Written by Matthew Hamilton
Ken Dauber secured a seat on the Palo Alto School Board on Nov. 4. Dauber won one of two available seats, with the second seat still being contested for by Terry Godfrey and Catherine Crystal Foster. The results of the second seat will be finalized by Dec. 2 as Godfrey currently holds a mere 102 vote lead over Foster. Voting took place on Nov. 4 for two available seats on the school board. Five candidates ran but Foster and Godfrey are the only two in position to win the second seat. Jay Blas Cabrera and Gina Dalma have both conceded defeat in the election.
The delay in election results is due to the large number of provisional ballots cast. More than 14,000 provisional ballots have yet to be counted. This, and changes at the county registrar’s office, has prompted Santa Clara county to request a post election review by the Secretary of State.
Dauber campaigned with a student-first mentality, and he believes his victory shows the district wants students to be a priority. “I think the community responded to the basic message of putting students first and focusing on the policies and programs that really benefit the students,” Dauber said. “They want the school board to be focused on the things that really matter: teaching, learning, and the social and emotional well-being of the kids.”
One of the keys to Dauber’s platform was his emphasis on the mental and emotional health of PAUSD. To help reduce unnecessary stress, Dauber plans to use Project Safety Net to set and enforce a district homework policy. Dauber believes that a limit on the amount of daily homework assigned by teachers, as well as the removal of homework that lacks purpose, will reduce stress at every level of school. In addition, to prevent situations where students have lots of tests and projects in the same time period, he wants teachers to improve the scheduling of assignments through teacher collaboration.
“We need to address in a serious manner the social and emotional well-being of the students,” Dauber said. “We can fully implement a homework policy and improve our test and project scheduling so the kids don’t have work pileups. Curricular alignment would also make sure that all of our classes are aligned with the abilities of our kids.”
Aside from improving the social and emotional health of students, Dauber wants to increase foreign language instruction in middle and elementary schools. Specifically, he believes Mandarin Chinese offerings should be expanded. Additionally, to combat the problem of overcrowding in elementary schools, Dauber believes a thirteenth elementary school should be opened.
PAUSD has showed that it is one of the best districts in the nation but Dauber believes that use of data and metrics could contribute to greater awareness and more effective resolutions for every aspect of education. Dauber acknowledges that complacency could be a threat to the district and that data could help solve this problem. Through increased utilization of big data, Dauber thinks that PAUSD could quantify success which would allow for accurate measurements of how schools are doing. “I think there is a very large opportunity to associate our goals with measurable metrics, whether they are about achievement or consistency across teachers,” Dauber said. “In all the goals we have, we should be able to define what success consists of and measure whether we are getting closer enough. We can use that feedback to adjust our efforts.”
As a whole, Dauber believes Gunn students will see many benefits from his term as a school board member. “Gunn students will gain someone who has a real concern for improving the life of kids at school,” he said.
According to Godfrey, she expected a close race, and the extra time taken to count the votes does not surprise her. She campaigned on a platform that included combating inconsistency between teachers and improving the learning environment for PAUSD students. She plans to improve teacher consistency by giving them more time to plan classes and collaborate with other teachers. She thinks that a reduction of the number of students would help solve overcrowding in middle school and elementary school and benefit the learning environment.
Foster wants to bring her experience with helping low-income students attend college to PAUSD. She also wants the school board to have a larger student voice. According to Foster, a stronger student voice would help the school board stay focused on the needs of the students.