Palo Alto Daily Post
April 12, 2016
He helped schools avoid costly error
Now he’s 1 of 2 candidates in fall school board election
Jen Nowell, Daily Post Staff Writer
A resident who was praised for helping the Palo Alto school board avoid a mistake that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars announced yesterday he is running in this fall’s election for a seat on the board. Todd Collins, who works as an investor, announced yesterday that he is running for one of the three seats that will be up for grabs.
In 2012, Collins spoke up at a school board meeting, saying it didn’t make sense for the district to issue Capital Appreciation Bonds, or CABs, that would cost up to 10 times as much in the long run.
The bonds were for classroom and building renovations.
In San Diego County, the Poway Unified School District decided in 2011 to issue CABs to borrow $105 million and later discovered that it owed $982 million to be paid over the next 50 years.
The Palo Alto school board was about to go down this same road until Collins spoke up.
To school boards, CABs are attractive because they provide money immediately and the district won’t have to pay anything for several years. But that sharply increases the amount of interest the district would have to pay.
Instead, the board voted to raise the tax rate by 35% — from $44.50 per $100,000 of assessed property value to $60 per $100,000 of assessed value.
At the time, board members thanked Collins for his work and advice.
A focus on students
As for the upcoming election, Collins said his top priority is putting students first.
“I will work for excellence for all students, regardless of background, disability, or family resources,” he said. “The board and staff must put students first in all their decision making.”
Collins also said he will work hard to maintain the district’s strong financial position.
Collins, who moved to Palo Alto in 2004, has three children — two in college who attended Palo Alto schools, and a 16-year-old who is autistic and went to Barron Park School before moving to the Morgan Autism Center in San Jose.
For six years, Collins served on the bond program’s Citizen Oversight Committee. And he was recently on the district’s Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, or EMAC.
This work has allowed him to get to know most of the school sites and work with various people in the district, Collins said.
Three seats to be decided
The three seats up for grabs this November belong to Heidi Emberling, Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend.
Townsend told the Post yesterday that she does not intend to run for re-election this fall, but she is encouraging others to run. She was first elected to the board in 2003, a second time in 2007 and most recently in 2012.
To do the job well, Townsend said you have to commit a lot of time, and it’s now time for her to do “other personal endeavors.”
But she said she plans to remain involved and committed until the next person takes over her seat.
“I’m not gone until the moment I step out of the district,” Townsend said.
In an email yesterday, Baten Caswell wrote, “I have not made a final decision, but I am seriously considering a run for another term.”
She was first elected to the board in 2007. Emberling, the board’s current president, is finishing up her first term.