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Palo Alto School Board President Terry Godfrey’s absence prompts changes

Written by Deiana Hristov

Palo Alto School Board President Terry Godfrey was injured in a serious car accident the week of Dec. 31 while on vacation with her family in Israel. While she is expected to make a full recovery, her absence from the Board has prompted several changes to be made in the way Board meetings are run and the Board’s plans on what to accomplish in the near future.

Palo Alto School Board member Ken Dauber has temporarily replaced Godfrey as president of the board. “The main things are presiding over the school board meetings and also serving on the Agenda Setting Committee, which I do anyway as vice president,” Dauber said. The Agenda Setting Committee is the committee comprised of the president, vice president and superintendent which decided what objectives will be discussed at Board meetings. According to Dauber, the proceedings of the committee are the same as before, but involve different people. “In Terry’s absence Jennifer DiBrienza is also serving on the agenda setting committee,” he said.

The board has also postponed certain issues without urgent deadlines. “I would not say that there are any specific plans that have fallen by the wayside since her absence,” Board Member Todd Collins said. “It seems like she’s been gone a long time, but she’s really only missed two meetings, the one on Jan. 10 and on Jan. 24. The only thing that I can say that I think has gotten pushed off are issues that we say are important but not urgent, that it would be best to wait for her to return so she can have the opportunity to weigh in and participate.” One of these issues is the renaming of Jordan Middle School and Terman Middle School, which was presented to the board in December by the Renaming Schools Advisory Committee after it was found that both schools were named after eugenicists. . “We are putting off discussion of the school renaming question until she gets back because that is an issue that she cares a lot about,” Dauber said.

The board, however, has decided that some issues are too pressing to put on hold.. “We are moving ahead on some other issues. One is the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resolution agreement because we have a deadline of early March to reach an agreement with OCR. On that issue, we are moving ahead with the discussion,” Dauber said. This agreement refers to the investigation that OCR did into sexual abuse cases on campus, which resulted in findings that the district had not complied with several OCR guidelines. The Board is now in charge of designing and putting into effect a plan to correct these inconsistencies (see OCR article in the February 2017 issue of the Oracle).  “OCR has the funding of withdrawing federal funding from the school district, so that’s a potential consequence if we don’t reach an agreement.”

According to Collins, voting and general procedure has not been particularly affected by Godfrey’s absence. “Almost every decision the board makes is done by a simple majority of three. With four members there it still takes three to make a majority. So in that sense it hasn’t really changed.”

Although the Board’s proceedings have not changed, members feel Godfrey’s absence on a personal level. “She runs a very organized meeting and works hard to make sure every voice is heard. She’s very balanced, she doesn’t jump to decisions, she listens very carefully–she just sets a good example for all of us at the Board table,” Superintendent Max McGee said.

Godfrey is scheduled to come back in February. “We miss Terry tremendously and are looking forward to her coming back sometime next month,” Dauber said.

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