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Long-time supporter of Mandarin immersion new Palo Alto school board president

January 9, 2012
New school board president a veteran of education wars
Former probation officer, lawyer, got hooked on schools as a Jordan parent
by Chris Kenrick
Palo Alto Weekly Staff

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Taking the gavel for the second time, new Palo Alto Board of Education President Camille Townsend says she spends a lot of time “poring over research” to grasp the issues.

“The school district is so complicated — from K-12 curriculum to construction to architecture to bond management to bond sales to athletics, including equipment, fields, coaching staff — and you have to get a feel for the issues so you can give direction.

“It’s not OK to say, ‘I don’t know construction, so I want to let someone else deal with that.’ You can’t do that,” she recently told the Weekly.

First elected in 2003, Townsend is a veteran of school controversies that have included creation of the district’s five-year-old Mandarin Immersion program — she was a consistent supporter — and the ‘math wars’ that periodically surface over curriculum.

She was in the minority on a controversial 3-2 vote in 2009 to adopt the K-5 mathematics textbook “Everyday Mathematics.” And most recently, she was in the minority on the contentious 3-2 vote last May to revamp the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic calendars to begin the school year earlier in August so as to end the first semester before the December holidays.

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