Guide to School Board candidates

Takaaki Sagawa and Amy Leung

Click here to see the original interactive article.

As Election Day on Nov. 4 approaches, five candidates will compete for two seats on the Board of Education for the Palo Alto Unified School District. The two elected members will replace current board members Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom, and will serve on the School Board for the next four years.

The newly-elected members will join the board as it faces multiple issues concerning the community. One of these issues involves the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights cases regarding a mishandled bullying incident, where opinions differ among candidates on necessary actions. Another issue is the increasing number of students in the district, which faces the need for a 13th elementary school and even possibly a fourth middle school. However, candidates unanimously agree on the need.

Most importantly, the newly-elected members must focus on the emotional well-being of students in a competitive environment and the need to improve transparency to ensure that the community is well-informed and cooperative.

Scroll down below for a brief profile of each candidate.


Catherine Crystal Foster — Founder and Principal at Policy & Advocacy Consulting, 48

Foster believes in instituting good teachers, implementing world language as core subjects at a younger age, enhancing students’ writing skills and opening new schools. She expresses the necessity to shrink the achievement gap through concrete goals and allowing for students to reach their highest potential without increasing pressure from the community. Contrary to other candidates, Foster believes citizens should not blame the current School Board for the controversy involving the Office of Civil Rights without knowing the complete details, but still agrees with other candidates that the School Board should not spend precious resources on the case.

Boldest Idea: Evaluating specific issues to ensure the best actions and goals the district can achieve
Endorsers you’ve heard of: U.S. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Jerry Hill
Campaign Finance: $29,039
Education: B.A. in History, Yale University
J.D., Harvard Law School
Family: Husband Jon and two children attending Paly and Nueva Middle School
Community Involvement: Former Site Council member of Duveneck Elementary School
Former PTA Council Liaison
Former board member of Palo Alto Partners in Education (PiE)
Board member of Palo Alto Community Fund


Gina Dalma — Executive Director at Community LIFE Network, 34

Dalma is focused on creating a collaborative, connected and creative educational program in schools in order for students to not just adapt to the changing 21st century, but to thrive in it. She believes that the PAUSD should be pushing the boundaries in order to curb complacency and satisfaction of being a high-achieving district, including focusing on closing the achievement gap. Dalma has spoken out against laning because she believes it sets students on seemingly unbreakable paths.

Boldest Idea: Collaborating with Stanford University to promote innovative education
Endorsers you’ve heard of: Esther Wojcicki, Former State Senator Becky Morgan
Campaign Finance: $22,688
Education: B.A. in Economics, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico in Mexico City
M.Sc. in Economics, University of London
M.A. in International Policy, Stanford University
Family: Husband Gabriel and two children attending Paly and JLS
Community Involvement: Former Site Council member of Ohlone Elementary School
Volunteer for Strong School’s Bond
Participated in Paly’s WASC Process


Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera — Executive Director at Community LIFE Network, 34

Cabrera mainly focuses on projecting his ideas to the public through the election, rather than running to win a seat on the School Board. He has unsuccessfully run for public office multiple times, including running for mayor of San Francisco. With no campaign committee, his volunteer-based campaign focuses on empowering the community through full interactivity by using online and direct voting systems in real time, so that everyone, including students, can participate in board decisions.

Boldest Idea: Teaching coding as a basic skill in every school
Endorsers you’ve heard of: He does not have any
Campaign Finance: N/A — No campaign committee
Education: B.A. in Environmental Science and Biology, UC Santa Cruz
Family: Lives with parents, who are both Stanford University professors
Community Involvement: Alumnus of Henry M. Gunn High School


Ken Dauber — Software Engineer at Google, 52

Dauber’s vision includes ensuring social and emotional well-being of students, opening new schools, expanding foreign language and computer instruction, strengthening cooperation with special needs families and increasing the School Board’s transparency. He strives to specify these goals rather than have vague objectives. Dauber has been committed to attending every School Board meeting for the past few years and ran for School Board in the last election in 2012.

Boldest Idea: Fully implementing policy that monitors the quantity and quality of homework
Endorsers you’ve heard of: Palo Alto Weekly, Esther Wojcicki, Former Mayor of Palo Alto Betsy Betchel
Campaign Finance: $29,580
Education: B.A. in Sociology, Yale University
M.A. in Sociology, Yale University
Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Arizona
Family: Wife Michele and four children
Community Involvement: Barron Park PTA
Former Committee Chairman of Cub Scouts Pack 52
Girl Scouts Daisy Leader

Terry Godfrey — Financial Director at New Americans Campaign, 50

Godfrey believes in providing the best teachers and staff with innovative methods and technology in order to facilitate each student’s full potential. She expresses the need for an environment that puts students at the center of education, stating that the decisions made by the district should reflect community and youth voices, also advocating for more transparency to ensure a fair and continuously improving district.

Boldest Idea: Reimagining environment of middle schools to be inviting, kind and creative
Endorsers you’ve heard of: Palo Alto Weekly, State Senator Jerry Hill, Palo Alto Educators Association
Campaign Finance: $27,946
Education: B.A. in Mathematics, UC Irvine
MBA in Finance, UCLA
Family: Husband Steve and two children, both attending Paly
Community Involvement: Former President of Palo Alto PTA Council
Former President of PiE
City of Palo Alto Community Star Award, 2013

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