Board of Education Shapes Policy

With the duty of oversight and governance, the Palo Alto Board of Education deals with affairs regarding the school community, including: budgets, new curricular adoptions and superintendent supervision. The board is a group of five elected individuals who meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month to publicly discuss the decided agenda. Of the five, Board of Education President Ken Dauber is the spokesperson, and presides over the regular meetings. Board of Education Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza acts as a stand-in president when Dauber is absent. The two work with Superintendent Don Austin to set meeting agendas.

Decisions taken directly affect the school environments—for example, construction on campus. “We approve construction projects [in the district] to update buildings and [provide] a facility that is conducive to student learning,” DiBrienza said. Board member Jesse Ladomirak explained more about the board’s role in overseeing construction projects. “We approve [the district office staff] going out for bids for construction projects,” she said. ‘Then, we approve the award of contract for projects, so we review the design agreement with architects and authorize staff to proceed with soliciting bids for remodeling. Months later, it’ll come back to us, and [the district staff] will recommend awarding a contract to a firm.” Currently, the board is working on the renovation of A, B and K buildings at Gunn.

Besides construction, the board also shapes the curriculum taught in PAUSD schools, like that of the Social, Emotional, Learning, Functionality (SELF) courses taught in secondary schools. “SELF was something that we approved to happen again this year,” DiBrienza said. “We also formed an ad hoc committee, which means it’s a temporary committee this year, on SELF.” Students, teachers and administrators meet once a month to discuss improvements to the SELF curriculum and recommend changes to the Board of Education. Additionally, according to Ladomirak, the board has taken actions to improve mental health on the campus by hiring therapists and counselors. “In the way mental health is provided, we may be the first in the nation to do it this way in terms of having licensed therapists on staff as opposed to contracted,” she said. Board of Education decisions play an important role in the Palo Alto community and those eligible are encouraged to vote. Board of Education candidates have different issue priorities, so it is important for voters to vote for individuals who they believe will improve the PAUSD school system. “Make sure you’re electing somebody whose values have the same vision of what school should be and what should matter,” Ladomirak said. “There are a lot of ways a board member can impact the vision, direction and strategy of the district…[so voters should direct] that focus in ways that [they] think are most beneficial.”