Godfrey out, Dauber in fall school board race, additional candidate emerges

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto school board President Ken Dauber will run for a second term in November, while Trustee Terry Godfrey has decided to step down this year.

Dauber said he was proud of the district’s progress in supporting students’ social and emotional well-being, including wellness centers at Palo Alto and Gunn high schools, increasing mental health funding and resources and introducing a new bell schedule that eliminates early-morning academic classes at Gunn, reducing student stress and promoting sleep. The board also instituted full-day kindergarten, which he said helps students as they transition to first grade.

Another focus of Dauber’s has been the district’s compliance with federal laws around sexual harassment complaints following several investigations by the federal government.

“We turned around the district’s adversarial relationship with the federal government on sexual harassment and civil rights, reaching an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights and repealing a misguided resolution that criticized federal civil rights enforcement,” Dauber said. “The district is now working hard to ensure that all students have access to an education free from discrimination arising from sexual harassment and other issues at school.”

Dauber said he regrets losing the argument and the vote on what he called an excessively large three-year compensation increase for employees, leaving the board to cut services.

“I’m not satisfied with our progress in implementing the district homework plan and reducing work pileups for students,” Dauber said. “I was frustrated until this year with the slow pace of progress in improving special education services for our families, although I am optimistic that we have a team and plan in place for improvement.”

Dauber called the district’s progress with closing the achievement gap among students “wholly inadequate.”

If he’s re-elected, Dauber said he would ensure reasonable homework loads by implementing the policy-setting guidelines for the amount and quality of homework, maximizing dollars for teaching and learning by improving management, fiscal responsibility and accountability in district operations, raising the performance of underserved students and evaluating teachers and offering professional development to ensure quality teaching.

Dauber, like the rest of the board, voted to rename Jordan and Terman middle schools last year because both schools’ namesakes advocated for eugenics.

Godfrey departs

Godfrey didn’t give a reason for why she wouldn’t run again.

She weathered a difficult year as president last year, but said she was proud of several achievements from her time on the board. She said she was grateful that the board had approved a pre-kindergarten-to-12th grade social and emotional learning curriculum framework and increased teachers’ use of Schoology, an online tool to communicate with parents and students.

Godfrey said she was proud of adding a robust writing program and an innovative math program to the elementary schools, and of the focus and resources the board brought to closing the achievement gap, though she added that there’s still work to be done.

She said she would focus on improving the district’s culture and response to harassment complaints, increasing equity and implementing the district’s new computer science and social and emotional learning curricula.

Students with disabilities

Godfrey said she was disappointed with the district’s shortcomings with serving students with disabilities. “I think we serve most of our students who have special needs very well; however, we have a longstanding need to examine our programs, their implementation and efficacy, and how we interact with families,” Godfrey said. “I’m grateful that we seem to be on the cusp of doing that important work. I had hoped we would have made more progress on this in the last few years.”

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old litigator who graduated from Gunn High School has thrown his hat into the ring, and a Palo Alto High School parent known for her frequent criticism of the district said she is considering running.

Shounak Dharap, an associate attorney at the San Francisco-based Arns Law Firm specializing in class-action and personal injury lawsuits, said he experienced the upheaval of Gunn’s suicide streak firsthand. It started the year after he graduated in 2008.

In early 2009, Dharap joined a Facebook group called Talk, in which students and alumni posted their phone numbers to be available to students who needed support.

One of Dharap’s water polo teammates committed suicide a few months after he joined the group.

“That was really, really jarring. Just an awful, tragic thing to happen,” Dharap said. “It is extremely helpful to have somebody to talk to.” Alumni engagement Inspired by the experience of connecting with students as an alum, Dharap said he would focus on engaging school district alumni.

He’s already proposed establishing an alumni engagement committee. He also said he would encourage students to be passionate, engaged learners by prioritizing experiential, participatory activities over rote memorization and lectures.

“Above all else, we want students to be lifelong curious and driven learners. We don’t want them just learning for the sake of learning and then forgetting everything they learn,” Dharap said.

Dharap said he performed poorly in high school and college because he hadn’t tapped into the kind of learning he needed. He transferred from Santa Barbara City College to UC-Santa Cruz, where he majored in English.

In law school at the University of San Francisco, he was the president of the Student Bar Association and the student body.

Dharap would have preferred not to have had weighted GPAs when he was at Gunn, he said, but added that he appreciated the compromise the board had made last year in allowing weighted grades for honors and advanced placement classes for sophomores, juniors and seniors, but not freshmen.

Dharap said he wanted to encourage more communication between the school board and City Council and better administrative support for teachers, especially in responding to sexual harassment and assault complaints.

“It is absolutely devastating when that kind of thing happens to a student,” Dharap said. “If it does happen, we have the proper procedures in place to make sure it’s dealt with properly.”

Similiarity to Simitian

While it’s uncommon for a childless school board member in their 20s to run for the school board, Dharap pointed out that County Supervisor Joe Simitian, another Palo Alto native, was sworn into the Palo Alto school board in 1983 at age 30, and didn’t have any children.

Dharap said he lives in the Midtown neighborhood. He attended Challenger School, a private school at 3880 Middlefield Road, before switching to public schools, where he went to Jane Lathrop Middle School and Gunn.

His wife, Laura Jefferson, is an office manager at a startup in Redwood City. Jefferson attended Ohlone Elementary School, JLS and Gunn.

The two plan to raise a family in Palo Alto.

Kathy Jordan may run

Kathy Jordan may run School district parent Kathy Jordan said she is considering running and that a number of parents had urged her to seek election. Jordan played tennis professionally from 1979 to 1991. One of her daughters graduated from Paly last year; the other is still a student.

“There are systemic problems in the school district, with continued civil rights violations as well as fiscal mismanagement,” Jordan told the Post. “To me, accountability has to start at the top.”

Jordan frequently speaks in public comment at board meetings. She has also filed numerous complaints against the district and against individual district employees. “I care deeply about our students and how the district is run. These are our children and these are our tax dollars,” Jordan said. “That’s why I’ve devoted so much of my time to try to change things and bring badly needed reform.”