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Six board candidates debate reopening plan, school culture, communication

Original post made on Oct 1, 2020

The six candidates vying for three open seats on the Palo Alto school board faced off in a virtual debate Wednesday, discussing their views on reopening schools, transparency, student mental health and more.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 1, 2020, 9:43 AM

Comments (14)

44 people like this
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2020 at 10:45 am

Joel is a registered user.

Covid-19 is the leader as to whether schools should be opened, in my opinion. The virus is telling us, as are the scientist, that I'm still around and dangerous. Please listen to the stats and keep the schools on virtual learning. If children need to get together, try outdoor groups of certain number for part of the day for learning or games. So that they can have safe interactions with masks on.


53 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 1, 2020 at 10:48 am

Observer is a registered user.

Kudos to Matt Nagel, who opposed adding a communications officer to the staff. Given the board's history of financial mismanagement and bonehead screwups, he correctly advised against more bloat in the budget for a function that should be a normal task of the existing superintendent.


63 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2020 at 11:22 am

Barron Park dad is a registered user.

Please, no communications officer! If the current set of PAUSD leaders and administrators cannot find time or are so unskilled in communicating plainly, they need to find themselves another job.


42 people like this
Posted by Karen Gibson
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 1, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Karen Gibson is a registered user.

I was dismayed that the current board approved, and most new candidates agreed, that schools should start reopening in 2 weeks BUT they have no plan at all in place yet for those students who will/can not return. They all agree that those students should have an online option, but there is absolutely no plan yet how to do that. So Matt and Katie gained my votes last night since they were the only 2 opposed to reopening without these plans in place first.


22 people like this
Posted by Laurie
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 1, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Laurie is a registered user.

I did not hear anyone address how they propose doing a better job meeting the increasing
need of students with mental health and neurodiversity issues who have IEPs that are not being met during COVID


31 people like this
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 1, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

I felt the courage from the Board and a resilience that is unmatched — the level of questioning and thought following the science and in place protocols was complete.
There are many families faced with at home challenges which makes the loss of learning resulting in a loss of mental physical health tragic, depressing and too sad. It is imperative for elementary kids to gradually return with the choices decided for what works best for the student/family for the hybrid or total distance . Not everyone has a kitchen table to work from or even a separate at home zone to focus — apartment complexes have shut down extra community rooms, after school programs etc. Very vulnerable students and families are suffering under current conditions. As far as communications. Yes. Much needed. I as a parent, I am email fatigued, zoom fatigued. There must be more clear, co-hesive, central office(r) in which filter 100’s of communications from many departments, campus’, PTA’s, district, testing centers, community . . . What is priority, what is not and who / dept the email is coming from. A vaccine might be it is said to be ready by January. Really? Life as we know it has changed never to return to what it was before Fri, March 13. Together lets work to make life, love, learning possible with what is true, available, accessible.


42 people like this
Posted by No Comms Officer, Do Your Jobs
a resident of Triple El
on Oct 1, 2020 at 3:03 pm

No Comms Officer, Do Your Jobs is a registered user.

Matt gained a vote for saying no to a communications officer.
Why spend funds for someone to put a spin on the job the superintendent is doing?


28 people like this
Posted by This isn't how to open safely
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 1, 2020 at 5:17 pm

This isn't how to open safely is a registered user.

There are ways to do a reopening safely, but they require:

* Having regular rapid testing for everybody, with results in a couple hours, not days later as is the norm around here right now.

* Upgrades to building ventilation

* Enforced mandatory masks

* reconfiguration of space to allow distancing

* Isolation and quarantine of infected and exposed individuals

* functional contact tracing which reaches contacts of infected invididuals

* out-of-school conduct which limits in-person interaction


These things cost money, and if we want to avoid spreading the coronavirus in our schools and from them into the broader community, we would need to be willing to spend it.


31 people like this
Posted by Ardan Michael Blum
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Ardan Michael Blum is a registered user.

Katherine Causey seems to me the best candidate.


31 people like this
Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2020 at 7:12 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

Against the current backdrop of the President himself (who pushed for schools to reopen ASAP) being currently hospitalized with Coronavirus no less, the entire current school board should automatically be removed for voting 5-0 to reopen schools after staff and parent push back, with the worst overall school board member, in my opinion, being Ken Dauber. At this point Dauber seems like he is checked out and doesn’t even want to be a part of the meetings in the first place. Please resign.

