School Board Race Has Another Longtime Resident in the Running

Zahir Robb and his family

The second newcomer to local politics has announced his intention of winning one of the three seats up for grabs in the upcoming race for the South Pasadena School Board.

Zahir Robb, a longtime South Pasadena resident, pulled election papers Monday along with launching a website dedicated to his campaign.

Robb joins newcomer Dr. Ruby Kalra in seeking a seat on the School Board while incumbents Julie Giulioni and Michele Kipke also announced their intention of retaining their seats on the School Board. Terms last four years.

Meanwhile, incumbent School Board member Elisabeth Eilers has decided not to seek re-election, issuing the following statement.

“I will be completing my 13th year on the Board of Education,” Eilers said. “It has been one of the most challenging and most fulfilling endeavors of my life. I know of nothing as vital as educating our youth well. I first ran when the district was struggling with a lack of solid leadership at the top and serious budget cuts. I am leaving a healthy and thriving district, thanks to our outstanding superintendent and his cabinet, my fellow board members, our dedicated SPUSD staff and an amazingly supportive community.”

Robb said he’s running for School Board because of a life-long commitment to local education. He filed his papers Monday.

“I’m running for School Board so that every one of our public- school students is prepared for the 21st century; to ensure parents’ voices are heard; and to work with all South Pasadena residents – because we all have a stake in the success of our schools,” Robb states on his campaign website. “I was born and raised in South Pasadena and attended Monterey Hills, SPMS and SPHS.

My wife, Noel Garcia, attended Marengo before we first met at the Middle School. After attending college in San Diego and San Francisco, we were married and began our family.  There was no doubt that we would return to our hometown to raise our children in the community and schools that gave us so much. Our youngest daughter, Leila, attends Calvary Preschool, our son, Elijah, is entering second grade at Marengo, and our oldest daughter, India, will be starting 6th grade at the Middle School.”

Robb also said that the most important message is to bring “all the stakeholders together” so they feel engaged in the School District.

“That is my main message,” Robb said during a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “I am an education wonk and successful school districts are the ones that have a strong partnership with the community. I think we can improve on that here in South Pasadena.”

Robb is the director of admissions for New Roads private school in Santa Monica. His mother retired as a SPUSD teacher and his wife also is a teacher.

“This is my passion and I think I can help the School Board,” Robb said, who also said his chances of winning are “very good.”

Meanwhile, Kalra echoed her opponent’s comments in an earlier interview where she said she was grateful to have the opportunity to serve on the School Board. 

“My volunteer experience and raising my own children have highlighted for me how important transitions are from one level to the next — from elementary school to middle school to high school,” Kalra said. “As a School Board member, I will promote communication, inclusion and fiscal responsibility, and the safety and wellness of South Pasadena students will be top priorities.”

Kalra has a long-standing commitment to the district, having been honored as this year’s recipient of the Golden Apple Award for outstanding service to South Pasadena schools. Kalra also has served as the South Pasadena Council’s PTA president and president of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, in addition to numerous volunteer roles in the schools at all levels and on districtwide committees. Kalra is a board-certified pediatrician and pediatric oncologist. 

The district is facing significant challenges over the next few years, officials said. As always, the ever-changing state budget alters the district’s finances seemingly on a weekly basis. Declining enrollment also is a challenge that must be dealt with head-on. This year alone, the district was forced to lay-off two teachers, only to be able to reinstate them later when the enrollment figures and the budget forecast improved. The looming pension requirements are also a challenge. The district won approval from the voters for a $98-million bond measure for facilities that needs to be monitored as the construction moves forward.

As of press time, there were no other declared candidates in the race, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters website,

The filing period is from July 16 to August 10, unless an incumbent is not running, then it extends five days. School Board candidates are required to file their intent to seek office with the County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk.