Palo Alto voters will face a critical decision on Nov. 6 when choosing two candidates for Palo Alto Unified School District school board, who will shape the district’s climate over the next four years. Six candidates are vying for two open seats and five of them — Stacey Ashlund, Ken Dauber, Shounak Dharap, Kathy Jordan and Alex Scharf — were present at the Palo Alto Weekly School Board Debate on Sept. 20. The sixth candidate, Christopher Boyd, was not present, after the Weekly found out that he had been misrepresenting his after school program InstED and asked him to withdraw.
After attending this debate and hearing from all of the candidates present, The Campanile has chosen to endorse Ashlund and Dharap, as we believe they have a strong understanding of the needs and nuances of our community.
Additionally, as newcomers, they would provide fresh insight that can lead to much needed change. They both eloquently emphasized their past experience that make them qualified and their intentions to work closely with students, an important trait for a Board member.
Ashlund, a parent of two PAUSD students, has been an active volunteer in the district for the past 18 years and repeatedly highlighted her past experience working closely with students, parents and teachers.
The Campanile believes that Ashlund’s work with Partners in Education (PiE), Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and for student wellbeing will make her well-equipped to serve on the Board.
In her response to the first question about the state of the district, Ashlund brought up student wellbeing and mental health. Her empathetic outlook on these topics, as well as her belief that academic rigor and student wellbeing are not part of a trade-off, are promising characteristics.
Ashlund also represents a strong voice for equity among all students. Through her work on Project Safety Net, Ashlund has helped families of all backgrounds, ensuring that socioeconomic status, learning disadvantages and ethnicity are not barriers to success.
The Campanile hopes that Ashlund continues to champion these ideals as a Board member.
Lastly, Ashlund touched upon the topic of course and cross-school alignment. She expressed support for standardizing sections of the same class taught by different teachers through aligning what teachers teach, but not how and when, an approach The Campanile supports. Ashlund also referenced expanding strong extracurricular programs at Gunn to Paly and vice versa.
Dharap, an attorney and litigator, was a Gunn High School student around the time of the suicide clusters. This background provides him with very unique qualifications to be a board member, as he can relate to problems students face. For example, he has empathy and understanding for current student issues such as stress and the culture of comparing and bragging about achievements. In addition, his legal experience would allow Dharap to understand where the board is lacking legally, and what it can do to comply with laws such as Title IX. To mitigate future infractions, Dharap suggested implementing a general council or a chief lawyer to ensure the district complies with all laws.
Another policy of Dharap’s is that The Campanile commends is transparency within the board.
Dharap emphasized the importance of releasing information to the public as soon as possible. On the issue of Paly’s unannounced, last-minute schedule change, Dharap said, “public information should never surprise us.”
Throughout the debate, Dharap also made clear his stance on academics. His beliefs include introducing pre-kindergarten programs, emphasizing depth of knowledge, ensuring challenging students is not mutually exclusive from helping them and boosting enrollment in electives that allow them to explore interests. We feel confident in a candidate who supports these learning goals.
Finally, Dharap explained how not being a PAUSD parent would work to the District’s advantage, since he would strive to improve all schools equally and not be biased towards any one school.
We believe Ashlund and Dharap are the most qualified to serve on the Board because they understand the concerns of the community and have the knowledge and skills to rectify them.
Editor’s Statement: We the Editors-in-Chief strongly urge the community not to vote for Kathy Jordan. We believe her inappropriate and unacceptable conduct with students and poor conflict resolution skills make her unfit to be a Board member.