In one board meeting, I believe Dharap was told plastic dividers for students would allow schools to reopen fully and he said something like, “Fully reopen? MIC DROP!” Since we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and with school authorities all over the country searching for answers on how to reopen schools safely, you would think he would have questioned how reopening could have been SO simple with just the use of plastic dividers and said something like, “how will plastic dividers allow us to fully reopen?” You would think it might occur to him or that he would KNOW that a few plastic dividers between students wouldn’t solve the coronavirus school reopening crisis otherwise the entire country would have already suggested that and implemented the use of plastic dividers in classrooms. He also didn’t understand that the coronavirus is an airborne virus? Again, NOT just say “MIC DROP!” Embarrassing.

Caswell said she was “uncomfortable approving the plan because the teachers were against it” but she voted “yes” anyway. No backbone. News flash, you can stand up and be the opposing vote Caswell.

I expected better from Dibrienza as I considered her the one sort of shining light on the school board. My guess was that behind the scenes she was likely being pressured by Don Austin to vote “yes.” That’s just my opinion and speculation on my part though.

Collins seems like a more stable, professional, and intelligent member, but he also just seems to follow Austin or just tries to please or appease some of the more demanding parents in our district.

This current school board has put students and staff in grave danger beginning in October. Again, they all should be removed but at the very least let’s get Matt Nagle and Katie Causey on the board as soon as possible as their “keep schools closed until at least a better plan is in place” stance shows that they are the only sensible candidates we have and that they would be brave enough to take a stand against any and all pressure. You can learn from them Caswell. Needless to say, I am anxiously waiting for a change.


13 people like this
Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2020 at 9:04 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

Not one candidate or our current school board members seems to understand that in the hybrid model, distance learning law applies on the days at home. This means schools cannot just give independent work. Live daily interaction is required. The quality and challenge must all be substantially equivalent to in person live instruction.

Also, re funding, our district, like many others saved millions of dollars during the closure. This money should be used to safely equip classrooms.

Candidates what are your viewpoints on following the law? That would be a good first step. Wouldn't it?


7 people like this
Posted by Money, partnerships matter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2020 at 2:07 pm

Money, partnerships matter is a registered user.

I have only heard one BOE candidate give substantive attention to the budget, but I think budget is going to be a significant challenge for the next board. Covid will demand more staff time, and personnel is the district’s largest expense. PAUSD revenues probably will be affected by dropping real estate prices—though certainly not as much as city revenues have been affected (which depend more on hotel and local sales taxes and fees). As people’s family incomes have been impacted, they probably will be more incentivized to apply for property tax reassessments than they have in the past. Good candidates should pay close attention to district finances and talk about it. Money matters.

In addition, I have heard little from any candidate about city/school partnerships. What, if anything, do these candidates know about them? How will they support existing partnerships that provide important after-school programs, safe, active school commutes, and affordable, after-school child care? In recent years, the district (and the PTAs) seem to have taken this city support for granted. It saddens me to say that I see our historically strong and important CoPA/PAUSD partnerships eroding. This is bad for families.

We need board members with some historical knowledge and deep understanding of the budget at a time when we have a relatively new Superintendent and staff with limited historical knowledge. This stuff isn’t sexy, but it matters as we enter a period of economic crisis. PAUSD will need to manage its financial resources carefully in order to provide appropriate support to families and kids through the crisis and an excellent education to students. What experience do these candidates have managing complex budgets?

Working across governmental agencies to leverage resources is important. Historically, that has been a great strength of our district that needs to be elevated more in this election’s discourse. An overview of candidate platforms indicates to me that a majority of the candidates don’t recognize budget and agency partnership as important issues. That’s not going to be good for our community.

In all the wrangling over reopening, people are ignoring the fundamentals in this election cycle. If the budget and partnerships take a hit ( and I'm pretty sure they will), PAUSD will lose a lot of ground. Nothing happens without money and resources.


7 people like this
Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2020 at 4:46 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

Apologies to Dharap and a clarification on a previous post. It was actually Todd Collins that said “Mic Drop” regarding the plastic dividers. Dharap has been an excellent board member. I got them mixed up in my initial post. Again, apologies to Dharap for my error. Finally, I am only backing Katie Causey for school board.


8 people like this
Posted by Gunn Papa
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 6, 2020 at 6:48 pm

Gunn Papa is a registered user.

Dharap talked a good game, but he hasn’t delivered since saying all the right things in the forums. I like Katie Causey more than Dharap, but I won’t vote for her just yet. The Weekly is going to copy the Post and go with the two incumbents, Collins and DiBrienza, who have been far more awful than they give them credit for, and Ladomirak because she has the most money. I’d like the Weekly to disclose how much money all the candidates have paid the weekly for advertisements. It makes a difference to know how much Bill Johnson is beholden to the candidates. That is how money and politics work.


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