Barbara Klausner Endorsement

Former PAUSD Trustee and Board President Barbara Klausner spoke at my campaign kickoff event on August 28.  Her words were very kind, but also very thoughtful about what makes a good school board member and what PAUSD needs right now.  

Let me state this as clearly as possible.

Todd Collins needs to be elected to the Palo Alto school board. To borrow from a popular phrase, “He is the secret sauce.” He will bring cohesion to the board as a governing entity.

I’d be happy to stop right here, but this is Palo Alto so I better give you some facts.

I’d be happy to stop right here, but this is Palo Alto so I better give you some facts.

First, let me point out that Todd already has garnered the endorsements of an unusually diverse cross-section of current and former board members:

In addition to me, there’s Barb Mitchell. Mandy Lowell and Amado Padilla. Dana Tom and Carolyn Tucher. Camille Townsend and Ken Dauber. I know the list will grow as more and more people learn about and meet Todd.

I originally met Todd not in person, not even through cyberspace – but by reputation.   In a way that so perfectly encapsulates the essence of Todd.

Before I was on the school board, I was on the board of the Palo Alto Girls Softball organization.

Todd wasn’t on the board with me, but every time the board met and we identified a need to be filled, no matter how large or small, someone mentioned Todd’s name in the vein of, “Oh, I bet Todd Collins would do that. He’s such a great guy.”

Fast forward about ten years. Around 2012. I’m on the Palo Alto school board and Todd is on the citizen’s committee overseeing the bond for our school construction projects. Todd and I are both Gunn softball parents and spend hours together in the bleachers. He takes the opportunity to educate me about a possible adjustment to our proposed construction financing that would save taxpayers over $800 million. He then brings it to the board. They listen. The superintendent and Chief Business Officer listen. We do it and it works. It’s no exaggeration to say that a potential major misstep was averted. A lot of people don’t realize that they should be thanking Todd Collins on behalf of themselves, their children and their grandchildren.

And by the way, it was easy for the board to listen because Todd gave a Powerpoint presentation that was succinct and clear. He took a complicated issue and boiled it down to the essentials. The visuals were there. As were the details for anyone who wanted to know. It was quintessential Todd.

If you’ve looked at his website or read the paper, you know that Todd’s got all of those credentials that people look for: Harvard undergrad. Harvard MBA. In this town, of course, that doesn’t separate you from the crowd.

So let me tell you what does, in my mind, make Todd so darn special.

I recently stopped by Todd’s home to talk about today’s kick off. When he opened the door to greet me, I was almost bowled over by a surge of unrestrained enthusiasm. That was his family dog, Cheyenne.

But as Todd and I settled down to chat, I realized that one of the reasons that Todd is perfect for our school board is that he has that same unbridled, fearless enthusiasm and desire to meet and welcome perfect strangers and their ideas into his world.

If you think that’s an easy thing to do as a Palo Alto school board member, trust me. It’s not. It’s not easy to do that and keep an open mind.

It’s not easy to continue to ask hard questions and debate the issues, and not shrink from the tough stuff.

…To stay ahead of the issues, to say your piece clearly, definitively and with a Powerpoint kind of analysis that is succinct and easy for others to digest.

I know that Todd as a school board member will do these things. He has that puppy dog kind of enthusiasm for meeting new people. With his intellectual, analytical approach to the world of problems and problem-solving, every new person that Todd meets and every new perspective he learns about is something he just can’t wait to embrace with his active brain and his huge heart.

Thus, the exceptional range of endorsements from across our community that Todd has already collected.

If you’ve been to any other kick off parties, hopefully you’ve heard that it’s not specific issues and positions that should guide your voting. Both City Council members and school board trustees will tell you that they cannot predict all of the big issues that will come before them and they have very limited ability to bring their own issues up for consideration. So, what you want to know is the candidate’s values and integrity.

On that note, I want to finish up with one last story near and dear to my heart. Quite a while ago, just because his vision is so broad and his heart so big, Todd reached out to me several times, offering to help me with my work with low-income Palo Alto middle school students through a nonprofit called DreamCatchers. After my school board stint, I decided to work exclusively on closing the achievement gap in Palo Alto. It is persistent and pernicious.

Do you have any idea just how pernicious it is? This year’s test scores just came out. How many Palo Alto middle school students do you suppose are not at grade level? State-wide, about half of California’s middle schoolers are not at grade level in English/Language Arts. Even worse, about 65% are not at grade level in Math. In Palo Alto, about 90% of students who are not from low-income families are at grade level. That’s kind of what we expect.

But if you are one of the 1,100+ low-income students in Palo Alto? Your success rate is, in some cases, worse than the state numbers. 75% of our low-income Hispanic 8th graders are not at grade level in English/Language Arts. 71% of those in 6th grade are not at grade level in Math. Just take a moment. Let those numbers sink in. Picture what that means for our community and what we value.

I hope you are as shocked and motivated as I am to want to do something about it. Todd certainly was. He’s spent hours working with me and even attending meetings with me to help DreamCatchers – which by the way offers a free after-school homework help and mentorship program that matches PAUSD low-income middle school students one-on-one with Stanford, Paly, Gunn and Castilleja volunteer tutors.

Why has Todd helped DreamCatchers? Why did he help a similar organization, Building Futures Now? Just because. He lives his values.

I have three corny but inspirational quotes posted on my wall. Maybe you’ve heard them all:

“Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do 24 hours a day and I’ll tell you what you believe.”

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

“I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

I doubt that Todd has these corny quotes on his wall, but he lives them every day.


Todd Image

Father of three, alumni of Briones, Barron Park, Terman, Gunn, and Morgan Autism Center

Career: 25+ years in technology, management consulting, growth investing

PAUSD: PTA officer; Bond Oversight chair; Enrollment Committee elementary chair; Bond Tax Rate Committee founder and spokesperson

Education: BA, Harvard College, MBA Harvard Business School

Feel free to contact Todd directly at 650-403-2084 or todd@toddcollins.org.

Paid for by Todd Collins for School Board 2016  (FPPC ID 1384953) | Photos courtesy Felipe Munera Savino (except as noted)

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