Augenstein stated in the email that the Institute for Environmental Management was "doing business as" the Institute for Education Management. However, no fictitious business statement indicating this change is on file with the Santa Clara County Clerk-Recorder's Office, as required by law.

Following additional inquiries from the Weekly, Boyd said that the Institute for Environmental Management is Insted's fiscal sponsor and that, based on legal advice, "if IEM is found out of regulatory compliance, Insted will be rolled out of fiscal sponsorship or operating status within IEM and set up as an independent nonprofit."

Based on a best-practices guide from the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors, the sponsorship by the biofuels nonprofit of the afterschool program is odd, as the missions of fledgling programs and their fiscal sponsors should align, the guide states.

Boyd's work history is centered in technology, though his resume and LinkedIn profile differ in the details. Prior to Insted, Boyd states on his resume, he worked as the director of technology for the University of California, Davis Graduate Studies Department from 2010 to 2011. He worked as either a lead technology manager or a contributor — according to his resume and LinkedIn profile, respectively — for the Health Improvement Plan at Stanford University School of Medicine from 2011 to 2012. From 2004 to 2010, he was a project manager for the California State Compensation Insurance Fund, his resume states.

His LinkedIn profile states that he also is general partner at Automation Research, an organization for research and development related to automation. Like Insted, Automation Research is also not listed in the Secretary of State's business database.

Read more about this year's Palo Alto Board of Education candidates here.

Find more coverage on Palo Alto races and measures here.


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