Changing of the guard for school board

Benjamin Huang, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Palo Alto Unified School District Supt. Don Austin administers the oath of office to Shounak Dharap at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. At the meeting, Dharap expressed his thanks for being elected as board member. “I’m proud and I’m grateful to the community that elected me, and proud to to serve the community that I grew up in that has given me so much,” Dauber said. Photo: Benjamin Huang

The winners of last month’s general election took the oath of office amid applause from the audience at a Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

Shounak Dharap became a full-fledged member of the Board and Ken Dauber returned for his second term. The board also unanimously elected board member Jennifer DiBrienza to serve as president and board member Todd Collins to serve as vice president for the next year.

According to Board Policy 9121, the responsibilities of the board president include calling the meeting to order, putting motions to a vote, and explaining motions. The vice president performs the president’s duties if the president resigns or is absent.

The board also voted 4-1 to approve a revised version of the district’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Palo Alto Police Department that was discussed at a previous board meeting on Nov. 15. The MOU details the responsibilities of both the district and the PAPD when dealing with incidents involving sexual misconduct.

Dharap, an attorney and Gunn High School alumnus (Class of 2008), received 12,443 votes (23.26 percent) in last month’s general election.

“I’m proud and I’m grateful to the community that elected me, and proud to to serve the community that I grew up in that has given me so much,” Dharap said during the meeting.

Dharap anticipates working together with the other board members effectively.

“I think that I can work very collaboratively with everyone, and I really see myself as being a consensus builder, someone who can bring the different viewpoints together and help us [the district] reach a quick resolution,” Dharap said. “I see myself as someone who can drive the conversation to find common ground.” 

Dauber, a Google engineer and the incumbent candidate in the election, took first place with a total of 14,469 votes (27.05 percent).

Dauber said that his reelection as a board member indicates that the community is satisfied with the board’s recent work.

“I’m happy to be reelected,” Dauber said. “I think it’s a sign that the community supports the direction of the board in the last several years, which has been towards a greater concern for student wellbeing, for school responsibility and for legal compliance, and [the community] is looking for a continuation of those policies.”

During the board’s discussion about the MOU, board member Melissa Baten Caswell had made a motion to include a section of California Senate Bill 925 Welfare and Institutions Code 6.25.6 into the MOU. The section states that before a custodial interrogation by police, a minor 15 years old or younger has the right to consult with legal counsel via telephone or video conference.

However, DiBrienza said that reiterating the section in the MOU would be redundant.

“Because this is already the law, and I’m sure that the PAPD is aware of it, I don’t feel the need to include it explicitly because there’s all kinds of laws that aren’t explicitly stated in here that they need to follow,” DiBrienza said.

The motion to include the section from CSB925 failed, with Dauber, Collins and DiBrienza dissenting. A subsequent motion by Dauber to approve the MOU without the section passed 4-1, with Baten Caswell dissenting.