School board candidate: Melissa Baten Caswell


Written by Grace Ding

Palo Alto School Board member Melissa Baten Caswell was prompted to run for the board upon noticing that its decision-making process needed improvement. Upon being elected in 2007, she helped created a strategic plan that helped the board make decisions more effectively.

Caswell is concerned about the loss of experience and knowledge on the board a er recent retirements. “I didn’t see that [necessary] knowledge to support the superintendent,” she said. “I can stay on for another term and hopefully set the district forward with a way to capture historical information [and processes] better.”

Caswell believes that her background in economics, psychology and business management is a unique asset to the board. According to Caswell, one must work well with other board members as well as push for action to happen at the lower level. “I’ve managed multi-level organizations, and I’ve learned that you have to think through what’s going to motivate people, how we are going to get it done, what is going to stand in the way and how we can remove barriers.”

Caswell also believes that it is important to support teachers’ career goals by addressing the high cost of living in Palo Alto and figuring out ways to help teachers afford a home. “Teachers make the biggest difference at school, and there’s nothing else we can put money into that has that big of an impact,” Caswell said.

Caswell believes that her experience and dedication to gathering input from all parties for decision-making makes her the best choice for school board. “I’ve created a really wide network as a result of being on the board for this long, and I think that serves our whole community,” she said. “I’m not predisposed to make a decision until I’ve heard all sides, and if new arguments come to light during discussions, I’m still listening.”