Dublin Unified School District Trustee Catherine Kuo died after being struck by a car while at Fallon Middle School to help distribute food on Wednesday. She was 48.
Kuo, who was in her second year representing Trustee Area 3 on the school board after initially winning a special election in November 2019, was a married mother of two children who had volunteered for years with Dublin schools, in addition to her career as a business analyst.
In what police and school officials described as a "tragic accident," Kuo was severely injured when she was pinned between two cars while volunteering to distribute food at the middle school late Wednesday morning. She later died at an area hospital.
"I'm struggling with the reality of what has transpired. This is a tragedy beyond words," DUSD Interim Superintendent Daniel Moirao said in a statement announcing the news early Wednesday evening. "There is a gaping hole in our hearts. Our schools, students, staff and families are forever indebted to her."
"Our heart goes out to Catherine's family and friends. We can't begin to fathom the impact of this loss to you," Moirao added. "She dedicated so much of her heart, soul, and time to our community. Catherine had a lightness about her, a comforting manner that helped people feel at ease. She was friendly, nurturing, kind, and generous. We were lucky to have known her and will miss her more than words can express."
Kuo was among the volunteers helping to distribute food around lunchtime at Fallon, according to Moirao. The school has not yet reopened to students, but the district has been offering meals to families to-go for students during remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic -- it is unclear whether the event Wednesday was related to school meal distribution.
According to Dublin police Capt. Nate Schmidt, the emergency call came in around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday to report a traffic collision involving a pedestrian and vehicle at the middle school on Kohnen Way.
Officers arrived to find the injured woman -- later identified as Kuo -- had been standing near the back of a car when she was struck by another car from behind, pinning her between the two vehicles, according to Schmidt.
Alameda County Fire and Falck Paramedics personnel soon arrived and began treating Kuo. She was transported to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where she succumbed to her injuries, according to Schmidt.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Alcohol or drugs do not appear to have been factors, according to Schmidt. The driver's identity has not yet been revealed -- which is common for traffic collision investigations in the Tri-Valley unless and until criminal charges are filed.
"Dublin Police Services sends its deepest condolences to Ms. Kuo's family, friends and colleagues who have been impacted by this tragic accident," Schmidt said.
The city of Dublin also released a statement on social media in remembrance of Kuo on Wednesday evening, saying, "The city of Dublin sends its deepest condolences to Trustee Kuo's family, friends, and colleagues. She was a longtime Dublin resident and a valuable member of our community. She will be greatly missed."
"Our Dublin community has lost a beautiful leader," Dublin Mayor Melissa Hernandez told the Weekly. "My deepest condolences to the Kuo family. Today we mourn the loss of a cherished mother, wife, and a community leader. Catherine Kuo tirelessly dedicated herself to our city and its schools -- always with a smile on her face and a loving light in her heart."
Former state assemblywoman Catharine Baker, who lives in Dublin, said on Twitter, "Terrible, terrible news. Catherine was a loving and kind soul and a dedicated leader who worked with humility for the good of our community. Truly heartbreaking news. My condolences and prayers for her family."
Born in Redwood City and raised in Saratoga, Kuo earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from UCLA and worked for years in human resources, business analysis and retail planning management. She and her husband lived in Dublin for the past 21 years, and their two children attend DUSD schools.
An active volunteer at the school-site and district level for the better part of a decade, Kuo was a former member of the Superintendent's Council and Second High School Input Committee, as well as past president of the Dougherty Parent Faculty Club.
She joined the Board of Trustees in December 2019 following her election with 76% of the vote on a special ballot the month before. At the time, Kuo's ascension returned the school board to a full five-member dais for the first time in nearly a year after a pair of midterm resignations and ensuing special elections.
Kuo's seat was due up for regular re-election last November but after no opposition candidates came forward, Kuo was appointed to a full four-year term that began just over three months ago.
"I'm really committed on all fronts, whether it's our budget, our facilities, our curriculum -- those things that are key to the job of a trustee, I am really committed to making sure that I understand," Kuo told the Weekly in an interview last September after it was confirmed she would retain her seat unchallenged.
Kuo also prided her trustee tenure on top priorities of including increased transparency, STEM education, fiscal accountability and promoting diversity.
Just Monday, Kuo -- a first-generation Korean American -- joined 13 other elected officials in the Tri-Valley of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage in signing a public letter in solidarity "with our AAPI community and allies engaged in anti-racist action ... We are with you, and we are here for you. We call upon everyone in our community to take a stand against hate and bigotry."
Kuo participated in the regular school board meeting on Tuesday night, which took place during an important week for the school district -- with fourth- and fifth-grade students set to return to campus this Thursday. Middle and high schools are scheduled to reopen for in-person learning on Monday (March 29).
In his statement Wednesday evening, Moirao said district officials would be working to provide grief support in the wake of Kuo's death. He listed resources such as Alameda County Crisis Support (1-800-260-0094; www.crisissupport.org), the Hume Center in Pleasanton (925-223-8047) and the Grief Hotline (800-837-1818).
"Our goal is to support our staff and students as much as we can during this heartbreaking time and have provided resources below. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you'd like additional support. We are here for you and must be here for one another," Moirao said, adding:
"There is a gaping hole in our hearts. Our schools, students, staff, and families are forever indebted to her."